Short-Term Rental Initiative Frequently Asked Questions

The Short-Term Rental Initiative

The Town does not currently have a short-term rental Ordinance, but Town Council will consider a proposed Ordinance on May 3, 2022.

View the Town Council May 3, 2022 Agenda Package

As a resort area, Hilton Head Island has numerous short-term rental units. The lack of a short-term rental Ordinance has led to an imbalance between residential and resort districts and the elimination of some long-term single-family neighborhoods.

The Town proposes an Ordinance to develop a fair, predictable, and balanced approach to manage short-term rental impacts on our neighborhoods, economy, housing stock, public facilities, and the quality of life of our residents and experiences of our visitors.

The proposed Ordinance defines short-term as less than 30 days.

The Town does not restrict the location of short-term rentals. Private homeowners' associations and property owners' associations may restrict or prohibit short-term rentals.

While most short-term rentals are concentrated near the beach and other traditional tourist areas, they are located throughout the Island. A map showing the distribution of short-term rentals on the south end of the Island is included in the May 3, 2022, Town Council meeting materials.

View the Town Council May 3, 2022 Agenda Package

Town staff estimates that approximately 10,000 units are offered as a short-term rental at some point during a calendar year, which is approximately one-third of the residential units within Town limits.

Yes. Town staff estimates that the number of short-term rentals has increased by at least 30 percent between July 2019 and January 2022. Town staff will continue to monitor trends in short-term rentals using business license data and a short-term rental monitoring and compliance service.

At the direction of Town Council, Town staff began studying potential short-term rental regulations in spring 2021.

  • Town staff interviewed stakeholders and gathered feedback from the public before recommending a policy framework for short-term rental standards.
  • Based on the elements of the policy framework and with feedback from the Public Planning Committee and the public, Town staff drafted a proposed Ordinance.
  • The proposed Ordinance was revised based on feedback from the public and at the direction of the Public Planning Committee.

The information related to the project, including previous public meetings, stakeholder meetings, open houses, and survey results is available on the Town's short-term rental initiative page.

On March 24, 2022, the Public Planning Committee discussed the proposed Ordinance and recommended that Town Council review the proposed Ordinance. An updated version of the proposed Ordinance will be published in the full agenda package for the May 3, 2022, Town Council meeting.

Written comments can be submitted through Open Town Hall HHI.

On March 24, 2022, the Public Planning Committee approved a preliminary framework for the examination of short-term rentals and high floor area ratio single-family structures, which are relatively large single-family structures on relatively small lots.

View the Public Planning Committee March 24, 2022 Agenda Package

Town staff will provide updates to and receive direction from the Public Planning Committee during the Committee's monthly meetings, and updates will be published on the Town's short-term rental initiative page

Please sign up for project updates to receive notifications of upcoming meetings and other notifications.

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About the Proposed Ordinance

The latest version of the proposed Ordinance is included in the full agenda package for the May 3, 2022, Town Council meeting.

View the Town Council May 3, 2022 Agenda Package

The regulations include standards for the property owner or their agent's availability and responsiveness; requirements to notify prospective guests of short-term rental unit features such as parking and pool safety availability; requirements to post information such as noise standards and trash disposal in short-term rental units; and requirements for fire safety.

Please review the latest version of the proposed Ordinance, which is included in the full agenda package for the May 3, 2022, Town Council meeting.

View the Town Council May 3, 2022 Agenda Package

The property owner can designate any person or business to act as their agent, assuming they agree to and can meet the requirements in the proposed Ordinance.

An owner or their agent does not necessarily always have to be on-site within an hour of receiving a complaint.

An owner or their agent may initially respond to a complaint by contacting the guest by telephone, by text, in person, or using another form of communication to request the guest take such action as is required to eliminate the problem that was the subject of the complaint.

Aside from contacting the guest, taking other responsive action may also require the owner or their agent to visit the property if such action is necessary to attempt in good faith to eliminate the problem that was the subject of the complaint.

All properties within the Town's limits would be subject to the proposed Ordinance.

View the Town Limits Map

Though the Town's code enforcement services may in some cases overlap with the security services provided by a gated community, the Town ensures all short-term rentals meet licensing requirements and provides enforcement services for all short-term rental properties. The Town can also take enforcement actions, such as revoking the short-term rental permit, to address short-term rental properties that become nuisances

If you rent your property for less than 30 days, the proposed Ordinance would apply to your property, regardless of the total number of days per year or the number of times per year that you rent the property.

