The Atlanta City Council will consider establishing a system to register and tax short-term home rentals via legislation filed Oct. 19, the same day the council approved a ban on “party house” operations in residential areas.

The flurry of short-term rental legislation after years of stalled proposals follows yet another idea still in council committee consideration. Last month, City Councilmember Howard Shook of Buckhead’s District 7 filed legislation seeking to ban short-term rentals in all single-family neighborhoods, a proposal that seems unlikely to pass but has sparked discussions.

Shook — who is a neighbor of one of Buckhead’s currently notorious party houses on Roxboro Road — previously said he was frustrated with the lack of progress from city staff on legislation to register and license short-term rentals. On Oct. 19, Councilmember Andre Dickens filed legislation to create just such a system.

Atlanta City Councilmember Andre Dickens.

Dickens’ proposal — whose co-sponsors include Councilmember Jennifer Ide of Buckhead’s District 6 — would regulate and tax short-term rentals.

The proposed system would require a non-transferable “certificate” to operate a short-term rental. The certificate would attach to an individual property owner, not to the property itself. People could apply for a certificate for rentals at their primary residence and up to two additional properties. For three or more properties, the certificate-holder also would be required to get a business license. The certificate could be revoked for repeated code violations.

The proposal calls for the city to levy a tax of 8% of total booking costs on short-term rentals.

‘Party house’ ban

The “party house” ban legislation took more than a year to get through the city review process before its Oct. 19 adoption by the council. It targets large commercial events, such as parties and weddings, held in homes by operators who charge a fee. Such events often have been advertised through short-term companies, but also such other means as social media.

Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit of Buckhead’s District 8 and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms proposed the legislation last year amid an eventually successful battle against such rentals at a lavish mansion on Garmon Road. They said that such uses were already banned in residential areas, but that vagueness in the city code made it hard to enforce. The newly passed ordinance change aims to tighten up that language and possibly the enforcement.

“One, it calls attention to the issue, and two, it makes it clearly illegal to have a party house in a residential area,” said Matzigkeit in a phone interview.

Atlanta City Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit.

The ordinance defines a “party house” as “a single-family, two-family or multi-family dwelling unit, including all accessory structures and the dwelling unit’s curtilage [the land and buildings immediately adjacent to it], which is used for the purpose of hosting a commercial event.”

Under the new code, party house uses will be banned in all areas zoned for single-family and multifamily residential uses. Party houses will be allowed with special permits in some other zoning areas — including mixed residential commercial and Buckhead’s Special Public Interest Districts 9 and 12 — but in those places still would be prohibited within 150 feet of an adjacent residential-zoned area.

The ordinance defines a “commercial event” as including “parties, ceremonies, receptions or similar large-scale gatherings” where someone pays a fee to use the dwelling or charges an entry fee to those who attend. The ordinance exempts events that benefit nonprofit organizations, which includes political fundraisers, Matzigkeit said.

The ordinance does not define what “large-scale” means. Matzigkeit said the intent is to target events with large impact in a neighborhood. “It’s not intended to cover small-scale gatherings,” he said.

Violators can be charged in Municipal Court and face fines of up to $1,000 per offense.

The new ordinance was praised by top short-term rental company Airbnb, which last year banned “party houses” under its own definition — referring to repeated code violators — and in August banned party rentals from its platform.

“As a platform that bans both parties and party houses, we support the spirit of Councilmember Matzigkeit’s ordinance and commend him for his efforts to get it passed into law,” said a written statement from Airbnb. “We look forward to partnering with the city on additional measures to stop disruptive parties and protect Atlanta’s neighborhood quality of life.”

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.