CAROLINA BEACH — New regulations could soon be required in Carolina Beach for short term rentals once again raising the question as to the legality of such registrations under state statute.
According to State Statute Chapter 160A-424, cities are not permitted to require registration for rental units — but that hasn’t stopped the City of Wilmington (and now possibly Carolina Beach) from doing just that. Note: 160A-424 is set to be repealed in January of 2021.
According to the law, “In no event may a city do any of the following: (i) adopt or enforce any ordinance that would require any owner or manager of rental property to obtain any permit or permission from the city to lease or rent residential real property, property or to register rental property with the city, except for those properties individual rental units that have either more than four verified violations in a rolling 12-month period or two or more verified violations in a rolling 30-day period, or upon the property being identified within the top 10% of properties with crime or disorder problems as set forth in a local ordinance.” [Bold added.]
The debate over how to regulate short term rentals has been ongoing for years — not only locally, but statewide. The topic has been brought up for discussion at the state legislative level in recent sessions, however, bills have not come to fruition.
It is worth noting that while the City of Wilmington placed several restrictions on rentals, the proposed amendment would only require owners to register their rentals and pay a nominal fee — there would be no additional restrictions.
“The purpose of this text amendment is to provide staff with the means to easily identify, track, and determine which structures should be paying occupancy taxes and make sure property owners are aware of regulations related to the operation of an STR in Carolina Beach. The Town will track short-term rentals using a registration program. As a part of this program, property owners must complete a registration form and provide their ROT account number to ensure that their STR is registered with NHC and paying room occupancy taxes. The proposed annual application fee is $25 per short-term rental property. Property owners shall register by July 1 of each year, according to the proposed amendment.
“The new ordinance related to STRs is not developing additional regulations which are not already found elsewhere in CB ordinances. This text amendment adds STRs as a permissible use and highlights the relevant regulations short-term rentals should be following. There are no current allowances for nor prohibitions against short-term rentals in the ordinance and the town does not regulate properties differently based on the duration of lease or rental.”
The Town of Carolina Beach claims that the proposed amendment is in accordance with state law — but does not explain how.
“The proposed ordinance is in accordance with provisions of the North Carolina General Statutes. The proposed ordinance is also consistent with the goals and objectives of the adopted land use plan, as no specific policies pertain to the regulation of short-term rentals, but the amendment aligns with the overall goals of the land use plan and the interest of Town Council and the public,” according to Town Council’s agenda.
As for what qualifies as a short term rental, the town has taken an approach to defining the term that’s similar to the City of Wilmington’s. Essentially, any rental that is available for less than 31 days is considered a short term rental.
The following are additional explanations and requirements from the town:
• Any rental which is available for a rental period of less than 31 days shall register as an STR.
• The length of stay must be a minimum of one full night or 24 hours.
• The property owner(s) shall register an STR.
• STRs shall register with New Hanover County for Room Occupancy Tax.
• The registration fee is defined in the town’s annually adopted rates and fee schedule.
• The annual STR registration fee is due on July 1 of each year. A renewal form will be mailed to all registered STRs prior to the expiration of the current registration.
The Town Council will vote on the amendment on Jun 9 during its regular Town Council meeting.