Illegal short-term rentals subject of New Orleans Planning Commission meeting

May 27 2014 | Latest News
By Robert McClendon, | The Times-Picayune

New Orleans City Planning Commission is scheduled to consider a rule change Tuesday (May 27) aimed at making it easier to enforce the law against illegal short-term rentals.

Operating a short-term rental without a bed-and-breakfast permit is already illegal, but the rules are rarely, if ever, enforced, according to critics.

The city has two avenues for cracking down on those who would rent out their property illegally.

The first is through a criminal citation. Renting a property, or even advertising it, without a permit is a misdemeanor, under current city rules. The criminal ordinance is clear but would require the city to prosecute violators in municipal court, which the city has so far been reluctant to do.

The second enforcement option is in the city's zoning code.

So-called "transient vacation rentals" are illegal in nearly all New Orleans' neighborhoods, according to the city's zoning ordinance. Operating such a short-term rental would, therefore, be a zoning violation handled through a civil, administrative process and enforced by the city's Department of Safety and Permits.

The civil enforcement process would be more streamlined, but might be harder to enforce because of a quirk in the definition of "transient vacation rentals."

The city's current zoning ordinance defines them as essentially any accommodations rented to "nonresidents over the course of one or more years with a duration of occupancy of less than 30 days."

That "one or more years" requirement could make enforcement tricky, according to a report by the Planning Commission staff.

The proposed change would eliminate the one-year requirement.

Once the Planning Commission makes its recommendation, the matter will go before the full City Council for approval.