Where can you buy a property you can use for a short-term rental in Downtown Charleston?

If you have arrived at this post after July 10, 2018 – all the rules have changed!! Go to my latest post on this topic to educate yourself.


All, in recent weeks I have discovered additional information and restrictions on short-term rentals, so I thought it very important to share here. Go ahead and read the original post below, then skip back up here.

If you’ve already read the post below, you know a SHORT TERM RENTAL OVERLAY district was created in and around Elliotborough.  But here are some very important points:

  1. This does NOT mean that all properties in this district allow legal rentals.
  2. ONLY ones zoned CT, LB, GB, UC, MU-1, MU-1/WH allow it, which is basically the properties on Spring and Cannon plus a few others. (Mostly the Pink in the map below)
  3. MOST of the properties in this area are zoned DR-2F, which supposedly only allow Bed and Breakfast with Owner Occupancy in a building at least 50 years old.
  4. You actually have to apply for a permit from the City. To check to see if your property or one you want to buy is eligible, be sure to check the zoning map and call the City.
  5. One small potential exception to the Short Term Overlay District, would be the Accommodations Overlay District (King, Meeting, Market etc…). If the condominium regime does not prohibit short-term-rentals, you may be able to apply to do it legally and have it approved.


Over the years, many, many people have asked me this question.  They were interested in visiting Charleston frequently, so much so that staying in hotels just didn’t make sense any more. They wanted to buy a place to call their second home, but then be able to rent it out to other like-minded Charleston visitors when they were not around. Sounds like a smart financial move, right??

Perhaps you, yourself stayed for several nights in quaint little carriage houses or condominiums around town? Something you booked via VRBO or AirBNB? And perhaps you even met the wonderful proprietor who regaled you with stories of old Charleston, or recommended a great restaurant down a cobblestoned alley? Certainly it made your experience here all the more special and put the idea in your head that perhaps you should do that too. Heck, you might have even had a cup of coffee with your loved one at one of our cute local cafes, and discussed what part of town you’d like to be in, did you want exposed brick or a courtyard or not, and you may have even imagined your owner profile on one of those sites, and what you would say about why you love Charleston. (Lots!)

And now here I come in stomping on your dreams. 🙁  You can’t, there are none and it is illegal to do so.  And as a person who respects the law, I obviously could never recommend that you buy a place with that intent.


For the most part, yes. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that unless a property owner is specifically in the Accommodations District of Downtown and zoned for that, or has a Bed and Breakfast license (very difficult to obtain), renting a place for anything less than 30 days is not looked upon favorably by the City of Charleston, and the property owners are at risk for big fines.  I bet you didn’t know that when you booked your carriage house for a visit did you?

HOWEVER. There is a fairly recent change to the geography those rules cover, providing for a short-term-rental overlay district, in which these nightly and weekly rentals ARE encouraged, and are allowed if your property is zoned correctly within this district.  Here you go. 🙂

Where you can rent short-term and rest easy knowing the City isn't going to come find you. :)

Overlay District

The Cannonborough-Elliotborough neighborhood is now ripe for the buying and short-term renting. So why this change of heart by the City? Partly to encourage revitalization of this area, and restoration of homes. Partly to allow for visiting MUSC and CofC parents to have a place to stay near their kids. And partly to encourage more businesses to develop since tourists are generally more well-heeled than college students.  There are of course, some restrictions, in that the property must have a kitchen, bathroom and parking. You can read all about it and see an even nicer map via this PDF of the ordinance. Short Term Rental Ordinance and Map

So there you go! I think buying in that area is a great investment right now, not only because you are able to do a short-term rental, but also because so much is being developed on Upper King Street between Morris and Spring and the surrounding streets – including two new Hyatt Hotels, apartment buildings and scads of shops and restaurants. It’s a new Charleston world up there, and wouldn’t it be fun to be part of the transformation?

6 Responses to “Where can you buy a property you can use for a short-term rental in Downtown Charleston?

  • Great post, Kristin!!!

  • J Shields
    10 years ago

    Thanks so much for this information! We had been looking at properties downtown and on Isle of Palms and gave up on downtown when we heard that you can only rent for 30 days or more. Now hearing about this we may be able to buy a place downtown after all.

  • very good information!

    It’s shocking how many downtown VRBO listings there are that really are just illegal. I don’t think most people are aware of the zoning issues and other related laws. Personally, I would like to see those laws be more lenient and allow for short term rentals without having to jump through all the hoops necessary to get a bed and breakfast license, but at the same time I do understand the rationale behind them.

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