Georgia Small Business Owners Fight for Short-term Rental Rights
iTrip Vacations Atlanta has played a major role in shaping regulations that affect short-term rentals throughout the state. Lora Clemens, co-owner of iTrip Vacations Atlanta has teamed with Short Term Rental Owners Association of Georgia (STROAGA) to help educate people and support those associated with short-term rentals.
The Partnership: STROAGA and iTrip Vacations Atlanta
Let’s take it back to 2019. Lora Clemens and Kellie Simpson launched iTrip Vacations Atlanta. The company provides owners and guests a positive, memorable experience through personalized short-term property management services in the greater metro Atlanta market. However, there was an obstacle. Cities across Georgia wanted to ban short-term rentals.
“We had two options,” says Clemens. “We could sit back and watch it happen, or get out there and make sure it didn’t happen.”
That’s when she contacted STROAGA and began working with the organization. Today, Clemens serves as chairwoman for the city of Atlanta and works with Pam O’Dell, STROAGA Executive Director and co-founder. Together, they partner with other leaders to educate communities on the benefits of short-term rentals and prevent damaging legislation that can lead to revenue loss across the state.
STROAGA also launched in 2019, and began to fight for the rights of short-term rental owners. The organization saw a need statewide, and created a group of property owners and affiliates who represent short-term homeowners. They do this through collaborating with local governments, businesses, and citizens to help build and maintain a strong tourism industry.
“Short-term rentals support our local economy in several ways,” says O’Dell. “They prevent foreclosure, promote real estate investment, save historic homes and employ people who have trouble obtaining jobs.”
But the clock was ticking. City and county governments were considering placing strict regulations against short-term rentals, making owners and managers pay additional taxes, obtain permits, receive government-issued inspections – or ban short-term rentals all together – especially because “party houses” can be a problem.
“That’s when we started working to get party houses in Atlanta shut down,” says Clemens. “A party house and short-term rental are not the same thing. Our guests are couples, families, groups, etc. coming to Atlanta to vacation here and see everything the city offers.”
Small Victory Leads to Change
Then came good news. Airbnb banned party houses, and local legislation decided not to ban short-term rentals. Instead, they would open the floor to new ideas, including a bill that Clemens and O’Dell helped prepare. The proposed bill would prevent local governments from banning rentals, and require cities and states to treat them like other residences. Republican State Representative Kasey Carpenter is sponsoring the bill, which passed a House subcommittee on February 3, 2020.
“We’re ready to help with regulations and educate local governments,” says Clemens. “Every city is under pressure to have regulations, and we can help change the way people view short-term rentals.”
Additionally, STROAGA acts on behalf of everyone involved in the industry. Over the years, O’Dell has served as a career lobbyist who has been active in California, Georgia and Florida.
“We deal directly with local governments, help prevent bans and get involved with lawsuits,” says O’Dell. “Property rights and residential privacy are important to us, and we will help protect the economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Georgia.”
The Future Seems Bright for Property Managers
What’s next for the short-term rental industry in Georgia? The state government will review the bill again in March 2020. Currently, short-term rentals are listed as “any residence that is offered for occupancy for a fee or other consideration for less than 30 consecutive days,” the bill states.
“As property managers, we have to get involved or let governments make our decisions, and we lose business,” says Clemens. “I didn’t have experience in government relations, so I just started calling legislators and setting up meetings.”
Clemens also has some advice to fellow short-term property managers who may be in similar situations.
“Get involved. Find your representatives, and schedule meetings or phone calls,” says Clemens. “Then tell your story and explain who are your guests and homeowners. Always remain persistent. If we hadn’t gotten involved, we wouldn’t have a company.”
About iTrip Vacations
For more than 10 years, iTrip Vacations has provided short-term rental management services to homeowners and guests across North America. As a leader in short-term property management, the company has enjoyed steady growth and continues to expand their franchise model across the U.S.