Rentals

Florida town ordinance may put its vacation rental industry in jeopardy

Anna Maria's new law places tighter restrictions on owners, renters

More people than ever are opting for a vacation rental instead of a hotel, with numbers increasing on an annual basis.

According to a March survey conducted by TripAdvisor, 59 percent of its respondents said they would stay in a vacation rental this year compared with 52 percent who stayed in one last year.

And with the increase of usage comes the increase in regulations and ordinances popping up.

The city of Anna Maria in Manatee County, Florida, announced a new ordinance that will be put into place Jan. 1, 2016, that will put tighter regulations on vacation rental owners and their tenants.

The small beach community comprises primarily vacation rentals, putting actual residents in the minority. With a population of just more than 1,500, the quiet community isn’t new to the idea of having vacationgoers in the area, but they want to maintain the region as a residential community.

In the past few years, the county’s sheriff’s office has received just a few notices in terms of noise complaints and other minor violations, but the recent ordinance will give the tenant much stricter guidelines. If vacation property renters don’t follow these regulations, the property owner could be banned from renting the home for a year, and the vacation rental agency could even lose its license for a year if three of its properties have their licenses suspended.

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Some of the items listed in the ordinance, however, are not only strict, they could cause property owners and agencies to lose customers and money.

“The traditional vacation rental industry has been serving Florida property owners for generations, and vacation rentals are a part of the economic fabric of the state,” HomeAway co-founder Carl Shepherd said.

“Regulating the industry is certainly the right of the Anna Maria community, but it has become apparent the problems that opponents face are issues every property owner may face with his or her neighbors, whether those neighbors are homeowners, long-term tenants or short-term tenants.”

Among the listed items is a maximum capacity of rooms to be considered a vacation property, as well as the number of guests. A room is required to be 70 square feet and contain a closet, and only two guests are allowed per room, which means no sleeper sofas or air mattresses are allowed in other areas of the home.

A rental can have up to four rooms and eight occupants, including daytime guests. For some vacation home renters who have been leasing their house out to travelers for years, they have to shift the number of welcomed guests.

Tenants also must adhere to quiet hours, between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., during which pool, hot tub and spa access is off-limits — even if those amenities are on the property.

“It is critical the city not discourage compliance since the city’s ultimate goals are to discern which properties are rented short term, [whom] to contact about the properties and to collect tax revenue,” Shepherd said.

“Unenforceable regulation will not cause [short-term rentals] to stop, but instead, encourage [short-term rentals] to go underground, with no tax benefit to the city, a higher risk to neighbors, less safe conditions for travelers and less oversight.”

Email Kimberly Manning.


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