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Forsyth BOC may try to regulate Airbnb rentals

Forsyth County officials already have a to-do list for 2017 that involves examining homeowners renting their properties out through services such as Airbnb for less than one week.

As discussed in a recent Forsyth County Board of Commissioners meeting, any change to the county’s unified development code, which requires any home rental to be for at least seven days, will require more discussions on how to find a better way to track private rentals.

In recent years, services like Airbnb have become a popular way for people to find residents who want to rent out a room or their house for short-term term stays as a more personal and appealing — and often cheaper — choice over a hotel.

The discussion arose after a homeowner on Lake Lanier complained a neighbor has been renting the house out on weekends to rowdy guests.

“He lives right next door and can’t call the law,” District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said. “He said everywhere he turns it is loud, it is partying and there is a big crowd of people.”

Director of Planning and Community Development Tom Brown said his department and the county’s code enforcement department will pass along information to Tax Assessor Mary Kirkpatrick and re-evaluate next summer if there are still complaints.

Commissioners were particularly interested in properties that are not used as a residence and instead used as a rental house year-round without paying any of the associated fees.

“Essentially the way we are running it right now, they could be renting it out for many weeks, there are no limits on it, and they’re not paying any business license, they’re not paying any hotel or motel tax,” Mills said. “They’re escaping all the cost, and we don’t have a way for law enforcement or anyone else to track what they’re doing.”

Brown said the most common time for rentals is during the summer and that lake houses are some of the most popular.

Steve Zaring, code enforcement supervisor, said it is difficult for the department to catch violations as they are happening.

“It’s time consuming and complicated for staff,” he said. “We always get it after the fact. After it happens, the neighbor sees, an HOA gets a complaint and we respond to it and chase them down.”

Zaring said many property owners are out of town and “don’t contact us back because they’re interested in the finances that they generate.”

“We make them aware that they can’t rent it for anything less than the seven-day period. They change it and it says it’s for seven days minimum,” he said.

He said the seven-day agreement could be on paper only.

South Forsyth is also a popular location for renters.

“Someone is in for a day or two and they’re gone,” Zaring said. “That’s more of Airbnb properties where folks are willing to rent out a bedroom for a night. They’re charging $120, versus the Holiday Inn that is charging $150.”