Richmond County property owners who list space on AirBnB, Vrbo or similar platforms will have to apply and pay $100 per year starting January 1, 2022.
The board of supervisors asked the planning commission to study short-term rentals in the county, and this month, county leaders adopted the proposed ordinance, which included an annual fee, the creation of a registry, and rules for operation.
Under the ordinance, a short-term rental is defined as a room or space that is suitable or intended for occupancy for dwelling, sleeping or lodging purposes for less than 30 consecutive days in exchange for a charge, and it’s permitted in A-1, R-1, R-2 and R-3 zones.
After finding that Lancaster and Northumberland consider noise, trash, traffic, and issues with shared driveways the most common complaints, Richmond County included regulations in its ordinance to address those concerns.
The ordinance only allows two people over the age of three per bedroom, meaning a couple with a preschool-age child would have to rent two bedrooms. And operators can’t allow guests to have any large parties or events that draw people who aren’t paying to stay on the property. Weddings and receptions are specifically prohibited in the ordinance.
If a property owner who was supposed to register is found to not be registered, and then does not do so within 14 days, that individual can be fined up to $500 and barred from renting again until it’s paid and the property is registered.
Furthermore, there are violations of state or local laws, ordinances, or regulations relating to short-term rentals on more than three occasions on a particular property, the operator can be prohibited from registering and renting that property for two years.
Although the regulations and repercussions are laid out, the real goal of the ordinance is to have a registry of which properties are being used for short-term rentals, according to Hope Mothershead, director of planning and zoning. That way if complaints come in, the county can better distinguish complaints against renters versus complaints against homeowners.
"We’re not going to look to just slap fines on people. We will work with them," she said.