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Atlanta’s short-term rental enforcement is quietly delayed to March 2023

A screenshot of some short-term rentals available in Atlanta through Airbnb on March 2, the day after a new licensing requirement took effect.

By John Ruch

Enforcement of Atlanta’s short-term rental ordinance has been quietly delayed yet again to March 2023 – more than a year after it went into effect – amid mounting legal questions.

The delay to March 5 from a previous date of Dec. 5 was apparently announced, like previous delays, only within a narrative on the City’s webpage for the ordinance over the Thanksgiving holiday. The new language on the page says the delay is related to the Atlanta City Council considering legislation to authorize a 90-day extension.

The Atlanta Metro Short Term Rental Alliance (AMSTRA), an industry group that has challenged the ordinance with a lawsuit threat, last week predicted the delay would come. AMSTRA has been negotiating for months with the Department of City Planning (DCP), which has not commented beyond saying the ordinance may need “further consideration.”

The City Council last year established the short-term registration and licensing system in the wake of controversies surrounding the effect of short-term rentals, via such companies as Airbnb, on quality-of-life issues and the housing market. The system comes with various requirements and restrictions, including limiting an owner or long-term tenant to a license for up to two separate properties, one of which must be their primary residence.

The system took effect on March 1, with enforcement to begin a month later. But DCP repeatedly delayed enforcement, often with little public notice – first to June 1, then Sept. 6, then Dec. 5.

Behind the delays were AMSTRA’s complaints that the application process is “unnecessarily burdensome” and that a lack of grandfathering for existing multi-property operators violates a recent Supreme Court of Georgia decision. AMSTRA also supports other parts of the ordinance related to good property management.

Meanwhile, some lawsuits challenging short-term rental registration systems in other Southern states have been partly successful. While not binding on Georgia courts, they could inform further legal challenges and judicial decisions here.

Especially prominent was an August decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down part of a New Orleans short-term rental registration ordinance that allowed homeowners to get a license only for their primary residence. The court ruled that the primary-residence provision violated the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause by barring out-of-state investors. The New Orleans City Council has responded with a lengthy moratorium on new applications while it attempts to figure out a new, lawful ordinance. Atlanta’s ordinance has a similar primary-residence restriction, though not worded in the same way as the one in New Orleans.

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