The Forsyth County Commission is considering a new ordinance designed to establish standards for privately owned short-term vacation rental units, preserve neighborhood character, and minimize the presumed adverse impact these rentals have on surrounding communities.
The 400 North Association of REALTORS® (400N) believes the proposed law, as written, is overreaching and excessive. Furthermore, the Association is concerned by language in the ordinance that calls for mandatory inspection of a property as a condition of permit approval.
However, the Association would like to work with Forsyth County Government to discuss reasonable and factual concerns related to short-term rentals.
400N is opposed to this ordinance based on the following:
- In drafting the ordinance, the Forsyth County Commission assumes that short-term rentals are a commercial use that is not compatible with many of the county's neighborhoods and are therefore subject to more significant restrictions.
- However, many states have ruled that short-term rentals are a residential use, not a commercial use. Other rulings have declared that the transitory or temporary nature of a short-term rental does not change the residential status of the user. The county should not implement restrictions on a rental based on the occupant's length of stay.
- Short-term rentals have not generated an excessive number of complaints, nor has there been a considerable number of code violations reported.
- There has not been significant evidence presented that justifies the extensive regulation and increased fees required by this ordinance. The ordinance appears to be arbitrary without any rational basis.
- The burdensome requirements this ordinance places on the property owners diminishes the property owner's core rights to lease or rent their property.
- Courts have held that regulations depriving the property owner of their rights cannot be sustained unless the restriction is needed for public health, safety, comfort, or welfare.
- There is no evidence that short-term rentals in Forsyth County pose any health or safety risk to the public.
- The Forsyth County ordinance requires a site inspection to ensure compliance with applicable designated bedroom requirements and safety standards before a permit or license will be issued.
- A mandatory inspection provision that does not require that inspectors obtain a warrant to inspect a short-term rental property without the consent of the owner or occupant raises serious concerns under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Key point: The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that the Fourth Amendment applies not only to criminal searches but also to civil searches, including municipal code inspections.
- In addition, these provisions appear to violate Georgia law.
- Statute 36-74-30 of the Georgia code clearly states that no local government is authorized to perform investigations or inspections of residential rental property unless there is probable cause to believe there is or has been a violation or violations of applicable codes. Even with probable cause, a local government would still need permission or a search warrant.
- The county currently has the authority to enforce most of the provisions of this ordinance, such as disturbing noise violations, parking limits, building code requirements, etc. Enforcement of the code should apply to all residential properties regardless of the status of the occupant.
- Furthermore, other provisions of the ordinance, such as restrictions on the number of guests, collection and maintenance of tenant information, hours of visitation, investigative authority, and the complaint process, are vague, prejudicial, unenforceable, and do not achieve a viable public policy objective.
Join us in asking the commission to suspend consideration of this ordinance and let the community work together to meet the needs of all our communities while also protecting the rights of Forsyth County property owners.