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Wednesday July 15th, 2020 4:29AM

Hall County slaps moratorium on residential vacation rental licenses

By Marc Eggers Anchor / Reporter

GAINESVILLE –Hall County commissioners were unanimous Tuesday evening: the practice of homeowners renting-out their residences on a short term basis needed better control; so until the topic of private home rental could be better analyzed and applicable ordinances put into law, a moratorium on the issuance of vacation rental business licenses was approved until March 31, 2018.

“I think that we continue to have some issues that are going to require a good bit of attention,” Commissioner Scott Gibbs said. 

“The Hall County Transient Occupancy Ordinance that governs vacation home rentals under thirty days was approved in 2010,” Gibbs explained.  “Since that time there has been an increase in avenues for marketing listings of vacation home rentals and demand has increased nationally.”

Gibbs was referring to popular online rental sites such as “VRBO.com” and “AirBNB.com”, among others, where property owners wishing to rent their homes, or rooms in their homes, are paired with individuals looking for short term accommodations in a private setting.

“In light of this I’d like to direct staff to review the current ordinance and prepare a recommendation to the board regarding updates and revisions.  Staff should have this recommendation completed by February 12, 2018, with the anticipation of a full review of the ordinance and future modifications,” Gibbs said.

“I would also like to put a moratorium in place on issuance of business licenses for vacation home rentals until March 31, 2018.  This will allow time for the approval of potential ordinance changes by the Planning Commission and the Board of Commissioners.”

The motion by Gibbs came at the end of a two-hour meeting and may catch many property owners by surprise.  Many people who have toyed with the idea of renting their homes, or a portion of their homes, as a way of generating additional income have never considered the fact that they need to have a business license to do so and that they are required to collect, report and submit the applicable Hotel/Motel Tax.

“It’s always been that way,” Gibbs said, “they (unaware homeowners) just haven’t done it.”

“The law has always been that you have to have a business license; that way we can keep track of who is renting.”  And collect the appropriate Hotel/Motel Tax, “…because you’re competing with my hotels and motels that are paying the tax.  It’s an unfair advantage (for the private homeowner who does not collect tax).”

“The problem is in neighborhoods,” Gibbs said after the meeting.  “You expect to know who your neighbors are and you have a transient population that comes in, spending the night for two nights and they’re gone.”

“You don’t know who’s renting; they’re throwing parties, throwing trash on the ground, having noise control issues.”

Gibbs said complaints were widespread and frequent.  

“We’ve got to step back and try to figure out…how we can do enforcement because it costs money to enforce,” he said about the process facing commissioners.  “We have to send deputies out at midnight and that’s taking that resource away from something else to go to a noise complaint.”

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