Sandy Springs taking charge of short-term rentals

Sandy Springs officials

The city of Sandy Springs is taking more control of its short-term rentals.

Defined as home rentals of 30 days or less, short-term rentals have taken off in recent years with the advent of websites like Airbnb, VRBO and Craigslist, which advertise homes for rent worldwide.

“With our new comprehensive code, we now allow short-term rentals. We now allow them with some restrictions in some residential areas,” Assistant City Manager Jim Tolbert said in a presentation regarding the city amending its code to further regulate short-term rentals at the Sandy Springs City Council’s meeting Jan. 2 at City Hall.

At its meeting Feb. 20, the council voted 6-0 to approve amending its code of ordinances to allow for more regulation of short-term rentals.

The city also plans to hire Host Compliance, a San Francisco-based company that would charge Sandy Springs $21,000 a year to keep track of all the city’s short-term rentals and ensure landlords would comply with its code by registering and paying its fees. In turn, the city is expected to make $40,000 to $50,000 in annual revenue.

Under the amended ordinance regarding short-term rentals, all parking must be on the lot; no short-term rental shall be allowed in subsidized housing; all hosts shall post the city’s noise ordinance in a visible location; the property owner must hold a business license from the city, and the unit must be registered as a short-term rental unit; the business license number must be included in any advertisement of the short-term rental unit; before issuance of a permit for short-term rental, each property shall be inspected for compliance with all building and fire codes; all platforms and managers of multiple rental properties must register and provide detailed records of rental activity and taxes by rental unit and all units must pay a business license fee and all hotel/motel taxes due, according to a city news release.

Also, before a permit is issued, the property owner must identify all property owners and residents within 500 feet of their intentions to rent out their home.

Identifying short-term rentals and collecting their taxes is an issue for local governments. According to a news release, as of November, nearly 7,000 Georgia residents used Airbnb to make extra income.

In Sandy Springs, Tolbert said, Host Compliance identified 211 addresses in the city that were short-term rentals. While these types of rentals can be positive, they can also cause problems. In metro Atlanta, there have been reports of party houses, homes advertised as places where individuals rent homes and host parties that raise the ire of neighbors.

The amendment will take effect May 1.

In other news, the council voted 6-0 to amend its noise ordinance to measure its violations not by whether or not noise carries across property lines, which can be a subjective definition, but by decibel levels.

The city will require commercial or mixed-use properties to not exceed 80 decibels during the day and 60 at night. Residential properties have limits of 65 decibels at daytime and 55 at nighttime. Some exceptions to the rule would be planned concerts, which could get a waiver through a special-use permit.

At the council’s Feb. 6 work session, where Tolbert presented the amendment plan, he said the police department could purchase two to three decibel-measuring devices, which cost several hundred dollars each, once the ordinance is amended.

“From an enforceability standpoint, we felt it was important to have a decibel level included instead of the property line ordinance,” Tolbert said.

The amendment will go into effect July 1 so the department has time to purchase the noise meters, calibrate them and train officers on how to use them, he said.

Finally, Mayor Rusty Paul reported on his trip last week to Israel for an international mayors’ conference and a stop in Sandy Springs’ sister city, Western Galilee.

“It was a very worthwhile trip. … It was great to sit down with them,” he said of the conference. “There were six or seven mayors each from South America, Asia, America, Europe. I got to see autonomous vehicles at work. Then we were in Tel Aviv and saw the technology on display there.”

Paul also said he was chosen by the north Fulton cities’ mayors to be their representative on the Atlanta Regional Commission board, a two-year term that is generally rotated between those cities’ mayors.

Rusty Paul

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