If you own a short-term rental property in Atlanta, be aware of the city’s new licensing requirements. The new regulations took effect on March 1. Inspectors will start enforcing the ordinance on April 1.
“Short-term rentals,” also referred to as “home-sharing,” are accommodations where, in exchange for compensation, a residential dwelling unit is provided for a period that can last (but not exceed) 30 consecutive days. Airbnbs and VRBOs are prime examples of a short-term rental.
Atlanta’s Short-Term Rental Ordinance
The Atlanta City Council adopted the City of Atlanta Short-Term Rental Ordinance (20-O-1656) last year. According to the legislative group, short-term rentals are essential for those coming to the city to attend an international conference or sporting event, for production teams staying in Atlanta for a film or TV project, or for healthcare workers on temporary assignment in the city. This is in addition to those who travel to Atlanta for vacations or other leisure. According to the City Council, the new ordinance helps strengthen Atlanta’s international reputation and boosts the city’s economy, but also holds homeowners accountable for maintaining public safety and welfare standards. The ordinance is designed to uphold Atlanta’s housing market while also establishing a legal process by which residents can rent, or allow their tenant to rent, their primary residence to short-term visitors.
Obtaining a License
The new ordinance requires the short-term rental owner, an authorized agent, or the long-term tenant of a short-term rental to obtain a license through the Department of Planning and Community Development. The license is good for one year from the date of issuance, is renewable each year, and carries a $150 annual fee (non-refundable and due when the application is submitted). The license can be used for up to two separate properties (a primary residence and an additional dwelling unit) without any additional requirements, fees, permits, or zoning restrictions. It’s important to note that under Atlanta’s zoning laws, an owner can only have one primary residence to meet the zoning requirements. They cannot have more than one primary residence – that is a violation of the city’s zoning laws.
Also, the Short-Term Rental Ordinance does not supersede any existing private agreements, leases, or covenants. Before you apply for a short-term rental license, check your Homeowners Association rules.
Eligible property owners can apply for a short-term rental license through the city’s online permitting portal. And according to city administrators, once the application is completed, it can take up to 10 days for processing.
The Short-Term Rental Ordinance comes with additional requirements and restrictions. Once an agent or host obtains a license, they must post their short-term rental license on all advertisements. The maximum occupancy for short-term rentals is two adults per bedroom; there may be additional limits on the on-site parking. Those who are renting the short-term rental property cannot make any noises or sounds that violate the City of Atlanta’s noise ordinances. (Owners are encouraged to install noise monitors in their property). Short-term tenants must pay Atlanta’s 8% hotel-motel tax, on top of the cost of the rental.
The agent or host must also inform neighboring property owners that the house is being used as a short-term rental. Specifically, the owner must send a certified USPS letter to each neighboring or adjacent property, letting them know of the owner’s intent to secure a short-term rental license. The letter must include the address of the rental unit and the host or agent’s contact information.
Enforcement of the Short-Term Rental Ordinance
The Atlanta Police Department’s Code Enforcement will be responsible for licensed rental properties, and the Department of City Planning’s zoning inspectors will be responsible for unlicensed rental properties. Atlanta short-term rental owners who continue to engage in unlicensed rental activity on or after April 1, 2022 will be in violation of the ordinance and may be fined. Owners can also face code violations (ex: excessive noise, too many renters or vehicles on the property), which may result in fines or a bar on their license.
If a short-term rental property owner has three or more code violations within 12 months, the City of Atlanta will revoke their license and bar the owner from applying for another 12 months. (After the one-year waiting period, the rental property owner is not guaranteed a short-term rental license, the city will consider their application). If the owner has any active rentals at that unit, those rental agreement(s) will immediately terminate, and they could face additional fines from the City of Atlanta. If the property owner wants to appeal a denied application or revoked license, they can submit a written request within 30 calendar days to the Chief Operating Officer (Atlanta Ordinance 20-1008(e)).
You can visit the City of Atlanta’s short-term rental website for more details about the Short-Term Rental Ordinance and the license application process. There is also a Frequently Asked Questions page. You can also email the Department of Planning and Community Development with questions about the rental ordinance at STR@atlantaga.gov.
The author is an Atlanta attorney who heads the real estate team at Brian M. Douglas & Associates.