City wants feedback on proposed changes to short-term rental regulations, licensing

Use comment form, or attend public hearing Thursday

COVINGTON, Ky. – The City of Covington is collecting feedback on proposed new regulations for short-term rentals and changes to how rental licenses are obtained.

The feedback can be given in two ways:

One, detailed feedback can be given by submitting comments in writing using this Short-term rental comment form.

Two, brief comments can be given in person at a special meeting of the Covington Board of Commissioners on Thursday, June 15. That meeting will be held 6 p.m.-7:45 p.m. at the Life Learning Center, 20 W. 18th St. To speak, people should sign up on a sheet of paper at the door. Note that to allow the greatest number of people to voice their thoughts, each speaker will be limited to three minutes.

“We’d like to hear from as many people as possible, including owners of these businesses, the people who live around these rentals, neighborhood leaders, and the renters themselves,” said Brandon Holmes, Covington’s Neighborhood Services Director.

“This has been a long and involved process during which staff has spent hundreds and hundreds of hours researching the law and what other communities are doing, listening to the suggestions and concerns of hundreds of members of the public, and threading the needle on regulations,” Holmes added.

Proposed changes

In general, the new regulations:

  • Streamline the process for obtaining a short-term rental license, a move that will require changes to the Neighborhood Development Code that regulates zoning. During the transition period, the City will process applications.
  • Require a license for every unit and before a unit can be advertised or rented.
  • Separate short-term rentals into host-occupied and non-host-occupied units.
  • Cap the number of non-host-occupied licenses at 150 for the whole city with specific caps in historic districts.
  • Do not cap the number of host-occupied licenses either citywide or in specific historic districts.
  • Set limits on the number of licenses that a person can obtain.
  • Set penalties for operating without a license, including a one-year ban on applying for a license and increased application fees.
  • Require a local agent to increase responsiveness to concerns.
  • “Grandfather in” existing licenses and permit their renewal.
  • Set a “three-strike rule” for code violations.
  • Create a Rental License Appeal Board to hear appeals of violations.

For details about the proposed changes, see:

“We know these changes are not going to satisfy everybody completely but we’ve worked hard to find a balance between competing interests,” Holmes said. “On their face, short-term rentals are a good thing that bring visitors to Covington and investments in our buildings. But we have to institutionalize safeguards and limits that protect renters and their neighbors while also preserving the residential character of the communities in which they operate.”

Overwhelming numbers

Covington joined cities across the country in 2020 in regulating short-term rentals by requiring a rental license and zoning approval, in addition to an occupational (business) license. But software the City began using a few months ago showed that hundreds of property owners were ignoring the requirements and renting their units illegally and under the radar, in essence operating businesses without being licensed, without undergoing required inspections that protect renters, and without paying taxes.

With the sheer number of those rentals threatening to turn some neighborhoods in de facto hotel districts, and after receiving complaints from neighbors about late-hour noise, trash, and parking, the Board of Commissioners declared a moratorium on the issuance of new licenses to give it time to study the issue and rewrite regulations.

Public input

This is the second time the public has asked to weigh in en masse on the short-term rental issue.

On April 12, Commissioners invited the public to help set the parameters for the discussion by giving input at a public hearing. Thirty-nine people testified, including licensed and unlicensed short-term property owners, neighbors, renters, neighborhood leaders, rental management companies, and others.

City officials used that input to deepen their understanding of the issues involved and help write the new ordinance.

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