Short-term rentals, such as those in hotels, motels and vacation rental homes, are a staple of a large tourist area, such as Sarasota.
With some guests staying just one or two nights that can mean more people, cars and some noise to go along with them.
That’s why residents on the barrier islands are so upset over a new bill going through the Legislature.
HB 883 and SB 476 appears to strip local governments of the ability to regulate where short-term rentals can be located and seemingly allows them anywhere there are residential homes.
“It would eliminate any zoning that would restrict short-term rentals,” said Siesta Key resident Lourdes Ramirez, who alerted county commissioners to the pending bill.
The bill has cleared two subcommittees and will be heard in the Economics Affairs Committee April 7.
Ramirez believes the bill’s backers want to get final approval before the regular legislative session ends May 6.
Commissioner Nora Patterson, whose district includes Siesta Key, sent a letter last week to Florida Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, on behalf of the County Commission, expressing its concerns.
“The county has always prohibited renting out single-family homes as a hotel,” she said. “On Siesta Key, we allow short-term rentals everywhere but single-family home areas.”
Patterson fears that if the county’s ordinance becomes moot, there will be a rash of property owners chopping up their homes and putting in additional bathrooms and kitchens.
“People were doing that on Siesta Key,” she said.
Illegal rentals on the Key are not unheard of. Ramirez said she used to have one in her neighborhood.
“They rented out every room in the house and had six cars in the driveway,” she said. “The cars were literally hanging out into the street.”
Ramirez also fears that the bill will help sprout short-term rental properties just off the Key that will compete with those that do business on the Key, perhaps undercutting their prices.
“Barrier islands have higher property values, property taxes and insurance, so those properties on the mainland can charge less than the barrier-island rental properties,” she said.
Ramirez has contacted six other local municipalities, including Miami Beach, Orlando and Naples, to see if those cities will urge their legislators to oppose the measure. She said she and Patterson will call local hotels to persuade them to do the same.
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The city of Venice was forced to suspend its short-term rental ban after being hit with a trio of lawsuits.
With the downturn in the economy, some Venice property owners began renting out individual rooms in homes they could not sell.
In July 2009, the City Council passed an ordinance that set a minimum rental period of 30 days.
Homeowners have filed three separate lawsuits. The city lost one case, settled another for $300,000 and the third is pending.
The city is appealing the decision in the first case, but two weeks ago, it suspended the ordinance while it waits for the appeal to be heard.
HOUSE BILL 883
“A vacation rental is deemed residential property and may not be prohibited or treated differently from other residential property based solely on its classification, use or occupancy.”