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St. Louis aldermen send short-term rental regulations to mayor

Signs advocating against short-term rentals are posted on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023, outside homes on Kingshighway Boulevard in the Southwest Garden neighborhood of St. Louis.
Tristen Rouse
St. Louis Public Radio
Some city residents have complained that short-term rentals are like hotels and have attracted disruptive guests.

Updated Oct. 20 with final passage

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has passed the city’s first-ever restrictions on short-term rentals.

The board voted by a wide margin on Friday to send the regulations to Mayor Tishaura Jones, who plans to sign them in the coming weeks.

“Today St. Louis finally joined cities across the nation to regulate short term rentals and hold operators accountable to the neighbors where their properties are located,” she said in a statement.

The bills require building owners to get a permit to operate short-term rentals. They also cap the number of units that can be rented out by one person, in an effort to cut down on “ghost hotels,” or large, multifamily buildings with absentee owners. Those have been an issue especially in the downtown area.

The legislation also caps the number of units that can be rented out by a person who doesn’t live in the properties and prohibit stays of fewer than two nights.

The new regulations would take effect as soon as technically possible but no later than a year from the date the bills become law.

Our original story from Oct. 13

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Friday moved a step closer to regulating short-term rentals, giving preliminary approval to a bill that would require owners to obtain a permit to operate the properties.

Although Airbnb’s website alone lists more than 1,000 rental properties in St. Louis, and VRBO lists more than 300, the city has no laws that regulate short-term rentals, said Alderman Bret Narayan of the 4th Ward. The Board of Aldermen has for years attempted and failed to get laws governing such properties passed.

“We are basically in the Wild West,” said Narayan, who sponsored the bill. “When it comes to any regulations, there's nothing on the books. We're hoping to get something in place so that when there are problematic short-term rentals, we can shut them down.”

The bill also would prohibit stays fewer than two nights to discourage people using rentals to throw big house parties. It would cap the number of units that can be rented by a person who doesn’t live in their properties, which bill sponsors say will decrease “ghost hotels” — large properties in which the owner isn’t present.

Short-term rentals have resulted in loud parties and dangerous situations, other aldermen said. Critics have said rentals lead to higher housing prices and complaints from neighbors who say nearby short-term rentals are like hotels.

Fifth Ward Alderman Joe Vollmer, who lives in the Hill neighborhood, says that living in a tourist-heavy area means he has dealt with unwanted visitors who yell, blast music and urinate in the yard.

“I have one of the wildest in my ward, owned by a company that basically has frat parties every weekend,” he said. “People are in hell. They invested in a single-family home, and yet every weekend they are putting up with basically a nightclub.”

The bill would give city officials the right to revoke a rental owners permit if renters play music too loud or otherwise violate city ordinances. After three violations, the city would automatically pull the owner’s permit.

Alderwoman Daniela Velázquez of the 6th Ward said residents have not had any recourse when they’ve experienced rowdy short-term rental hosts and guests.

“It gives people a clear process,” she said of the proposed bill. “They understand what is in violation, what is not. And it also gives peace of mind … a clear way for people to say ‘this is not working in our neighborhood.’”

Other members of the board said that short-term rentals shouldn’t be allowed at all in single-family residential neighborhoods, since they could be classified as a commercial business.

The board approved an amendment to the bill that would require conditional use hearings before permits are given to those who live in single-family residential neighborhoods.

“I think some of my colleagues think that this legislation was tacitly approving the fact that these exist in the first place,” said Narayan, the bill’s sponsor. “But I'm a realist. I'm a pragmatist. And the fact of the matter is, they're here. And they're in our neighborhoods. And right now when there's problems, they're not being addressed.”

The bill needs final approval from the board before it would head to Mayor Tishaura Jones.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.
Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.