City of Greenville hires Granicus to crack down on Airbnb illegals

For years, hundreds of illegal short-term rentals have gone unnoticed within the city limits of Greenville, but it could end soon.

the City of Greenville hired the outside company Granicus to crack down on short-term rentals such as Airbnbs and VRBOs from operating where they are zoned prohibited.

Granicus specializes in digital public service solutions for governments, including services related to municipal zoning bylaws.

“Many municipalities adopted regulatory systems 10, 20, even 30 years ago,” the company said in a statement. “These systems have proven to be ill-equipped to handle the growth of various new technologies, including sharing economy services.”

Greenville City Attorney Mike Pitts said Granicus will identify any short-term rentals that operate outside zoned areas and help the city ramp up its enforcement efforts.

“Previously, we traditionally relied only on a complaints enforcement process,” Pitts said.

Unauthorized short-term rental operators can be subject to a zoning violation, usually resulting in a fine.

With a few exceptions, rentals are prohibited in most residential areas of the city. When permitted, they are classified as “hotel / motel” or “guesthouse” and are mostly located in the city’s central business district.

“Execution is a process. I want to stress that we would certainly do our best to work with someone and write a ticket only as a last resort. -Mike Pitts, City Attorney, City of Greenville

But more than 300 operate in the city, according to Airbnb’s Greenville listing, although the city has granted fewer than 100 permits.

Mayor Knox White said the city has known about the gap for years.

“We know they’re over there,” White said. “We just didn’t go out and proactively try to find anyone who [short-term rentals] in places where they shouldn’t.

The problem of short-term rentals cropping up in residential areas is one that almost every city has faced since the advent of the sharing economy.

The pandemic has only heightened these concerns. Nationally, traditional hotels have seen their total revenues drop by about 40% in 2020, according to South Carolina tourism expert Simon Hudson. Short-term rentals, which can allow more privacy and less social interaction, were much less affected, with Airbnb losing just 5% of total listings, according to an AirDNA analysis.

In May 2020, Greenville City Council attempted to stop the bleeding from the hospitality industry by declaring a six-month moratorium on short-term rentals.

Neetu Patel, owner of Home2Suites and Holiday Inn Express Downtown, told the Greenville Journal last year that he and other hoteliers understood the appeal of other short-term rental options and the need for competition. Still, Patel said he wanted “a level playing field” in which Airbnbs had to meet the same level of government oversight as hotels.

With the hiring of Granicus, the city has taken the most concrete step yet to tackle the problem, although Pitts said unauthorized operators shouldn’t expect the SWAT team to come. knocking on their door so soon.

“Applying is a process,” Pitts said. “I want to stress that we would certainly do everything possible to work with someone and write a ticket only as a last resort.”

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