Owning a short-term rental (STR) property in Charleston SC can be a lucrative investment. The local beaches, history, and charm make the city a vacation destination. For many years the hotel and bed & breakfast industry has cornered the market on overnight accommodations in the city, however, with the rise of the sharing economy and the popularity of services like Airbnb and VRBO property owners are eager to cash in on their income properties. In an attempt to catch up with this trend the City of Charleston and nearby City of Folly Beach are drafting new policies to help regulate this fledgling industry and ensure safety for owners and guests alike.

While the City of Charleston initially prohibited private short-term rentals within the city limits, they quickly found that to be unrealistic to enforce and recently convened a task force to hear the concerns of the community and asses the effects that allowing STRs would bring. In short, the primary concerns for the city are around the rising cost of housing, maintaining the integrity of the historic districts and the overall feel of the community. There is some concern that permitting short-term rentals would lead to a run on housing and new construction by local and out-of-town investors, causing already hefty home values to skyrocket and changing the face of the neighborhood.

The task force took into account the economic impact, past and present ordinances, and citizen concerns before presenting their findings and proposing the implementation of a short term rental zoning ordinance. The proposal includes recommendations redefining the classic B&B accommodations model, the establishment of additional street overlays and geographic parameters where short term rentals would be allowed, and defining factors including age of building, required insurance, and resident occupancy among others. The recommendations are set to be decided on by the city later this week.

The barrier island community that is the City of Folly Beach has it’s own unique aesthetic to maintain but has a long history of short-term rentals and has established policies around who, what, when, and where rentals are permitted. An overhaul of those regulations earlier this year saw updates to Section 117.01, redefining STRs and outlining licensing & registration requirements. Section 163.05-03 was created to protect the integrity of residential areas by limiting short-term rentals in defined areas. It also lays out property owner responsibility and liability in regards to their property and guests.

Though most would agree that historic Charleston and Folly Beach have very different aesthetics, they have similar goals when it comes to regulating short term rentals. The preservation of the heritage and culture of their communities should be a mutual goal of property owners and residents alike, as it is the southern charm and timeless feel that make Charleston so unique and draw many travelers from around the world. At the end of the day, the goal is that residents and vacationers alike should be able to enjoy all that Charleston and the surrounding areas have to offer.

For a deeper dive into the existing and potential changes surrounding regulations of short term rentals on both the downtown Charleston peninsula and Folly Beach, have a look at our FREE overview booklet. Directly from the City of Charleston and the City of Folly Beach, this document provides all details you should need regarding running a short term vacation rental in the lowcountry.