Editorial: SC Lawmakers Should Help Local Governments Fight Short-Term Rentals | Editorials


Early last week, the SC Department of Revenue issued a public notice with tax advice to people renting rooms in South Carolina, noting that starting October 1, they must have a retail license and file and pay lodging taxes electronically, just like hotels and motels do. It was a reminder that the short-term rental business continues to grow for better and, at least sometimes, for worse.

Currently, two different types of businesses pay these taxes. Those operating single unit rentals must provide the location address of their rental property on their tax bill, but property management companies and third-party booking sites have been allowed to report lump sums by municipality. A new state law requires these latter businesses to also provide the department with a list of all addresses for which they report sales.

We urge the ministry to share this information with municipalities, many of which continue to struggle to find the right balance between supporting landlords interested in offering short-term rentals – and the tourism benefits they provide – with legitimate local concerns. that many rentals of this type aggravate. housing affordability crisis, erode neighborhood cohesion and create noise, litter and parking issues.

Having additional data from the state on the specific locations of these rentals will help local authorities strike the right balance between letting landlords rent out part or, in some cases, all of their property and ensuring that house neighbors and the wider community are not harmed. affected. It’s a debate that has flared up again not only in coastal towns such as Isle of Palms, Folly Beach and Port Royal, but also in Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg and Rock Hill.

Several local governments had to invest in the purchase of software to identify short-term rental locations, as not all landlords were prepared to obtain their appropriate licenses and pay accommodation taxes. In Port Royal, for example, the software helped city officials identify more than 100 such units when the city previously knew of only 60 to 65. The city has requested more information from the Department of returned, without success so far. “Their argument is that they don’t have the manpower or the software to track this thing,” City Manager Van Willis tells us, “but if they can do it for Ubers, they can do it for a house that does not move.”

It would be helpful if municipalities could get information about short-term rental locations within their city or town limits without having to spend tax money buying software, says Scott Slatton of the Carolina Municipal Association. from South. We agree, and if businesses have ownership issues, these could be treated the same as business income information, which is reported to the state to calculate taxes and duties. commercial license, but not publicly available.

“From a state perspective, the biggest help cities and counties can get with short-term rentals is getting an inventory of each one. Where are they?” notes Mr. Slatton. “It is first and foremost about ensuring the character and quality of life of our cities and towns. , but that’s not the motivating factor for wanting to know where they are.

While short-term rentals have been around for generations in one form or another, the advent of websites such as Airbnb and VRBO has led to phenomenal growth. Municipalities have responded differently, with a mix of new laws, some more controversial than others. These include hotlines for complaints, guest limits, parking requirements, guest count limits and more. While a state legislator introduced a bill prohibiting cities from banning all short-term rentals in their jurisdiction, we are not aware of any city that has attempted such a move.

But as local debates continue over whether to adopt or improve short-term rental rules – as they most certainly will in the months and years to come – everyone should agree that the first and best step towards a responsible balance of all the interests involved is to obtain reliable data on where rentals take place.

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