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Updated May 26 @ 10:26AM

Commission looks into regulating home rental policy

Complaints from neighbors spark examination


FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The use of residential homes for rental purposes on websites such as Airbnb was recently questioned by the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners.

At a work session Dec. 20, Director of Planning and Community Development Tom Brown said rentals are more common in the summer and around Lake Lanier. He said he was asked to look into the county’s regulations relating to rental of residential homes and living units.

The examination was sparked after a homeowner on Lake Lanier complained about a neighbor renting out their home to rowdy house guests.

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

Supervisor for Code Enforcement Steve Zaring said the department gets about a dozen complaints a year relating to this practice. Since the advent of websites, such as Airbnb, where users find short-term lodging in people’s homes, the issues have occurred more frequently.

“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 of the costs, and we don’t even have a way for law enforcement or anyone else to track what they’re even doing. They say they’re renting it for a weekend, but their home is really a business.”

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the county’s code doesn’t address this issue specifically.

Currently, the county defines a dwelling unit as, “one or more rooms connected together and constituting a separate, independent housekeeping establishment for use on a basis involving owner occupancy or rental or lease on a weekly, monthly or longer basis, with provisions for cooking, eating and sleeping, and physically set apart from any other rooms or dwelling units in the same structure.”

And the violations are hard to catch, Zaring said, because staff only can go by the definition in the county code.

Ultimately, the property owners are often out of town and are more interested in the money the rentals generate, Zaring said.

“We make them aware that they can’t rent it for anything less than the seven-day period,” he said. “They change it and it says it’s for seven days minimum. It’s time consuming and complicated for staff. We always get it after the fact, after it happens. The neighbor sees it, an HOA gets a complaint and we respond to it and chase the property owners down.”

Brown said he would look into any more complaints and come back with suggestions in the summer. He said other counties handle these issues similarly to Forsyth.

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