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Sarasota City Hall
Sarasota Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020 2 weeks ago

City explores new home-sharing regulations

The city attorney determined officials have the authority to permit "hosted rentals" in residential neighborhoods.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Should the city allow short-term vacation rentals through companies, such as Airbnb, in residential neighborhoods if the homeowner lives on the property and is present when the home is being rented?

That will be a topic of discussion at Monday’s City Commission meeting, where the board will consider a report from City Attorney Robert Fournier about options for regulating home sharing. The report is focused on a narrow definition of home sharing, also referred to as “host-occupied rentals” — situations in which a homeowner is renting a room or accessory dwelling in their primary residence. Fournier wrote that any home-sharing ordinance would include a provision that the resident is present during the rental period.

Commissioner Hagen Brody was the first official to raise topic of home sharing as a distinct category of vacation rental the city should consider allowing. In 2018, the commission initially declined to investigate the subject further, concerned that revising some rental regulations could nullify the city’s grandfathered vacation rental ordinance.

The board reversed course earlier this year, directing Fournier to produce a report on the possibility of the city adjusting its rules for host-occupied rentals. In his report, Fournier concludes the city could allow short-term home-sharing rentals, stating the two are distinct types of rentals.

Fournier’s report also summarizes input the city has received from advocates for treating home sharing differently than other vacation rentals. Advocates say home sharing is less likely to generate problems because there are fewer guests, and the visitors are staying at someone’s residence in a neighborhood where the host has a vested interest.

“Some have argued that the only practical difference between a hosted rental and a private visit from a friend or relative to a home is that the hosted rental guest would pay, but the friend or relative would not,” Fournier wrote.

Fournier concludes by stating that, if the City Commission wishes, it could pass an ordinance allowing hosted rentals without running into issues.

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