The Town currently enforces standards in the Municipal Code for noise, trash, and parking. The proposed Ordinance creates expectations specifically for the operation of short-term rentals and establishes a program for the Town to ensure all short-term rental properties are licensed, remit taxes, and operate in a manner that will preserve the quality of life of their neighbors and the public.

The proposed Ordinance will allow the Town to capture more specific data on short-term rental operations, and to monitor and respond to complaints.

If Town Council approves the proposed Ordinance during the first reading of the Ordinance on May 3, 2022, there will be a second reading of the proposed Ordinance during the May 17, 2022, Town Council meeting. If Town Council approves the proposed Ordinance during the second reading of the Ordinance, it will be enacted into law.

The proposed Ordinance would take effect on the date Town Council approves it, but enforcement of the Ordinance would begin on January 1, 2023. This means that by January 1, 2023, all short-term rentals would be required to have a short-term rental permit to advertise or operate as a short-term rental.

Town staff will begin to implement the short-term rental program, which includes all aspects of administering the proposed Ordinance and informing the public and stakeholders of the program and its requirements.

  • Town Council will review Town staff's proposed short-term rental permit fee during the Fiscal Year 2023 budget workshop.

    View the Town Council Meeting Schedule

  • The Town will execute a contract with a short-term rental permitting, monitoring, and compliance service.
  • Town staff will test and open a short-term rental permit application portal. Town staff will develop and implement a robust communications plan to inform stakeholders and the public of the standards in the short-term rental Ordinance and the upcoming registration process and deadlines.

All information and updates will be published on the Town's short-term rental initiative page. Please sign up for project updates to receive notifications related to the project.

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About Short-Term Rental Permits

Property owners or their agents will be able to apply for a short-term rental permit via a portal on the Town's website. The Town anticipates opening the portal in the fall of 2022.

The Town will announce when the portal is live and provide instructions on how to apply for a permit. Please sign up for project updates to receive notifications of upcoming meetings and to be notified when the portal is live.

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To obtain a short-term rental permit, the owner will need to submit an application form with information about the property. The owner will need to affirm on the application form that their property meets the regulations in the proposed Ordinance.

The contact information of the property owner and management company can be updated, but the permit itself cannot be transferred to a different property or a different property owner.

Town staff is proposing a $250 fee for the 2023 calendar year. Town Council will discuss and approve the permit fee each year when the budget for the upcoming fiscal year is approved.

South Carolina state law limits the use of fees to the provision of the service or program for which the fee was paid. In this case, the fee can only be used for services related to short-term rentals, including monitoring and compliance software and personnel to administer the program.

Yes. A short-term rental permit is different than a business license. A business license is required to operate a short-term rental.

Learn More about a Business License

About Short-Term Rental Monitoring, Complaints, and Compliance

Third party companies now offer a range of services related to short-term rentals. The Town is seeking a contract with such a company to identify, monitor, and permit short-term rental properties.

  • The Town issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) on March 31, 2022.
  • The deadline for submissions is April 28, 2022.

View Bid and Proposal Opportunities

The Town is proposing to contract with a third-party vendor to establish a 24 hour-a-day hotline and an online portal to receive complaints and route them to the point of contact listed by the owner on the short-term rental permit.

The Town will announce when the hotline and portal are operational.

Until the hotline and portal are operational, please contact the Town's Code Enforcement officers at 843-341-4642 or 843-341-4643.

For after-hours complaints about noise, please call the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office's non-emergency dispatch number: 843-524-2777.

No. The purpose of the proposed Ordinance is to create a short-term rental program that establishes expectations for all short-term rental properties within the Town.

Complaints that are resolved between the complainant, the owner or their agent, and their guests will not require further investigation or action by the Town.

In the case that complaints are not resolved, Town staff will provide education to non-compliant owners, their agents, and their guests to ensure they have the opportunity to resolve issues voluntarily.

The Town will work with the complaint hotline and portal contractor to resolve issues with repeated, unfounded complaints.

If the Town is aware of a complaint that hasn't been resolved, Town staff will discuss the complaint with the owner and their agent to determine what steps have been taken to resolve the issue. Town staff will use reason and good judgement in assessing the complaint and the efforts taken by the owner and their agent to resolve it