Short-Term Vacation Rental Regulations in Savannah, Georgia
By: Charles Sells
Short-term rentals became popular a few years back when AirBnB and similar websites launched themselves onto the market. Back in the day, people would rent out their homes on websites like AirBnB to make some extra money while they were away on holiday or by renting out a spare bedroom. However, investors quickly saw the potential for providing this as a professional service to make some serious money. They started buying properties to rent out exclusively on various platforms.
As the industry emerged, so did regulation of it. One perceived negative impact of short-term vacation rentals on real estate markets is that properties that would previously be available to long-term renters or home buyers for personal use are then removed from the pool of available housing. A convenient option for holidaymakers and business travelers, potentially not so great for residents when housing demand outstrips supply. Especially in cities and towns attracting large numbers of tourists and business travelers, local governments have taken notice and introduced regulations to ensure sufficient and affordable housing for residents.
We can look into this broader debate in a separate article. This article focuses on the applicable short-term vacation rentals regulations in Savannah, GA in 2023. Real estate investors must stay on top of local regulations to do things right and avoid fines or getting in trouble.
Regulations Update 2023
To operate a legal short-term vacation rental (STVR) in Savannah, you must apply for, and obtain an STVR certificate. As of January 1, 2023, a new application will set you back $400, and a renewal application is $250. These fees are non-refundable. If you are successful, certificates are valid for one year and must be renewed annually.
An STVR is any rental accommodation rented for 30 days or less, and two main types are regulated differently.
One type of STVR is known as a “bed and breakfast homestay”. For bed and breakfast homestays the dwelling must be owner-occupied, and the owner may rent out no more than one bedroom in their home to no more than two people at a time. If making a small side income by renting out an extra room in your home or apartment to short-term guests is your goal, it is relatively easy to qualify, and you can get started pretty quickly.
However, the second kind of STVR is what most real estate investors have in mind. This involves purchasing a property for the exclusive purpose of renting it out to short-term guests. STVR certificates are hard to come by for these properties for two reasons. The first reason is that there are zoning restrictions that properties have to comply with – the property must be in the “short-term vacation rental overlay district”, which includes the Downtown, Victoria, and Streetcar local historic districts. Outside these areas, properties must fall within permitted Business and Agriculture zoning classifications.
Once you find a property that falls within a permitted area or zone, you also have to consider caps on the number of STVRs that may be operated in a given area. Currently, the cap is 20% of residential parcels within each ward that can be certified as STVRs. If the property you purchase is in an area popular with business and vacation travelers, and this cap has already been reached, you might find yourself on a long waiting list to qualify for an STVR certificate!
More comprehensive information about the regulations applicable to Short-Term Vacation Rentals and Bed and Breakfast Homestays, including the application process and links to additional resources can be found here.
Can New Investors Still Enter This Market?
As always, do your research and due diligence before jumping in. Regulations certainly seem to make getting into this market seem near impossible. One option is to broaden your search to neighborhoods and areas less saturated with STVRs. Small pockets do still exist.
Another emerging opportunity is to look into companies offering fractional ownership of STVR properties. This model could help you get a foot in the door, especially in the more popular areas. Contact Strategic Passive Investments to find out more about how this works.