Indian Harbour Beach set to impose new rules on short-term rentals

The Indian Harbour Beach City Council is ready to establish sweeping new requirements for the registration and operation of short-term rentals which have increasingly becoming a scourge in several neighborhoods.

The popularity of rental websites like Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO) and Airbnb has seen an exponential rise over the last four years in the number of properties used as short-term rentals in Florida.

But the bigger problem is with short-term rentals run by out-of-state real estate conglomerates, creating commercial activity in residential areas – in essence, mini-hotels in the neighborhoods.

Problems include noise, inadequate parking, infrastructure intended for residential use now being used on a commercial scale, and decreased property values in neighborhoods taken over by highly-commercialized vacation rentals, said Indian Harbour Beach City Manager Mark Ryan.

“Neighborhoods are suffering. In some communities, vacation rentals are being used as party houses, complete with a cover charge and DJs in multiple rooms. The ripple effect on neighborhoods, and the homeowners who live in the community year-round, are devastating. In some communities, long-time residents are moving out as a result, and the character of traditional neighborhoods is slowly being changed forever,’’ he said.

The Florida Legislature in 2011 passed a law keeping short-term rentals from being prohibited in any city. That law was amended in 2014 to allow for the regulation of short-term rentals, but not the duration or frequency of the rental.

While details are being worked out, one likely requirement in the new ordinance will be a land line phone.

The land line is a safety issue to ensure that a 911 call goes to the correct dispatch center, not one out of the area, which can sometimes happen with cellular phones. Additionally, by having the land line and having the number registered with Brevard County Emergency Management and the City of Melbourne Utilities, the vacation rental occupant can receive reverse 911 calls for evacuations, and boil water or similar notices, Ryan said.

An earlier attempt to regulate short-term rentals by Indian Harbour Beach was met by comments and objections from Airbnb and the Space Coast Board of Realtors. Prior to drafting the new ordinance, Ryan met with both entities and incorporated some of their concerns.

It is important to note this proposed ordinance does not apply to owner-occupied vacation rentals or properties which use the Homestead exemption.

After a lengthy debate and a comparison of fees charged by other Florida cities, the City Council proposed registration fees of $500 for the initial registration and $350 for annual renewal.

“To protect established neighborhoods, we are adopting regulations on this activity as we try to balance the property rights of the homeowners who already live in the community versus the property rights of the investors rights,’’ Ryan said.

The City Council approved the Vacation Rental Ordinance on first reading July 10. A public hearing consideration on final reading is scheduled for the July 24 City Council meeting at 7 p.m.

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