A spacious, four-bedroom home in the Highlands, marketed as an executive rental or for families. | Courtesy of Key Source Properties

The Planning Commission didn’t favor the most drastic option — prohibiting non-owner-occupied short-term rentals in residential areas — but the commission did recommend that Louisville Metro Council approve several other changes to its short-term rental ordinance, commonly referred to as the Airbnb ordinance.

The suggested changes include:

  • Increase the annual registration fee for short-term rentals to $100 from $25.
  • Require hosts to post a copy of their city-issued registration near the entrance of the property so that it is visible from the exterior.
  • Require the host to provide their name, telephone number and emergency contact information to adjacent property owners.
  • Have a licensed fire prevention inspector or a home inspector inspect non-owner-occupied short-term rentals to determine any safety issues.
  • Require non-owner-occupied short-term rental hosts to register their rental within 60 days of receiving a conditional use permit, or the permit will be null and void.
  • Permit the city planning director to deny short-term rental registration to any host who has had his or her registration revoked within one year of application for the new registration.

The recommended changes to the short-term rental ordinance will now go on to Metro Council’s planning and zoning committee for discussion and ultimately a vote before the full Metro Council. A date has not yet been set.

Councilman Brandon Coan, D-8, one of the council members who’s driven the re-examination of the short-term rental ordinance, said he is “hopeful that council members will have a lot of suggestions” when discussing potential changes, including ones not recommended by the Planning Commission. Coan cited suggestions from residents that the city require short-term rental hosts to post their city-issued registration information in online listings as a good example of something Metro Council could approve but that was not recommended.

“I think there were a handful of useful suggestions, but I don’t think they gave us everything we are going to need in order to really improve the status quo,” he said of the Planning Commission’s recommendations. “I appreciate all the time and effort they put into it, and I think it will certainly make our job easier at the Metro Council while we try to figure out any final legislative changes.”

Councilman Brandon Coan | Photo by Peter Champelli

Coan told Insider that he is currently in discussions with Airbnb and Vacation Rental By Owner, the two most popular short-term rental sites, about potential agreements to delist problem properties at the city’s request, saying the city can’t effectively enforce its short-term rental ordinance without the companies’ help.

The regulation of short-term rentals has been a contentious topic for months as the city re-evaluated its original ordinance, passed in December 2015. Resident feedback has been mixed, with some relying horror stories about rentals near them and others arguing that additional regulations would trample on property owners’ rights because of a few bad apples.

Metro Council members themselves were split on a temporary moratorium on non-owner-occupied short-term rentals, voting down the measure in a close 13-to-11 vote in December.

During the past two months, the Planning Commission held two separate public hearings to listen to residents’ opinions and experiences with short-term rentals and consider what, if any, changes it would suggest to the city’s existing short-term rental ordinance. Major changes on the table revolved around non-owner-occupied short-term rentals, where property owners rent out a house that is not their primary residence, and included banning them in either single-family residential zones or in all residential districts.

The commission, however, opted for the status quo, which allows non-owner-occupied short-term rentals in most areas as long as the property owner receives a conditional use permit, a process that includes additional costs and a hearing before the Planning Commission. Those who rent out their primary residence simply have to register with the city and pay an annual fee (unless the property is located in Old Louisville-Limerick Traditional Neighborhood Zoning District).

Bill Hollander, D-9, told Insider that the people he’s spoken to — residents, short-term rental hosts and others — are in favor of some limitations on non-owner-occupied short-term rentals and expects that to come back up at the council level.

“I look forward to having a more complete discussion on this when it gets to Metro Council,” he said. “I think some of these changes are good. I think some probably don’t go far enough.”

Another suggested language change that would have limited the maximum number of short-term rental occupants to 10 also was thrown out by the Planning Commission.

As of Jan. 25, Louisville had 470 short-term rentals registered with the city, though thousands of Louisville properties are listed online.

Since talks began, a flood of applications have been filed for conditional use permits for non-owner-occupied short-term rentals as some feared that the rentals would be prohibited or limited in the future. Since Nov. 28, when a possible moratorium was first announced, property owners have filed 43 applications for conditional use permits for such rentals. Prior to that, 61 conditional use permit applications had been filed since Jan. 1, 2018.

Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]