Airbnbs and other short-term rentals used as “party houses” have met their match

How Atlanta's new short-term rental rules work

Airbnbs and other short-term rentals used as “party houses” have met their match

Illustration by Kathleen Fu

Starting September 21, hosts using Airbnb, Vrbo, and other short-term rental services in Atlanta must follow a new set of rules aimed at curbing problem listings. (Editor’s note: After this story was published, Atlanta City Council voted to push the start date for enforcement of the new laws to March 1, 2022.)

What prompted this?
Last July, two people were fatally shot as they were dropped off outside an Airbnb hosting a house party in Vine City. Two months later, neighbors along sleepy Roxboro Road in Buckhead pleaded with the Atlanta City Council to end months of partying (and noise complaints) by shutting down an 11,000-square-foot mansion-turned–party house that rented on Airbnb for $2,000 a night. That same month, Airbnb said it booted from the platform 50 “party houses” in Atlanta that failed to follow the company’s regulations. Unlike New York, Los Angeles, and even Savannah, Atlanta has taken a mostly laissez-faire attitude toward regulating short-term rentals. Council members felt that needed to change.

What are the new rules?
Under the new ordinance, owners of short-term rentals will now have to register with the city for a license to operate their primary address and up to one additional property as short-term rentals. Hosts must pay $150 per unit every year to renew the license. Code-enforcement violations—excessive noise, operating the house as a commercial venue, and other quality-of-life infractions—come with a $500 fine. If hosts receive more than three citations in one year, they lose their license for 12 months. City officials will also create a hotline where neighbors can lodge complaints and launch a system that notifies residents by phone, email, and mail when a nearby property owner or agent applies for a short-term rental license.

How does everyone feel about the changes?
Airbnb called them “clear and equitable.” Vrbo did not respond to a request for comment. To gauge whether neighbors are pleased with the changes, check Nextdoor shortly after the law takes effect.

Will this prevent another party mansion next door?
Initially, Councilman Howard Shook, who represents Roxboro Road residents, wanted to create rules to limit the number of short-term rentals in neighborhoods that are zoned single-family. Council members indicated they might revisit the issue. But expecting politicians to tweak zoning rules—a highly political and prickly process that requires enduring a gauntlet of public meetings and debate—during an election year is unlikely.

This article appears in our July 2021 issue.