Short-term home rentals get Biloxi's attention

Sun Herald (Biloxi, MS), 2014-08-20

Aug. 20 -- BILOXI -- At least 160 property owners are advertising on the Internet to rent their homes and condos for a few days or weeks and most aren't licensed or paying taxes to the city or state, officials said Tuesday.

"This is happening coastwise," said Jerry Creel , community development director.

Only one home is licensed for short-term rentals of fewer than 30 days in Biloxi , he said. Another application was rejected because it was in a residential neighborhood.

Linda Hornsby , director of the Mississippi Hotel & Lodging Association , said to claim these short-term rentals fill an unmet need is "disingenuous."

Harrison County has extended-stay hotels, condos, villas and cottages that comply with laws and pay the 12 percent lodging tax required whether they rent one room or 1,000, she said.

A portion of that tax goes to repay the bond on the expansion of the Coast Convention Center . The tax has been enough to pay only the interest on the bond, she said, and the 30-year bond is now 40 years.

Creel said his department responds to complaints from neighbors who object to people moving in and out of their neighborhoods every few days. Officials are working on seven complaints now and he said the cases are taken to community court and face penalties of up to $1,000 a day.

City attorney Michael Collins said renting a home also makes property owners ineligible for the state's homestead tax exemption.

Biloxi's ordnance allows short-term rentals only in areas zoned for business, multi-family, downtown and waterfront. The property must have adequate parking, and Creel said, "It has to protect the neighborhood property values."

Also on Tuesday the council:

-- Established regulations that require boat owners to pay a $500 annual fee if they don't pay slip rental at the Small Craft Harbor but pick up charter passengers.

-- Took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge along with Harrison County Supervisors Windy Swetman, Connie Rockco and Buck Henry , manager of Biloxi's new baseball team.


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