This is Part 1 in a 50 Part Series exploring the Short-Term Rental Laws in the United States (one state at a time). If you’re an STR Host in Alabama, we join you to continue the conversation at Superhost.Club

While Short-Term Rental laws can be imposed by states, STR regulation is typically addressed at the city and county level (with the exception of taxes of which every jurisdiction wants a piece.)

We’ll be taking a look at STR Laws in Alabama cities that are already collecting a tax for Short-Term Rentals on Airbnb:

Auburn Short-Term Rental Laws

Ron Anders, Auburn Mayor, created the Short-Term Rentals Task Force in November 2018 to investigate regulation of STRs. The Auburn Planning Department then drafted proposed legislation, followed by this May 22nd public hearing on the matter:

Mayor Andors suggests that the first draft was more restrictive, the second draft became more permissive, and they’re ultimately hoping to strike a balance between stakeholders.

The proposed legislation would introduce a zoning overlay with different permissions for different areas in Auburn. Key points of the legislation include:

Birmingham Short-Term Rental Laws

In June 2018, posed the question: should Birmingham regulate Airbnb? It seems the answer was yes. Because money.

Here is the lowdown:

Gulf Shores Short-Term Rental Laws

Gulf Shores originally created short-term rental regulations in 2009, creating a single-family overlay district to protect existing beach rentals while acknowledging the existence and needs of permanent residents. They revised those laws in 2013, largely ahead of the Airbnb curve, and continue to do so.

The government in Gulf Shores has done a nice job clearly outlining their rental laws (including Short-Term Rentals) on the website. Being a vacation town (“small town, big beach”), they’ve dubbed Short-Term Rentals as Vacation Rentals, and it’s no surprise that they’re light on restrictions so long as taxes are paid. Owners of Vacation Rentals pay an extra $45 per year as outlined in city code.

Recently, however, they temporarily suspended the issuance of new vacation rental licenses (September 2018) while the government reviewed the current situation. This was only for the R3 and R4 districts which Planning Director Andy Bauer called multi-family high and low density areas.

On November 1st, 2018 an agreement between Airbnb and Gulf Shores allowed the municipality to begin collecting taxes directly from the hosting platform. Gulf Shores continues to monitor and improve their permissive and gently applied Short-Term Rental Laws.

Opelika Short-Term Rental Laws

Just outside Auburn, Alabama – where tension regarding STR regulation has intensified – is Opelika. Much of their tourism likely stems from the Auburn campus (20 minutes away) and events surrounding the Auburn Tigers sports teams. As such, they’ve levied a 7% tax on short-term stays (less than 30 days) but done little to impeded their operation.

Orange Beach Short-Term Rental Laws

This beachside community came down pretty hard on Short-Term Residential Rentals, banning all short-term rentals in single-family homes zoned for residential use. They’ve since opened applications for Vacation Rental licenses in those same areas, but stays are limited to a minimum of 14 days.

Short-Term Rental hosts complained that city officials raised the taxes to 13% in commercial areas, banned single-family homes, and thus artificially created a high volume revenue stream in the high rise condos.

The Orange Beach government has seemingly gone silent on the issue since the new laws passed. The last documents that can be found on the matter are Ordinances from April 2018 (2018-1282, 2018-1283, 2018-1284).

Tuscaloosa Short-Term Rental Laws

Although Tuscaloosa is embattled with a Short-Term Rental controversy of their own, their government has done at least one thing right: they’ve created an STR homepage to explain the current status of their Short-Term Rental legislation.

That might be all they’ve done right. Tuscaloosa first introduced STR laws in 2017, essentially banning all Short-Term Rentals except for a small “Tourist Overlay District” that permitted STRs by right. By March 2019 the government only counted 34 Short-Term Rental license holders (177 listed on Airbnb on publish date) and had hired dedicated police officers exclusively for policing Short Term Rental violations.

Tuscaloosa officials now plan to scale back their restrictions, providing an opportunity to bring more property owners into compliance while increasing tax revenues. Proposed updates to the law would include:

Join the Conversation!

It’s hard to stay up-to-date on the expansive and rapidly evolving STR landscape, so continually updating this article to reflect the most recent news and developments would be next to impossible.

As such, we’ve closed comments, and are instead asking users to join us at Superhost.Club where a community of users discusses the latest and greatest news, laws, tips, tricks, advice, etc… in the Short-Term Rental universe.

Rob Jackson
Author: Rob Jackson

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