Ocean Springs now regulating short term vacation rental houses - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Ocean Springs now regulating short term vacation rental houses

A new ordinance allows up to 35 vacation rentals to obtain yearly business licenses. (Photo source: WLOX) A new ordinance allows up to 35 vacation rentals to obtain yearly business licenses. (Photo source: WLOX)
OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) -

For the first time, people who rent their Ocean Springs homes to vacationers will have to deal with taxes and building inspectors. However, some of them still said they're thrilled to finally have laws on the books.

In the 20 years that John David Johnson and his family have been vacationing in Ocean Springs, most of the time they've stayed in vacation rental houses.

"We just fell in love with the town and the people made good friends here. We've never stayed in hotels the whole time we've been here," said Johnson. 

Right now, the Johnsons are staying in Beth Riley's house. Since 2007, Riley says she has been working hard to make sure the two bedroom home is well kept and inviting for families. However, she said being in this business hasn't been easy.  

"This is my home. I hope to live in it again. Most of the people here, these are their homes they want to hold on to. So, we've always kept it up to date. Kept it maintained," said Riley. "However, it's been a struggle. We did want to be legal. We kept going to the city telling them we wanted a business license. So, it's been a three year process to get there." 

A new ordinance allows up to 35 vacation rentals to obtain yearly business licenses. Owners have to have their homes inspected, notify their neighbors and pay sales and room taxes.   

"We kept saying we want to pay our taxes. Me, I do have a business license, so I was able to do that," Riley said. “But, some of the other people have tried, but if you can't get a business license, then you don't have a tax number. Without a tax number they couldn't pay their taxes. So, we're happy to do that. That was never ever an issue with us."

Riley said the inspections by city officials are welcome too. 

"I'm fine with that. That's one of the reasons too that we wanted regulations," said Riley. "We wanted to make sure the short term rental or the vacation rental industry would be held to the highest standards, because that's what we do. I would have no problem at all with the city inspector coming in here, because I already keep it to a high standard. We want everybody else who does open one to keep up with those standards." 

The Johnsons are building a house in Ocean Springs they plan to stay in when they're in town and rent out when they're back home in Madison. They said they wouldn't be able to afford the second house otherwise.

"I don't have a problem with an ordinance if that's what it takes to legitimize business,” said Johnson. “I think it's mainly a self-regulating business, but I'm okay with a fair ordinance." 

The city is requiring owners of houses in subdivisions where there is a homeowners association to get permission from the association before Ocean Springs will give a license. Also, either the owner or the property manager must live within two miles of the city limits. The license is not transferable if the property is sold. 

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