COVINGTON, Ky. — The city of Covington is currently refusing to give out any new licenses for the operation of short-term rental properties, such as Airbnb. The city issued a six-month moratorium in December, after learning hundreds of short-term rentals were operating illegally within the city.

What You Need To Know

  •  The city of Covington found that hundreds of people have been operating short-term rentals withot proper licenses

  •  The city placed a moratorium on issuing new licenses while it gathers information

  •  Many have spoken out, saying the penalties for operating without a license are too harsh

  • Others have spoken against the boom of short-term rentals in the city, saying there are too many

Many people have spoken out in opposition to the moratorium, saying the fines and regulations operators are facing are too harsh.

Chachi and Charlene Echerivel bought a house in Covington three years ago with big plans in mind for the space above their detached garage. But it was going to need a lot of work.

“It was entirely blighted for the most part. The ceiling was falling. So we entirely rehabbed it,” Chachi said.

The thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours they put in were going to be worth it, they thought, to convert the space into an Airbnb to bring in some extra income.

They’ve been able to do that, but their guests have been staying longer than they had originally planned for.

“We were entirely planning on short-term people,” Chachi said.

“When we’re blocking off really big parts of time, if somebody isn’t checking for three more weeks, now we have to have this place vacant for three more weeks, because we can’t host anybody for less than 30 days. So I’d rather it not be empty if it doesn’t have to be,” Charlene said.

They received a warning letter from the city in February.

According to the city, the same letter went out to about 250 Covington property owners illegally operating short-term rentals.

The letter warned of stiff penalties, including up to an $1,000 per-day fine, a one-year ban on applying for a license and a tax audit for failure to get the mandatory license and zoning approval, and for not paying the required license fee.

The Echerivels decided to focus on long-term stays of over 30 days.

“By only having long-term people, we’re really boxed in. And now, if our family wants to come in sometime between now and August, we can’t host them, because we’ve got somebody long term,” Charlene said.

Despite some disadvantages, though, they’ve had success.

“It’s been great. We’re really happy to host people that want to invest in Covington, because we want to invest in Covington,” Chachi said.

In a news release, Covington announced it found that since putting regulations in place in 2021, only 43 short-term rental licenses had requested and issued, but at least 424 units in Covington advertised on short-term rental platforms. 

“I really don’t care how many Airbnbs are in the area,” Chachi said. “I don’t really see the reason for more regulation. I heard one guy say that the market will self regulate, and it will.”

Covington joined cities across the country in 2020 in regulating short-term rentals by requiring a rental license and zoning approval, as well as an occupational (business) license.

The city approved a six-month moratorium on issuing new licenses in December, motivated by complaints from residents, so that the board of commissioners could review the seemingly ineffective regulations.

The commission also amended the city’s ordinance to deny, for one year, a rental license to any property owner who continued to operate a short-term rental business illegally. The amended ordinance was adopted on March 28.

A public hearing on April 12 aimed to gather information. Questions the city wanted residents to answer included: should there be a limited number of short-term rentals? Should the city limit the number of STRs within a vicinity of each other? Should there be a revocation of license for repeat offenders? Should the city limit transfers? Should there be an increase in fee for licenses?

“We do not plan to ban short-term rentals in Covington. What we do want, and what our goal is, is a regulatory scheme that protects the quality of life in our neighborhoods,” said Covington Mayor Joseph Meyer.

Many came to the meeting to support short-term rentals.

“You should be able to operate on your own property. However it is you feel that you want to. I mean, it is a free country and all,” said Chris Whitmer.

“I have invested a considerable amount of money in these buildings, and I feel like what I’ve done has been good for the community,” said Noah Brauer.

Several others voiced their concerns.

“This is too many. My neighborhood has been inundated with short-term rentals,” said Daniel Burr. “When they operate in areas zoned for residential use, they have a negative impact on the people who make their homes in our neighborhoods. Only strict limits on the density of short-term rentals can reduce this negative impact.”

“I think the safety in general of neighborhoods relies heavily on neighbors sort of knowing each other’s comings and goings,” said Tom Cislo. “Pretty soon, no one knows who’s who and what’s what.”

Other complaints have included parking congestion, noise, fewer opportunities for affordable housing and absentee owners.

“I don’t want some New Yorker coming in here and buying up housing,” Neil Blunt said.

Haley Powell spoke on behalf of the Northern Kentucky Tenants Union.

“Our workforce housing has become endangered, forcing children, families, the elderly, the disabled, women and people of color into often precarious states of not knowing where they will be living next month, let alone next year,” Powell said. “The 400 short-term rentals in Covington that frequently do sit vacant during the week and in the off-season, if in closer proximity to each other, would literally constitute a ghost town. At the same time, we have a pandemic of housing insecure people who would give anything to not be banished from the community they have helped to build.”

The Echerivels came to share their frustration about what many described as a lack of communication on the city’s part, and a confusing process to apply.

Chachi Echerivel said he and his wife have been lucky to avoid the devastation others have faced.

“We had a lot of longer term guests that would stay over a month. So it hasn’t affected us financially yet, thankfully, but a lot of other people, they’re losing their income. It’d be like me losing my job today and not even being able to reapply,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. It breaks my heart for these people.”

Once the moratorium is up in June, the Echerivels said they’ll continue to pursue a short-term license, as long as any potential changes to the regulations don’t stand in their way.

Covington will have more public hearings on short-term rentals in the coming weeks. Specific times and locations have not yet been announced.