Brookhaven homeowners living in single-family residential neighborhoods can now rent out their homes through short-term rental agencies such as Airbnb after the City Council agreed to lift a ban in place since November.

The City Council voted unanimously on April 23 to amend its zoning ordinance to allow all homeowners to engage in short term rentals under certain conditions — that homeowners eligible for homestead exemptions can participate in short-term rentals for no more than 180 days a year. The homeowners must obtain a permit from the city’s Community Development Department to do so and any property with more than two code enforcement violations within one year would not be eligible for a permit or permit renewal.

In November, the City Council adopted a complete zoning code rewrite which included regulations that only allowed short-term rentals in areas currently zoned for a multi-family use with a special land use permit. That decision was the result of an increasing number of complaints from residents about short-term rental houses becoming homes to loud parties and driving heavy traffic into their once tranquil suburban neighborhoods. Last year, the owner of a house in north Brookhaven was cited for operating as rental commercial business, a violation of city ordinance.

The ordinance approved April 23 gives the city the authority to enforce violations and “regulate bad actors,” Mayor John Ernst said, a major concern he and the the council had in November.

“The council’s intention was to never ban short-term rentals,” Councilmember John Park said at the April 23 meeting. “We believe people should use their property as they see fit. But when we were doing the zoning rewrite … we were not ready to properly regulate to protect the rights of neighbors.”

Councilmember Linley Jones voiced strong opposition to allowing short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods because she said it essentially allows a business into an area zoned specifically for homeowners. She said she had also been notified of “ugly incidents” at short-term rental homes in her district, District 1, where most of the city’s residential neighborhoods are located.

But she said because the current ordinance prevents people from buying homes and turning them specifically into Airbnb houses, she was able to support it.

Councilmember Joe Gebbia recused himself from the discussion and vote. His son, Joe Gebbia Jr., is a founder of Airbnb.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.