Carroll passes short-term rental ordinance

By Allen Worrell -

Carroll County has adopted a short-term rental ordinance that requires those who rent out property for a period of fewer than 30 consecutive days to pay an annual registration fee of $50.

The Carroll County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing Sept. 11 on the proposed ordinance, which creates a registry to be maintained by the Commissioner of the Revenue, of all property in Carroll County that is offered as a short-term rental – property offered for occupancy for dwelling, sleeping or lodging purposes, for a period of fewer than 30 consecutive days in exchange for a charge for the occupancy. Registration of short-term rentals would be permitted upon payment of a registration fee, not to exceed $50.

The original fee listed for the public hearing was $100, but the fee was cut in half after the supervisors discussed the topic. No citizens signed up for the public hearing, but supervisor Robbie McCraw wanted to know if the fee was set by the state or the county. After learning the fee was set by Carroll, he said people came to him concerned that the ordinance didn’t differentiate between someone with one rental property or 50.

“Actually it does. The way this ordinance is written, if you are already paying a fee because you have 50, you are exempt from this one,” County Administrator Steven Truitt said. “This is how it is done everywhere. Even Grayson County does it this way.”

County Attorney Stephen Durbin said the ordinance has several purposes but the function is to put short-term rentals on the radar screen. Until now, he said if there were “AirBnBs” or other short-term rentals being offered on the internet in Carroll County, the only way to know about them is to try to track them down online.

“So this creates a registry so that people operating short-term rentals have to register. It puts them on the radar for the health department, the Commissioner of the Revenue, the treasurer, for neighbors and county citizens to know these kinds of businesses are being operated in their community and sometimes in close proximity to their homes,” Durbin said.

McCraw wanted to know if the fee was annual or a one-time charge. Durbin said it would remain valid for one year, and after that folks would have to reregister each year. He added if you are already registered to another regulatory regime, this doesn’t apply to you.

“Other than the fee there is nothing new in terms of what your obligations are because if you are already operating short-term rentals, you are already obligated to pay applicable taxes to comply with other requirements, so it is not creating a new tax,” Durbin said.

McCraw said employees in the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office say it is a chore to track who is operating legitimately and who isn’t. Durbin said that was the problem brought to the General Assembly by localities because it is new and hard to track, so a mechanism was needed to know who is doing what within each county. Supervisor Rex Hill felt like the proposed $100 registration fee was too expensive.

“If I am going to rent a piece of property on the creek bank three weekends a year and I rent it for $100, that is $300 but if I have to pay a $100 registration fee, that looks kind of steep for one man,” Hill said. “Now if I own 500 units, that is not too bad.”

Durbin said the fee is intended to offset the administrative cost of maintaining the registry. The fee could be lowered, he added, if the board felt it was appropriate.

“I don’t have any rental property in Carroll, but I have some and this is a pretty low amount compared to what most places charge,” Truitt said.

Hill thought more people would apply for the registry and the ordinance fee if it were a little lower. McCraw noted the $500 penalty fee is very appropriate and would get people’s attention.

“With the penalty being $500 I think more people will comply if we were a little bit less on that fee, too,” McCraw said. “That’s just my opinion on it.”

Truitt said places on the New River in Grayson County are nice and go for well over $100 a night, meaning the fee equates to a one-night rental essentially. Supervisor Dr. Tom Littrell added “there is always a cost of doing business.” Hill said if the fee were not enough, Carroll could always increase it next year.

McCraw then made a motion to adopt the ordinance with an amended registration fee of $50. Hendrick second the motion, which passed 5-0 with Hill abstaining. The ordinance goes into effect immediately.

Allen Worrell can be reached by calling (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN
Owners of such properties must be pay $50 registration fee

By Allen Worrell