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Sarasota Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021 1 week ago

Commission to discuss hosted rental policy

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After a yearlong delay, city officials will consider legalizing short-term rentals when the homeowner remains on the property.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Should the city allow property owners to list homes on vacation rental sites such as Airbnb for short-term stays as long as the owner is renting out a portion of their primary residence?

That’s a question Mayor Hagen Brody has wanted the City Commission to take up for years. On Monday, Oct. 18, he’s getting his wish: At Brody’s request, the commission is scheduled to discuss the possibility of establishing a policy on “hosted rentals” — a type of short-term rental in which an owner rents a portion of their home and continues to reside at the property, rather than renting an entire vacant dwelling.

The city currently prohibits short-term rentals, requiring a minimum rental period of seven days in residential areas. But Brody has argued hosted rentals are a different type of activity, one that provides benefits for residents who rent their houses and causes fewer problems for neighbors thanks to the sustained presence of a homeowner. He has characterized the legalization of hosted rentals as a policy that simultaneously acknowledges neighborhood concerns about rental activity and the realities of modern tourism.

“There’s a middle ground between banning short-term rentals and complete deregulation,” Brody said in 2018.

Although state regulations limit the city’s ability to adjust its vacation rental regulations, City Attorney Robert Fournier said in a 2020 memo that the commission is free to regulate hosted rentals as officials see fit — including permitting rentals shorter than one week. Under current regulations, Fournier said any homeowners renting out a single bedroom in their primary residence are likely doing so in violation of the city’s zoning code. 

In previous conversations at the commission level, Brody has failed to build support for legalizing hosted rentals. The commission was scheduled to discuss Fournier’s report in October 2020, but the board agreed to postpone that discussion indefinitely, with Brody casting the lone dissenting vote. At the time, Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch said she felt neighborhood groups had not had adequate opportunity to consider the topic.

Chris Goglia, president of the St. Armands Residents Association, emailed commissioners Tuesday encouraging them to ensure any hosted rental regulations couldn’t be exploited to the detriment of neighboring residents. He suggested limiting the number of allowed overnight guests, restricting rentals to once per week and limiting the use of hosted rentals for properties owned by an individual, rather than an entity such as an LLC or trust.

Although St. Armands residents have raised concerns about other rental activity on the barrier island, Goglia said he was not taking a stance on the question of whether hosted rentals should be permitted. Still, he feared any loopholes in relevant legislation could invite problems.

“... My concern is that this could someday be used by bad actors to circumvent the city’s vacation rental ordinance,” Goglia wrote.

The full agenda for Monday’s meeting is available on the city’s website.

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