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:
- Gulf Shores
- Orange Beach
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.
- They distinguish between “Short-Term Non-Primary Rentals” and “Homestays” which are essentially Entire Home Airbnbs and Shared Houses
- Short-Term Rentals are considered stays of 30 days or less
- Non-Owner Occupied Rentals are limited to renting 240 days/year
- Short-Term Rental operators must obtain a “Zoning Certificate” which can be revoked on a 3-strikes and you’re out policy
- Revoked certificates remain revoked for the remainder of the current year plus one additional calendar year
- In several districts, such as the Neighborhood Conservation District, Zoning Certificates for Short-Term Rentals are categorically outlawed
- There are several very particular rule inclusions, for example, requiring a maximum of 1 person who is not a resident being involved in the operation of an STR
- At the time of publication this legislation had not yet become law
- Link to Auburn’s homepage
Birmingham Short-Term Rental Laws
In June 2018, AI.com posed the question: should Birmingham regulate Airbnb? It seems the answer was yes. Because money.
Here is the lowdown:
- Birmingham’s new regulations were solely tax based, charging hosts 6.5% and allowing them to continue operating while meeting minimum standards
- We could not find any specific restrictions on Birmingham Short-Term Rentals, but some nearby Birmingham suburbs, such as Mountain Brook, have banned them completely. Check your local jurisdiction.
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 GulfShoreAL.gov 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:
- All single-family residences outside of the historic districts are permitted by right (45 nights per year).
- No caps on # of short-term rental licenses for single-family home rentals.
- Cap of 150 licenses for apartments/condos unless otherwise raised by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
- Elsewhere (including historic district neighborhoods) special exception use variances from the Zoning Board of Adjustment required (good for 3 years).
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.