(Jan. 3, 2020) Rental owners in unincorporated areas of Worcester County can expect a soft start for the countywide rental license program. Ed Tudor, director of review and permitting, said although the bill establishing the program is effective Jan. 1, 2020, there is no deadline for rental owners to apply for and obtain a rental license. They cannot advertise their properties, however, until they do so.
The requirement for rental owners in unincorporated Worcester County to have a rental license passed on Aug. 20, 2019. The Worcester County Commissioners passed the full program and implementation a couple months later on Nov. 19, the biggest highlight being that the short-term rental license fee was reduced from $400 to $200.
As for the short-term rental regulations, which passed on Oct. 15, the largest changes are an increase in the required parking spaces for new rentals, an occupancy restriction based on square footage and a ban on events and functions for people who are not lodgers of the property.
Department staff conducted interviews for the rental program coordinator in mid-December, and if all goes as planned, recommendations will be made to the county commissioners by the Tuesday before their Jan. 7 meeting.
Another factor in the delay is the software system, which the department is still preparing.
“I’m suspecting that we may not be ready that very first week, but probably the week after, would be my guess,” Tudor said.
By the second week of January, a paper copy of the rental license application should be finalized, but perhaps not the online version.
“That’s part of what we’re doing with the software – we want to make sure that the paper draft that we do can be easily converted to the digital format once the software is ready,” Tudor said. “I don’t want to have fields, for instance, too many fields on the paper that can’t be imported on the digital format.”
In the meantime, Tudor advised rental owners to check the county website and watch for public service announcements.
Sarah Rayne, government and public affairs director for the Coastal Association of Realtors, said that the association hasn’t received any information or guidance from the county. Even with the county being slightly behind schedule, Rayne said she wasn’t worried about the program.
When the information is released, the association plans to distribute it to members and the general public through their social media channels and consumer newsletter.
“The Coastal Association of Realtors has 1,000 members and 70 percent of those members work in Worcester County and a lot of them work with rentals,” Rayne said. “We want to make sure we get information out to our members so that they are able to comply with the county law.”
She added that the association did try to prepare for the new rental regulations by distributing a one-pager to members detailing the various changes in zoning guidelines and taxation and revenue articles, as well as the hotel rental tax rate increase to five percent. Rayne advised rental owners to educate themselves on what legislation has passed.
“There are certain things that certain types of rentals are going to require,” Rayne said. “For the short-term rentals, for instance, they’re going to need the floor plan, so they can get that ready so once an application is prepared, they’re ready to just fill it out and submit.”
She said she is looking forward to the finalized rental license program.
“We’re happy that Worcester County wanted to update their rental code and create this licensing program because our members want to be good neighbors, certainly, and professionals,” Rayne said.