Whether intentionally or out of ignorance, Charlestonians are blatantly disobeying the city's ban on short-term rentals. It's illegal for homeowners to rent out residential properties for periods of less than 30 days at a time in most parts of Charleston, but a quick search on Airbnb.com and VRBO.com — popular listing sites for short-term rentals — reveals that scores of homeowners are doing it anyway.
Since City Council passed an ordinance regulating short-term rentals in January 2012, the task of enforcement has fallen to the Department of Planning, Preservation, and Sustainability, where city employees search the listing sites for evidence and follow up on tips they receive from community members. Since ramping up enforcement 10 months ago, Director Tim Keane says his department has netted about four violators per month. People accused of offering illegal short-term rentals are tried in Livability Court, where they can face up to $1,092 in fines or 30 days in jail if found guilty.
Still, enticing listings abound online: a gorgeous South of Broad carriage house for $225 a night, a bohemian bedroom with en suite bathroom in Harleston Village for $95, a cozy yacht on the harbor for $200.