Bay St. Louis trying to regulate vacation rentals

Bay St. Louis trying to regulate vacation rentals
If the ordinance passes, it will require the rental property's owner to live within 15 miles of the property, have a permit to operate, and regulate the number of people who can legally stay at a rental property per square foot. (Photo source: WLOX)

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - The vacation rental market in Bay St. Louis has been gaining popularity as the area continues to recover from Hurricane Katrina. Now, people are trying to get greater control of this growing sector of the economy.

Bay St. Louis transplant Janice Hall says she and her husband left California, rented a home in the Bay, and fell in love with the area.

"We had a vacation rental here," Hall remembered. "We bought three condos, right at the corner of Dunbar and Ullman, one was a vacation rental that we had for the past year. We recently sold it and we have plans to do something new with that."

Bay St. Louis residents like Chris Cochran say regulations on rental properties are needed here, because they'll improve the quality and consistency of the rental experience.

"Right now we have a number of people who either are not paying the appropriate taxes, which incidentally two percent of our taxes that we collect go directly to the tourism board for Hancock county, that's where they get their primary budget," Cochran said.

Realtor Joey Manieri says he's been working on developing a rental ordinance for Bay St. Louis for two years.

"We calculate out of the hundred and some odd vacation and rental properties, maybe a third of us are paying sales tax on it," Manieri said. "And that's one of the things we hope this will address a little bit of that, to help control it and get more people to contribute to that base."

"I think there needs to be regulations. I don't want to say too much, but we've had some not so great experiences. Other rentals can be free-for-alls because the properties are owned by absentee owners who live in another state, and they're not keeping good eye on it," Hall said.

Manieri said there are some who want to eliminate short-term rental properties altogether. But if this ordinance passes, it will put everyone who rents vacation properties on the same playing field. It will also require the rental property's owner to live within 15 miles of the property, have a permit to operate, and regulate the number of people who can legally stay at a rental property per square foot.

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