FILE - airbnb, rental property

A bill on the move in the Georgia House of Representatives would stop local governments from regulating short-term rentals.

House Bill 523 was re-introduced by Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, after stalling in the last legislative session. The bill is a response to several bans and registration requirements that have been enacted by local governments throughout the state.

Carpenter said the current bans and regulations are “attacks" on personal property rights. Homeowners depend on rentals as a source of income that is viable because of the state’s growing population.

“I firmly believe that the short-term rental market is a huge economic development opportunity for individuals throughout Georgia,” he said. “They provide housing opportunities for transit workers that continue to grow at a rapid pace.”

HB 523 requires local governments to give properties that are used as short-rentals through platforms such as Airbnb the same discretion as long-term rentals and other residences. The difference between short-term and long-term rentals is a matter of one day. Short-term rentals are properties that are rented for 30 days or less, while long-term rentals exceed 30 days.

Under the bill, lawmakers would not be able to oversee licensing, occupancy limits, inspection or any form of permitting at the properties.

Morgan County resident Christine May began renting her home near Lake Oconee for a week at a time in 2008. However, in 2010, the county issued a ban on less-than-30-day rentals. In August 2011, the county issued May a citation and charged her with a misdemeanor. She was sentenced to 30 days in jail, six months probation and subjected to a $500 fine.

May appealed the case in Georgia’s Supreme Court. The court ruled in May 2018 that May’s citation was invalid since the specific ordinance was not in effect when she started renting the home. May has since sued Morgan County for $1.5 million for damages from loss of rental income, the forced sale of her house, legal fees, loss of liberty, emotional distress and pain and suffering. The lawsuit is still pending.

Pam O’Dell, executive director of the Short-Term Rental Owners Association of Georgia, said what local governments are doing is an outright violation of the state's law.

Forcing homeowners to register their occupied property also promotes discrimination and government possession of property added O’Dell.

Georgia law states, “No county or municipal corporation may require registration of vacant or foreclosed real property pursuant to this Code section within 90 days of such real property's transfer.”

STROAGA has been fighting the bans and regulations. The organization sued Forsyth County in May 2019 for its short-term rental ban.

The House Regulated Industries Committee voted in favor of the bill Tuesday, but some lawmakers believe local governments should continue to have authority over property rights.

“I think that county commissioners ought to be able to make their own decision and pass local legislation on it, rather than the state getting involved in it,” said Rep. Don Hogan, R–St. Simons Island.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for three years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.