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Cornelius News

Short-term rentals depend on where you are

Dec. 18. By Dave Vieser. Two years ago, there appeared to be significant support among members of the North Carolina  General Assembly to adopt a new statewide law with regulations applying to short term rentals, such as those offered by Airbnb.

The statewide laws would then be used instead of local laws adopted by towns such as Cornelius.

The move to a statewide regulation system seems to have lost steam in Raleigh. “Short-term rental ordinances should be addressed locally as each community’s needs are different,” said NC Sen. Vicki Sawyer (R) who represents a portion of Cornelius. “Ultimately, local authorities play a crucial role in decision making given their understanding of the community.”

While short-term rentals in Cornelius can be found on websites, potential renters should exercise caution. A significant number of rentals, especially near the lake, are regulated by local homeowner associations (HOA) not the town. In some instances, their rules may be more strict than the town, and they would have jurisdiction over the legality of any rentals which are occurring in their community, rather than the town. For example, town regulations for short-term rentals apply to “transient occupancy of less than 90 days” or three months, while some HOAs have established minimum rental periods at six months.

The effort for statewide regulations isn’t completely dead.

There was a bill filed earlier this year in Raleigh (SB 667) by Senators Timothy D. Moffitt and Bobby Hanig, both Republicans, which would have transferred the regulatory power to the state. However, it was simply introduced and sent to the committee on rules and regulations. Over six months have passed and no further action has been taken.

Meawhile, municipalities, such as Cornelius, proceed to enforce their own laws. “There have been no changes to state law related to short term rentals and the town’s regulations for transient occupancies remain in effect” said Cornelius Planning Director Rox Burhans.

And what do those local laws say?  In Cornelius, a short-term rental is defined as transient occupancy intended to be temporary or which is offered/advertised for a period of less than 90 days.

Transient occupancy is permitted in certain districts in town including the Rural Preservation, Neighborhood Mixed Use, Town Center and Village Center Zoning Districts.

It is also permitted in the General Residential and Neighborhood Residential Zoning Districts, but only in multi family type buildings.  Although not administered by the Town, private community/neighborhood associations/ HOA associations may further restrict these uses within their respective communities.

How strictly are the town regulations enforced? “In Cornelius, we take a ‘passive’ approach to short term rentals,” said Commissioner Denis Bilodeau.

“We respond to complaints, but town officials tell me there have only been a handful of complaints over the years.

Bottom line: Short term rentals are not permitted in town with only a few exceptions, mostly away from the lake.

When short term rentals violate local community rules, it is up to the respective HOA Boards and Property Management Associations to initiate appropriate action, since the town does not have jurisdiction in those areas.

Burhans said local ordinances do not prevent owners from renting out a portion of their home or the entire home when the term of the occupancy is 90-days or longer.