Sweeping changes afoot for short-term rentals

Attention, all Indian Harbour Beach homeowners involved in short-term or vacation rentals of your homes, including Vacation Rentals by Owner, HomeAway and Airbnb: Your rules are about to change dramatically.

The Indian Harbour Beach City Council is in the process of considering an ordinance to identify and regulate short-term rentals, many of which cropped up after lower-priced homes were bought up during the economic downturn of 2008, said City Manager Mark Ryan. The ordinance will be considered on second and final reading at the regular city council meeting Jan. 9.

“We don’t know how many short-term rentals we have or where they are. We’re getting complaints in established residential neighborhoods where they all the sudden have a turnover of residents every week,’’ Ryan said.

The Florida Legislature in 2011 passed a law keeping short-term rentals from being prohibited in any city or county, beyond any ordinances or zoning regulations that were already on the books when the state pre-empted authority over vacation rentals. That law was amended in 2014 to allow for some limited regulation of short-term rentals, but not the duration of the renter’s stay, or how frequently the homeowner could rent out the property.

The proposed ordinance was prompted by Ryan’s service on the Florida League of Cities’ Municipal Administration Committee, where he has seen the issue of short-term rentals come up several times across the state. Communities want the power to control transient rentals in quiet, residential neighborhoods, but well-funded lobbying efforts in Tallahassee and property-rights advocates fight every legislative session to maintain a free and open market for vacation rentals.

“Other cities face this, some more so than us. For whatever reason, this community did not adopt a measure prior to 2011 prohibiting them. Now, I can’t prohibit them, but I can regulate them. We don’t have any regulations for them now so anything we adopt is going to be an improvement,’’ he said.

The main problems with short-term rentals are complaints from established residents about the additional parking and noise caused by the vacationers. Also, regular residents are familiar with safety issues such as hurricane evacuation plans, garbage collection days, closest hospitals and emergency phone numbers, all of which under the new ordinance will have to be prominently posted similar to what you see in hotel rooms.

A land-line telephone also will be required in each home to aid with 911 calls.

“It will be a tool in the tool belt to help us protect the quality of life in the established neighborhoods,’’ he said.

The city has no idea how many short-term rentals are being utilized as additional income for residents living in the city. Under the new rules, those homeowners would have to register and post the rules inside the homes such as no parking on the grass and no pool parties at 2 a.m., he said.

“It’s intended to provide some safety for the (temporary) tenants who are there and some quality of life for the neighbors,’’ Ryan said.

Finally, the ordinance would require homeowners with short term rentals to collect and pass on bed taxes to the county for use by the Tourist Development Commission and other purposes.

The measure will go into effect after a phase-in period for homeowners with short-term rentals to get registered, Ryan said.

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