City officials appear to be moving toward allowing short-term rentals in properties not occupied by the owner, though those owners would not be allowed to rent the properties for more than 120 days each year.
Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni described the broad strokes of the ordinance during a meeting with members of the media on Monday (Oct. 18), describing a compromise in which whole-home rentals are "going on year round." A copy of the proposed regulations began circulating on Tuesday, two days ahead of the City Council's vote scheduled for Thursday.
But critics of the ordinance on Tuesday said that a proposal that includes a 120-day cap would still allow owners to rent out the property for every weekend of the year. To most residents, having short-term rentals occupied on weekends has been a major source of friction because of the large parties thrown on Friday and Saturday nights.
"What that does to a neighborhood is devastating," Carol Gniady, the executive director of the Louisiana Landmarks Society, said. Not only is it removing a house for someone to live in, but you're also turning a house into a vacancy during the week."
Berni said in an interview on Tuesday that what the ordinance does do, however, is provide a framework for enforcement that would place limits on short-term rentals that don't exist now. Owners would have to purchase permits each time the unit is rented, and they'd have to display those permits and pay taxes on the rentals.
That would allow inspectors to determine whether short-term rentals are being rented illegally, Berni said, and go after short-term rental owners whose properties cause problems.
"At least there would be enforcement of nuisance actors and we could address them," Berni said. "We think the biggest win is that we have something that is enforceable."
The changes would also place limits on what's known as an "accessory use" short-term rental, which is defined as a property that is owner-occupied and shared with renters. The limits include a three-guest cap on properties where people share their home, and a six-guest cap on a property that is a duplex, or "double," where the owner lives in one side and rents out the other.
In both cases, the owner would need to be present during the rental, and they would need to have a homestead exemption.
Accessory use short-term rentals would also be prohibited in the French quarter. But whole-home rentals would still be allowed there.
There would also be a number of rules that owners would need to follow if they secure permits for a short-term rental. Here's a look at what those rules would be.
- A short-term rental can't operate outdoors, in an "accessory structure" or in a recreational vehicle.
- Homes must appear to be a residential building, and they can't "adversely affect the residential character of the neighborhood."
- Owners would be prohibited from allowing renters to generate "noise, vibration, glare, odors or other effects that unreasonably interfere with any person's enjoyment of his or her residence."
- Owners would be required to hold liability insurance of no less than $500,000, and provide the city with contact information including a cell phone number and a mailing address.
- Fire extinguishers and smoke detectors would be required, and it would have to comply with the city's minimum property maintenance, building, electrical, mechanical and plumbing codes.
Berni said that a final proposal is likely going to be released on Wednesday, saying there's still some "tinkering" that will occur with the proposal sent to Council members on Monday.