Shelby County offers more fees and taxes for Airbnb operators

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) – Shelby County Commission says it’s time for Airbnb operators to pay their fair share.

A hefty new tax on the popular property rental service passed its first hurdle on Wednesday.

This proposed ordinance provides for a 5% tax, license fees and multiple property inspections.

Citing wild parties and community unrest, the two commissioners who sponsored the ordinance say it’s time for Airbnb homes in Shelby County to be regulated.

In Jon Hodge’s two years as an Airbnb operator, he estimates that 1,500 customers have stayed in the 10 condos he rents in downtown Memphis.

“It’s fantastic,” Hodge said. “It’s a lot of work.”

But when the city of Memphis enacted its Airbnb ordinance last year, Hodge’s profits took a hit.

“We’ve seen a drop of about 15 to 20 percent in our total revenues,” Hodge said.

The Memphis ordinance provides for a 3.5 percent tax and a $ 2 per night room charge.

“It didn’t come with a lot of strings,” Hodge said. “We pay the money and go about our business.”

Shelby County’s proposed new Airbnb ordinance is much stricter.

The tax would be 5%, and Airbnb operators would be required to obtain a $ 65 license, and their properties would have to be inspected by the health department and code enforcement.

“That way we can kind of control them because at the moment we don’t even know how many we have and who they are,” Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland said.

Roland and his fellow commissioner Eddie Jones sponsored the ordinance with two purposes: to monitor and tax Airbnb homes as well as hotels and motels.

“If we are to be an equal opportunity government, everyone should pay their own share,” Jones said.

“It looks like they’re looking for income,” Hodge said.

Hodge said the proposed county ordinance is unnecessary bureaucracy and if passed he fears the city council will try to match it.

“And I just think that’s a bad idea,” Hodge said.

The ordinance passed its first reading in committee on Wednesday. If passed by the entire county commission, it would apply to Airbnb listings located in unincorporated Shelby County outside of the city limits.

Berlin City Council Chairman Boyd has said they have no plans to tighten up the city’s ordinance, at least not yet.

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