Some concern voiced on parking, noise and trash

With the growing popularity of online marketplaces such as AirBnB and VRBO, the Town of Nags Head may begin requiring that privately managed short-term rentals be registered with the municipality. That would allow the town to track that type of vacation lodging, as well as ensure that owners are abiding by local, state and federal regulations including sales and occupancy tax requirements.

      After conducting a town-wide survey to gauge citizen sentiment, and after several months of consideration, the Nags Head Planning Board on Feb. 19 voted to recommend that the town commissioners adopt an ordinance drafted by town staff that would establish such a registration program.

      The survey, which generated almost 600 responses, found that 60% of respondents were aware of short-term rentals in their neighborhood, with half of those respondents saying they were comfortable with them and 35% expressing concern. Those concerns included parking, noise, over-occupancy and trash.

      The majority of survey respondents, just over 80%, indicated the need for a manager or host to be readily available to respond to issues at the property. Thirty-five percent of them reported that short-term rentals had an impact on their personal safety.

      Comments by survey respondents ranged from support for the growing short-term rental market to words of caution over their impact.

      “Let go of the past and embrace the new rental model or be left behind,” said one respondent.            

      “This is now the source of rentals and tourism, not the old overpriced rental companies which take advantage of both renters and owners.”

      But another countered that “Nags Head has been built on tourism and if these short-term non-compliant rentals are allowed to continue willy-nilly, I am afraid the hotel and motel industry will dry up.”

      The ordinance would apply to any short-term rentals of fewer than 30 days that are not managed by a licensed broker. Those properties would have to be registered on an annual basis, and owners would be required to verify that they or a host operator was within 20 miles of the rental. Failure to register would result in a $500 fine. The ordinance does not include a fee for registration.

      Assistant Town Manager Andy Garman told the Sentinel that a public hearing would likely be scheduled sometime this spring, noting that establishing a registry could take time and, likely, additional resources. “It could be a big effort,” said Garman, adding that implementation could potentially require a third-party vendor to locate the properties.

      Nags Head would be the first Dare County municipality to establish such a program, but Garman noted that there has been concern at the county and municipal levels about whether some private operators of these rentals were aware of, and complying with, the Vacation Rental Act’s requirements as far as safety, insurance and occupancy tax.

      Dare County Manager Bobby Outten said the county’s tax department does track down short-term property rentals, but added, “we aren’t naive” that there are some out there not complying. “It certainly would be helpful to have a registration,” he said.

      While the Town of Duck discussed the possibility of regulating short-term rentals in 2016, its town council ultimately decided to not move forward on that.

      Hotels, motels and rentals to tenants who have no other primary place of residence would be excluded from the registration requirement. Under the proposal, owner-occupied single-family dwellings that rent two or more guest rooms on a short-term basis would be required to have one additional parking space beyond what the town requires for single-family dwellings.

      Property owners who rent their entire house on a short-term basis would not be required to provide any additional parking.

      Finally, under the proposal, the town could prohibit an owner from renting his or her property on a short-term basis if there are more than three violations of state or local laws relating to the property.

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Reporter, Outer Banks Sentinel

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