Noise, illegal units and more. Here are Hilton Head’s 2023 short-term rental complaints – Yahoo News Canada

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Noise. Trash. Illegal rentals. Parking problems. Too many people. Hilton Head Island residents have seen (or heard) it all regarding short-term rentals this past year.

The town logged 335 short-term rental complaints by 153 complainants through its short-term rental nuisance management hotline and online complaint form, according to documentation obtained by an Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette Freedom of Information Act Request. The December 2023 to November 2023 complaints resulted in warnings, violations or citations 49% of the time with parking and noise being the most common complaints.

There are about 6,700 active permitted short-term rentals on Hilton Head Island, according to its permit dashboard. The complaints spanned 150 short-term properties, meaning about 2% of total rentals garnered complaints. Six rentals were chronic offenders. They accounted for 25% of all complaints, with the same individual complaining for each of them in most instances.

The complaints document the nuisance that the tourism industry, which is the lifeblood of many Hilton Head businesses, can be to island residents. Tourism supports tens of thousands of jobs and impacts the economy by billions, but the log provides more insight into the ways short-term rentals are disruptive.

It also shows a discrepancy between what residents find annoying and what the town finds illegal. The town is allowed to suspend or potentially revoke a short-term rental permit if a property is declared a nuisance; but with 110 complaints, or about one-third, the town didn’t find any violation of short-term rental regulations.

The hotline and complaint form was new in 2023, according to Hilton Head Island Director of Public Safety Bob Bromage. Therefore, 57 complaints during the year’s first five months were classified vaguely as “closed.”

A few months into the implementation, the town determined it needed to be more specific with some complaint statuses, Bromage said.

“We use it for enforcement but also to determine the scope of the issue with short-term rentals and how it’s impacting quality of life,” he said.

Most individuals didn’t complain at all and those who complained did so fewer than five times. Only nine complained more than five times with the top single person complaining 20 times about the same rental near the Hilton Head Island Airport. The complaints for that rental ranged from trash to noise. It was cited for “other” two times in August. The town sometimes determined there were no violations and other times issued warnings.

This was the case with other short-term rentals too, where warnings didn’t prevent future complaints or warnings.

For owners, violations can result in a fine of up to $500 or up to 30 days in jail, or both, under an existing section of town code. The town is also allowed to suspend or revoke a short-term rental permit if there are more than two town-code-violation convictions during a 12-month period, among other reasons.

A code enforcement officer investigates each complaint, sometimes conducting a field visit.

Short-term rental complaints

The complaint statuses are broken down into the following categories:

  • Closed — The issue was investigated, and the town may have issued a verbal or written warning and determined no further action was required.

  • No violation — No violation was found at the time of the investigation. The town may have issued a verbal warning, or determined the issue wasn’t related to short-term rentals.

  • Violation — A violation may have been found, and the town may have issued a verbal or written warning.

  • Under review — The town may be working with the owner to resolve an issue, or it is still under investigation and may require additional follow-up.

  • Warning — A violation may have been found at the time of investigation, and the town may have educated the guests about the ordinance and warned them of the consequences of future issues.

  • Citation — Unresolved violations required further consequences and the case was referred to the Bluffton Magistrate Court.

In 11 months, the 335 complaints were:

  • Warning — 151

  • No violation — 110

  • Closed — 57

  • Violation — 9 (Five parking, two noise, one illegal trash and one trash)

  • Under review — 4 (Spanning from August to October)

  • Citations — 4 (Two illegal rentals and two “other”)

Though not all of them were determined to be valid, the complaints were for:

Maps by month

July had the most complaints and January had the least. Here is the breakdown by month:

  • January — 7

  • February — 11

  • March — 15

  • April — 18

  • May — 27

  • June — 45

  • July — 62

  • August — 42

  • September — 51

  • October — 38

  • November — 19

Here are the complaints for January through June mapped by month and complaint type. View July through November here. Some complaints didn’t include addresses. Those map locators are placed off to the side of the island:

If you’re reading this article in our print edition and want to interact with the maps, go to

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