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City’s License Section to Reopen with New Short-Term Rental Rules

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman City’s License Section to Reopen with New Short-Term Rental RulesTydence Davis/Creative Commons
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Columbus City Council has amended the Columbus City Code to strengthen enforcement of short-term rentals and cut down on problematic hosts and properties.

New provisions to city code in relation to short-term rentals — i.e. Airbnbs, Vrbo rentals, hotels and motels, and the like — expand the city’s ability to investigate when complaints are made and seek to provide more grounds for short-term rental license removal and denial.

This comes after multiple hearings on policy approaches and in time for the reopening of the Department of Public Safety License Section on Wednesday, July 22.

All new permit applicants, as well as renewal requests, will be applying under the updated code.

During a June hearing, Cathy Collins, support services administrator for the Department of Public Safety, said the biggest complaints her office gets are for big and loud parties, loud music or occupants, confrontations from guests, and parking and trash issues.

She also noted hosts who have no license or use one license for multiple properties and hosts who do not notify her office when ownership changes are also frequent issues.

The updated ordinance, sponsored by Councilmember Rob Dorans, clarifies that only owners and permanent occupants can be short-term rental hosts and that a transfer in ownership voids permits.

With the changes, if a short-term rental has three calls for service in a year, it could lead to an investigation by the License Section — a course of action the office was not easily able to go about under the previous code.

With the update also comes a new 311 service call category. The License Section, as well as the Department of Public Safety, can revoke licenses for “diminishing quality of life” in a neighborhood, as well as issues of public nuisance. This can happen at any time, where the previous code could only deny permits at the time of application or renewal. Calls by hosts or owners will not count toward the total.

Much to the relief of hosts, a notice of occupancy placecard is no longer required. Testimonies from hosts suggested the placecard caused concern, as it could alert would-be burglars that a unit is unoccupied.

The update at one point also included the launch of an interactive map online of short-term rental public records that included 24/7 contact information to help solve smaller issues from neighbors. However, multiple hosts and stakeholders, including Airbnb and the Columbus Hosts Alliance, noted concerns over the map leading to public demonstrations, harassment, break-ins and squatters.

The current ordinance makes no mention of the map, and it does not currently appear to be online.

Collins noted under the new code provisions, the License Section will no longer be able to issue licenses that same day, as applications will require additional examination.

The License Section has not issued any license renewals since March of 2020, creating a backlog of license renewals when the office opens later this month. As a result, there will be a grace period of no enforcement for expired licenses until Oct. 1.

For more information, visit columbus.gov/str.

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