Charleston Short-Term Rental Ordinance

By July 13, 2018 March 19th, 2019 Around Charleston

Category 1: Old & Historic District
Renting out your property on websites such as Airbnb or VRBO in Charleston is a great way to produce extra income or even pay off your mortgage. However, the City of Charleston’s Short-Term Rental Ordinance, which went into effect on July 10th, 2018, provides guidelines and restrictions for those primary homeowners interested in renting their property for less than 30 days.  As an FYI, we’ve compiled a list of requirements as a guide to understanding the Charleston Short-Term Rental Ordinance,

What is considered a short-term rental?

According to the Charleston Short-Term Rental Ordinance, a short-term rental is defined as any dwelling unit, such as a bedroom, that is rented out for less than 30 consecutive days. In order to rent out a property in the city of Charleston on a short-term basis, property owners must go through a new approval process and meet certain conditions as put forth by the city.

Short-Term Rental Categories

There are different short-term rental categories based on the geographic location in the city of Charleston. Each permit is category-specific and includes slightly different criteria. Not every property is eligible for a permit. There are 5 different permit categories defined by the Charleston Short-Term Rental Ordinance:

  • Category 1: Old and Historic District.
  • Category 2:  All other Peninsular areas outside Category 1 and STR (Short-Term Rental) Overlay Zone.
  • Category 3: All Non-Peninsular areas of the City.
  • Commercial:  Commercial Zoning Districts within STR Overlay Zone
  • Bed & Breakfast: Residential Zoning Districts within STR Overlay

If your property falls into one of the permit categories and meets the specified criteria, you can apply for an STR permit. View the Charleston Short-Term Rental Ordinance zones below:


The Application Process

First, in order to rent out a property in the City of Charleston, the property must fall into one of the short-term rental categories and meet the specified criteria, even if it is your primary residence. According to the Charleston short-term rental ordinance, “a primary residence status is assessed at the 4% homeowner’s assessment ratio by the county Assessor’s Office.” You can fill out the Charleston County Assessor’s Office 4% Property Tax Verification here. The owner must then acquire a short-term rental permit and a business license. To apply for a business license, visit this link: Charleston business license information. 
To apply for a short-term rental permit in the city of Charleston you will need a notarized application which can be submitted online or at the City’s permit center located in the Gaillard Center. You can view and download the official rental application here. In addition, applicants must have:

  1. Site plan or survey of the property drawn to scale.
  2. Photographs showing the current views of the building where the STR unit is proposed.
  3. Complete floor plans, drawn to scale. View example floor plans.
  4. (Category 1 Only) Documents to demonstrate that the building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
  5. (Category 2 only): Documents to demonstrate that the building was constructed at least 50 years ago.
  6. Documents showing that the applicant qualifies as a resident of the property (copy of Driver’s License or State issued ID) and letter from County Assessor’s office proving the 4% tax status.

Applicants will also have to submit a $200 zoning application review fee, a $40 fire & safety inspection base fee, a $32.21 plan review fee, and an additional $32.61 per number of floors in the unit being inspected. There is also a $64 business license fee, plus an additional $3.90 per $1,000 of expected income.

The Approval Process

After you apply, the zoning division will review your application over a 15-day period. After the 15 day review, there is an additional 5-day appeal period. If the permit is approved, the application is then reviewed by the fire marshal and the unit receives a fire and safety inspection. Once the inspection is complete applicants can pickup their permit and business license. You can view and download the self-survey fire inspection here.
The Charleston short term rental ordinance also states that all STR permits must be renewed 1 year from the original issuance date. Business licenses will also need to be renewed annually at the beginning of the year regardless of what month they were acquired the year before.