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Residential landlords should have to register with the city

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Landlords provide a valuable service for the City of Charleston. They give many of our citizens a place to live. In turn, all apartments and rental properties should be safe, and each should enhance the livability of our city.

Property leasing is also a business, a big business.

Residential rental properties, in particular those located on the Charleston peninsula, generate significant revenue for landlords because of their viable use as off-campus student housing and proximity to our city’s vibrant urban core.

For example, many rental properties on the Charleston peninsula generate monthly revenues of $1,000 per bedroom or more, amounting to annual revenues of $36,000 for a three-bedroom or $48,000 for a four-bedroom property.

However, presently many residential landlords in the City of Charleston are not required to have any form of license or registration or to provide any contact information for tenants, property managers or agents in the event nuisance issues arise during the course of their lease.

While the majority of residential rental properties may be properly managed, many others are not.

As a result, surrounding residential and commercial property owners often bear the burden of reporting and dealing with nuisances involving rental properties and ultimately City of Charleston taxpayers pay the costs involved in locating property owners, property managers and/or tenants in order to enforce city nuisance or livability-related ordinances.

In order to solve these problems, two solutions have been proposed to Charleston City Council but have not yet been adopted.

If approved, these solutions would result in great benefits to our city by rightfully shifting the burden of dealing with nuisance rental property issues to those parties that reap the financial gain from property leasing.

The first solution is the proposed Residential Rental Registration ordinance that would require certain residential rental properties to be registered with the city.

The Residential Rental Registration ordinance, in summary, would require owners and managers of rental properties to register with the city the name and contact information of an individual who lives in the Charleston area and is responsible for the property.

In effect, this ordinance would reduce city and taxpayer costs involved in tracking down responsible parties when nuisance and livability issues arise.

The second solution is a proposal to require property owners who lease three or more rental units during the year to obtain a City of Charleston business license.

Currently property owners who lease five or more rental units in the City of Charleston are required to obtain a business license.

This proposed ordinance would reach many additional rental properties and would more closely align with Charleston County, North Charleston, Awendaw and McClellanville, which all require a business license from landlords leasing two or more rental units.

The Isle of Palms requires a business license for all rental properties.

The benefit of this system is that problems created by tenants or absentee landlords would have to be addressed by the property owner or designated agent.

If they were not, the business license holder would risk losing his license and jeopardize his ability to generate rental revenue during a given year.

By strengthening the connection between residential property leasing and business licenses, the city will encourage responsible property management from nearly all residential landlords in the City of Charleston.

Your peninsula neighborhood associations of downtown Charleston have worked together with Mayor Riley and the City of Charleston’s Livability and Revenue Collection Divisions to create a licensing design that is fair to landlords, while insuring safety and livability for all residents.

These ordinances must now receive the final approval of our City Council.

Please advise your City Council representative that you are in favor of these ordinances.

Frank Rupp

Harleston Village Neighborhood


Rutledge Avenue


This letter was also signed by Stephen Hanson, Tim Muller, Stephen Gates, Jack Evans, Susan Bass, Vangie Rainsford, Jeff Gleim, Rev. Alma Dungee, Robert Ballard and Francis Clasby III, representing peninsula neighborhood associations.

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