Atlantic City Council

Atlantic City Council during the governing body’s annual reorganization meeting Jan. 1.

ATLANTIC CITY — New regulations for short-term rental properties were adopted by City Council, and officials believe they will create a revenue stream and allow for greater local control.

The ordinance enacted a $1 per day promotional fee that will go toward the city’s Special Events Department, a tax of 3% that is equal to the total rental fee, and requires operators to provide guests with published standards of conduct and information about local laws.

Sixth Ward Councilman Jesse Kurtz sponsored the local ordinance and said it was necessary for the city to both embrace the “emerging industry” of short-term rental sites, such as Airbnb and VRBO, but maintain some level of control over the impact those properties have on residents and business owners.

“It’s important to get out in front of certain issues, rather than ignore it and hope for the best,” Kurtz said. “This is an issue that I have made it a point to be involved in.”

The proliferation of online short-term rentals, particularly in municipalities that cater to tourists, has created a unique challenge for local governments as they try to balance the rights of a free marketplace against quality of life for residents and businesses.

In certain neighborhoods of Atlantic City, residents have voiced concerns over nuisance guests, property damage and a lack of available parking.

The use of municipal resources for basic services, such as trash pickup and code enforcement, has become strained in some instances as a result, city officials said.

New Jersey enacted a law in 2018 that taxes short-term rentals and allows for select municipalities to impose additional fees, such as Atlantic City’s promotional fee. The state collects a majority of the short-term rental taxes and fees in Atlantic City, but Trenton then diverts a portion of it back to the city.

Airbnb, a company that lost a hard-fought and expensive campaign against online rental regulations in Jersey City by voter referendum in November, said it has been in contact with Atlantic City officials over the years “to discuss short-term rental regulations, and specifically a way to serve the needs of Atlantic City while preserving a historic vacation rental community that plays a vital role in the local economy.”

A search of Airbnb showed 306 available rental properties in Atlantic City. A search of VRBO turned up a similar number of results.

A company spokesperson said Airbnb would “welcome the opportunity” to continue discussions with Atlantic City officials.

“Airbnb supports common-sense regulation of home sharing, and that’s why we have worked with hundreds of jurisdictions around the world — including neighboring Brigantine — to craft policy that works for local government as well as short-term rental operators,” a statement from Airbnb read. “In addition, we recently announced a number of safety standards, from a ban on so-called party houses to a 24/7 phone hotline for neighbors, to protect our hosts and guests and preserve quality of life.”

City officials have been aware of issues with short-term rentals for some time, even going so far as to hold a public meeting on the topic several years ago that drew nearly 70 residents.

“First and foremost, my priority is our taxpayers’ quality of life. That’s something we can improve on, and we’ll take the necessary steps at the appropriate time to do so,” Mayor Marty Small Sr. said. “We want people to choose Atlantic City. But, at the same time, we have to maintain the quality of life in each neighborhood.”

Many operators, landlords or short-term rental hosts support regulations.

“Overall, regulations are not a bad thing, assuming that the regulations bring a positive result,” said John Murphy, an Airbnb host who owns five beach-block rental properties in Atlantic City.

Murphy, a 50-year-old businessman from Moorestown, Burlington County, who also owns the soon-to-be-open Ryfe bar and restaurant in Chelsea, said problems arise when “things are not well thought out.”

At his properties, Murphy meets with all guests before their stay, explains neighborhood particulars, such as where to park, and has signs above the exits informing visitors of the 10 p.m. local noise ordinance.

“I know there’s a lot of different opinions on vacation rentals,” Murphy said. “It’s a beach resort town, and it shouldn’t be surprising to folks that there’s vacationers who come here. But that doesn’t mean those people who do come here should be disrespectful or provide a negative environment.”

Contact: 609-272-7222

ddanzis@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressDanzis

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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