If you live in Savannah, Georgia and want to rent out your home, get ready to pay a fine!
45 cease-and-desist notices were sent to the city’s residents who posted their homes on various vacation rental websites like AirBNB and VRBO. Such sites allow homeowners to rent their entire house, or just one room, to tourists for short periods of time.
Savannah resident Mark DeWitt was threatened with a $1,000 fine after he listed his home on a vacation rental website. City officials told the man he was subject to the fine because his property is not zoned for inns or B&Bs. DeWitt, however, thinks he should not be subject to the same guidelines as traditional hotels and B&Bs since he does not serve breakfast or advertise his “business” with signage.
After going to court to protest the fine, a judge ruled against DeWitt. The Savannah resident said, “We’ve appealed the judge’s decision. We were the first ones the city really went after.” He thinks the city should encourage vacation rentals as a way to add value to residential neighborhoods, many of which are currently ridden with foreclosures and abandoned homes.
DeWitt said, “I bought a house on 41st Street for $34,900, I put $70,000 in it and now it’s worth $175,000. From an investment standpoint, I really feel that it’s going to encourage investors to buy these homes that are distressed and improve them if it was allowed.”
Savannah officials have considered collecting taxes from short-term rental property owners. But as of right now, it is unclear how a happy medium will be reached between the city and homeowners like DeWitt. Many continue to assert that there is nothing wrong with renting out rooms to tourists in order to make some extra money.