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Columbus Short Term Rental Regulation: A Guide For Airbnb Hosts

Columbus, Georgia

Starting a Short Term Rental Business in Columbus

Columbus, Georgia allows short-term rentals, but hosts must navigate a number of regulatory requirements to legally operate. The city defines a short-term rental unit as a residential dwelling provided for lodging for a period not exceeding 30 consecutive days2.

To start a short-term rental business in Columbus, property owners need to:

  • Obtain a Short-Term Rental Permit from the Department of Public Safety for each individual property. The non-refundable permit application fee is $40 per unit. Permit fees are $75 annually for a primary residence and $150 for a non-primary residence1418.
  • Pass background checks. The property owner, applicant, and designated 24/7 local contact must each undergo a $20 background check from the Columbus Police Department. Applications will be rejected if any party has felony convictions in the past 10 years or misdemeanors involving moral turpitude in the past 5 years1318.
  • Provide proof of $500,000 liability insurance on the rental property13.
  • If the applicant is not the property owner, provide a signed lease explicitly allowing use as a short-term rental13.
  • Notify adjacent property owners of the short-term rental permit application, following the process outlined in the city's Unified Development Ordinance1318.
  • Submit a digital floor plan of the short-term rental unit13.
  • Complete a Certificate of Occupancy inspection and obtain a Certificate of Occupancy approved by the Inspections & Code Department118.
  • Obtain a business license for Short Term Vacation Rental from the Business License Office118.

The city is committed to ensuring short-term rentals respect neighborhood character, preserve housing supply, and comply with all applicable rules and regulations3.

Short Term Rental Licensing Requirement in Columbus

The City of Columbus requires a separate Short-Term Rental Permit for each residential property used for rentals of 30 days or less. Permits must be renewed annually12.

In addition to the Short-Term Rental Permit, hosts must also obtain a business license for Short Term Vacation Rental from the city's Business License Office118.

Required Documents for Columbus Short Term Rentals

To apply for a Short-Term Rental Permit in Columbus, hosts need to submit the following121318:

  • Completed short-term rental permit application
  • Proof of $500,000 liability insurance on the rental property
  • Digital floor plan of the short-term rental unit
  • Background checks for the owner, applicant, and 24/7 contact person
  • If applicable, a signed lease explicitly allowing short-term rental use
  • Proof of neighbor notification per city ordinance
  • Completed Certificate of Occupancy application
  • Non-refundable $40 permit application fee per unit

Once the Inspections & Code Department approves the Certificate of Occupancy, hosts must then obtain a business license for Short Term Vacation Rental from the Business License Office18.

Columbus Short Term Rental Taxes

Short-term rental hosts in Columbus are required to collect and remit a 5.1% lodging excise tax administered by the Columbus Division of Income Tax6714.The 5.1% tax is comprised of7:

  • 0.50% administrative fee
  • 2.16% for the Columbus Convention and Visitor's Bureau
  • 1.51% for Cultural Services and Community Enrichment
  • 0.54% for the Emergency Human Services Fund
  • 0.39% for the Affordable Housing Trust

The excise tax is due monthly on the 20th for the previous month's lodging income. Hosts must file returns each month even if no tax was collected67.

To file and pay taxes, short-term rental operators first need to open a business account with the Columbus Division of Taxation and obtain a Letter of Good Standing47. Airbnb collects and remits these taxes on behalf of hosts in some cases11.

In addition to the city's lodging excise tax, short-term rentals in Columbus are also subject to:

  • 4% state sales tax9
  • $5 per night state hotel-motel fee (waived for stays over 30 nights)9
  • Up to 4.9% Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority occupancy tax19
  • 7.5% combined state and county sales tax19

Altogether, the total tax burden on short-term rentals in Columbus can reach 17.5%19. Hosts using platforms like Airbnb should verify the platform is properly collecting and remitting all applicable taxes on their behalf. Hosts not using such platforms are responsible for collecting and remitting the taxes themselves19.

Columbus wide Short Term Rental Rules

The City of Columbus enforces rules for short-term rentals through Chapter 4, Article 9 of its Unified Development Ordinance. Key requirements include1131618:

  • Obtaining a separate Short-Term Rental Permit for each rental unit
  • Limiting occupancy to 2 guests per bedroom plus one additional guest
  • Designating a 24/7 local contact person to respond to any issues
  • Posting the Short-Term Rental Permit and 24/7 contact information in the unit
  • Complying with the city's building, health, and safety codes
  • Adhering to zoning restrictions, which are particularly stringent in the Historic District for non-owner occupied rentals

Failure to comply can result in fines, permit revocation, and other penalties. In October 2019, the city found that out of 180 identified short-term rentals, 111 were not in compliance, 55 were in the permitting process, and only 30 were fully licensed519.

Does Columbus strictly enforce STR rules? Is Columbus Airbnb friendly?

The limited data available suggests Columbus does engage in some level of short-term rental enforcement activity. In 2019, the majority of identified rentals were unlicensed, and the city can impose fines up to $1,000 for operating without permits519.

However, the search results did not provide clear consensus from hosts on forums like Bigger Pockets or Reddit regarding the strictness of enforcement or Columbus' overall friendliness to Airbnb compared to other cities. More direct input from the local host community would be needed to definitively characterize the regulatory climate.

