SARASOTA, Fla. (Thursday, April 15) – The City of Sarasota proposed a vacation rental ordinance in response to neighborhood complaints over party houses in the area. RASM cautioned the City from overreaching and burdening property owners with restrictions when they already had tools at their disposal to address the situation (Noise ordinances, trash ordinances, open house party laws, etc.). The Government Affairs Department worked with City staff to eliminate unnecessary regulation on property owners, while also working to address specific concerns over certain aspects of vacation rental problems on Lido Key and St. Armands.
On Tuesday, April 6, the City of Sarasota Commissioners debated the new language in the Vacation Rental ordinance and made a few more adjustments during the process. Below are some of the adjustments made and what we are continuing to work on before they pass it on second reading in May:
- Removed the “guest” cap: The proposed ordinance had caps on how many non-occupant “guests” could be at the properties at one time. The Commissioners struck that provision from the ordinance, so now there are no guest caps. There are still occupancy caps, but the Commission agreed there were no ways the city could feasibly enforce a cap on how many guests are at the property.
- Removed data/name collection of tenants: The commission removed requirements for property owners to collect names, numbers, addresses, etc. from every tenant staying in the property. Now owners will only need to collect the information from whomever books the property.
- Capped fees at $50: The Commission agreed with our assessment that if they truly wanted to crack down on “hotel houses” monetary penalties would only hurt small operators. So, they decided to cap all fees for vacation rentals at $50.
The changes above are in addition to the alterations we successfully lobbied for that amended the original ordinance over the past month. I believe we are in a good spot for this ordinance to make it workable for our membership, but there are still a few things we are trying to get ironed out:
- Advocating for relaxing of inspection requirements: Some REALTOR®-friendly commissioners made the point during the meeting that they wanted to look at the inspection requirements (one initial inspection, then one every 4 years thereafter) for VR’s on the barrier islands. I think this is an area of opportunity we can get the city to relax on, especially if we key in on how much staff time and resources all these inspections will require. The ordinance makes the applicants’ sign affidavits saying the house is up to code, and there haven’t been safety complaints from consumers, so we believe this provision is unnecessary to achieve their stated goal.
- Clarity on the responsibility of registered agents/property managers: At the meeting, we questioned the process of the 24/7 on-call requirement for registered agents, as the ordinance states the agents shall be able to address “any issues” with the property. We are worried neighborhood opponents will abuse this system with complaints in order to get VR properties out of compliance and in violation with the ordinance if they aren’t able to respond in time. The City Attorney agreed to look into that issue, so we will continue to hammer that point with the staff and Commissioners.
- Making sure this stays on the barrier islands: A few unfriendly commissioners attempted to broaden this ordinance to become city-wide rather than just apply solely to Lido and St. Armands. The discussion did not progress substantively, but it’s an issue we will continue to monitor to make sure this plan does not become city-wide.
Click here to read the full ordinance.
For questions regarding this issue, contact the RASM Government Affairs Department at (941) 952-3410 or firstname.lastname@example.org.