Charleston Short Term Rental Laws

So you are considering turning your Charleston home into a short term rental (STR) or buying an investment property to use as a STR in Charleston? You may want to switch your focus to North Charleston which is more investor and STR friendly. Let us explain why.

Depending exactly where the property is located in the Charleston area will determine whether making it a STR is legal. For example, the City of Charleston has different regulations than the City of North Charleston.

At this point STRs of entire homes are not legal in the City of Charleston unless the home is located in the short term rental overlay in Downtown Charleston and is subject to certain category criteria. You can expect to pay $1M plus for a property in the STR overlay zone downtown. However, if your plan is to rent out a room in your primary home to STR guests or rent out an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) on the same property as your primary residence in the City of Charleston then this is allowed as long as some requirements are met and you get the permit.

Again, STRs of whole houses are not allowed in the City of Charleston unless the home is located within the STR overlay zone on Downtown Charleston! See below short term rental category map for the City of Charleston which shows the STR overlay zone in blue:

City of Charleston Short Term Rental Category Map:

Short Term Rental Overlay - In the Short Term Rental Overlay Zone units are eligible for either a Bed & Breakfast Permit or a Commercial Short Term Rental Permit depending on the zoning of the property. Commercially zoned properties are eligible for commercial STR permits while residentially zoned properties are eligible for bed & breakfast permits.

Residential Category 1 corresponds to the area of the peninsula in the Old and Historic District.

Residential Category 2 corresponds to the area of the peninsula outside of the short term rental overlay zone and the Old and Historic District.

Residential Category 3 corresponds to the all areas of the city off of the peninsula (Daniel Island, James Island, Johns Island, and West Ashley).

In the City of Charleston, homeowners are required to inhabit the home while hosting short-term guests, and no more than four adults may occupy a STR at once. The homeowner doesn’t have to physically be in the home at all times while guests are there, but at least one full-time resident must sleep there each night of the renters’ stay. In addition, hosts must apply for and obtain a short term rental license from the City of Charleston. Any home that is not occupied full-time by its owner, as determined by property tax assessments, is not eligible for short-term rental licensing. This makes investment properties in the City of Charleston ineligible for STR permits. Portions of dwellings (like duplexes) and accessory dwellings (like carriage houses) on a property are eligible as long as you live in the other side of the duplex or the main house as your primary residence. All STRs must also have at least three parking spaces: two for residential use and one for guests.

On the other hand, as of December 2023 when this blog is being written, the City of North Charleston does allow whole home STRs with a permit as long as the property is not located in an HOA that prohibits them. This makes North Charleston real estate much more investor friendly when it comes to STRs and we have personal experience helping many investors find and close on their first short term rental property. We have also done this for a personal STR we own in North Charleston. The requirements to obtain a permit include paying the short term rental application fee, obtaining a business license, passing a fire inspection, and posting a floorplan of the property inside for safety evacuation purposes. If you need help with this process in North Charleston reach out to Peter Kouten at 843-210-3034 or email him at [email protected]

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