Prospective short-term rental operators should carefully review all requirements and consult with city officials before starting to ensure compliance and avoid penalties. Columbus appears open to short-term rentals but expects hosts to follow the established registration and operational procedures.

How to Start a Short Term Rental Business in Columbus

Here are the key steps to legally start a short-term rental business in Columbus, Georgia:

  • Research the city's short-term rental regulations, zoning restrictions, and permit requirements17.
  • Prepare your property to meet all building, health, and safety codes13.
  • Obtain $500,000 in liability insurance coverage for the rental unit13.
  • Open a business account with the Columbus Division of Taxation and obtain a Letter of Good Standing47.
  • Submit a Short-Term Rental Permit application with all required documents and fees to the Department of Public Safety121318.
  • Complete the Certificate of Occupancy inspection process with the Inspections & Code Department118.
  • Obtain a business license for Short Term Vacation Rental from the Business License Office118.
  • Ensure your short-term rental listing and operations comply with all city ordinances, including occupancy limits, 24/7 contact posting, and neighbor notification11316.
  • Collect and remit the 5.1% lodging excise tax administered by the Columbus Division of Income Tax on a monthly basis6714.
  • Collect and remit all other applicable taxes, including state sales tax, hotel-motel fees, county occupancy taxes, and combined state/county sales tax919.
  • Renew your Short-Term Rental Permit and business license annually12.

Thorough planning and attention to regulatory details will help ensure a successful and compliant short-term rental business in Columbus.

Who to contact in Columbus about Short Term Rental Regulations and Zoning?

For questions about Columbus' short-term rental regulations or the permit application process, you can contact318:

Columbus Department of Public Safety
4252 Groves Road
Columbus, GA 43232
Phone: 706-653-4126
Email: ShortTermRentals@columbusga.org

You can also direct questions to the city's Inspections & Code Department at:
Phone: 706-653-4126
Email: Inspections@columbusga.org

To report issues with a short-term rental property, citizens can contact the city's 311 system and email details to ShortTermRentals@columbusga.org.

A Licensing Officer will follow up as appropriate18.

The city's website also provides helpful information and links to the Short-Term Rental Ordinance, permit applications, and other required forms at:

For zoning-related questions, contact the Columbus Planning Department:
420 10th Street
Columbus, GA 31901
Phone: 706-653-4116
Email: planning@columbusga.org

What do Airbnb hosts in Columbus on Reddit and Bigger Pockets think about local regulations?

Unfortunately, the search queries did not surface any specific discussions or sentiments from Columbus Airbnb hosts on Reddit, Bigger Pockets, or other online forums regarding the city's short-term rental regulations.

One Bigger Pockets thread from June 2023 inquired generally about the Columbus short-term rental market, but did not mention the regulatory environment16. The post's author was seeking input on the viability of investing in short-term rentals in the Columbus area.

To gain more direct insights into how local hosts view the city's rules, it would be best to engage with the Columbus Airbnb host community through relevant Facebook groups, meetups, or other channels. Speaking with experienced short-term rental operators in the area could provide valuable first-hand perspectives on working with the city's permitting process and navigating the regulatory landscape.

The Impact of Short-Term Rentals in Columbus

As Columbus welcomes anticipated population growth driven by major developments like the new Intel chip manufacturing facility, the impact of short-term rentals on neighborhoods is likely to intensify20.

When mismanaged, short-term rental properties can become nuisance properties, drawing noise complaints and in rare cases even violence. In January 2023, Columbus police investigated a fatal shooting at an alleged short-term rental property in the Franklin Park neighborhood20.

Residents have reported issues with "party houses" drawing large crowds, generating trash, and disrupting the community. Kate Curry-Da-Souza, Chair of the Near East Side Commission, noted short-term rentals can remove housing stock from the long-term rental market, challenging areas in need of stable housing20.

The proliferation of short-term rentals can also inflate home prices, putting ownership out of reach for many. "The profit available to short-term rental hosts inflates the sale prices of single-family homes, making those homes out of reach for those who would like to live there permanently," said Matt Adair, co-founder of Neighbors for More Neighbors Columbus20.

Real estate investors claim short-term rentals can generate 2-3 times more income than traditional long-term rentals. However, experts caution that the short-term rental industry's "mom-and-pop" narrative is misleading, with the majority of profits flowing to professional hosts with multiple properties20.

Columbus officials are working to balance the interests of neighborhoods with the growing short-term rental industry. Councilmember Rob Dorans has proposed prohibiting short-term rentals in properties receiving tax abatements to incentivize affordable housing20.

However, cities must tread carefully when restricting short-term rentals. Ohio House Bill 563, which already passed committee, would limit local governments' ability to regulate short-term rentals20.

As Columbus continues to grow, striking the right balance with short-term rental regulations will be critical to promoting neighborhood stability, housing affordability, and quality of life for residents.

I hope this expanded article provides an in-depth look at the key considerations for starting and operating a short-term rental business in Columbus, Georgia, as well as the broader community impacts of the growing industry. Let me know if you have any other questions!

Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it on Airbnb.