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New city department will enforce vacation rental regulations

The total new cost to register and enforce the citywide vacation rental ordinance expansion is about $150,000.

There are an estimated 700 vacation rental properties across the city of Sarasota.
There are an estimated 700 vacation rental properties across the city of Sarasota.
Photo by David Conway
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On Feb. 5 the Sarasota City Commission officially expanded the vacation rental registration and enforcement ordinance from the barrier islands citywide. Now comes the cost of doing business,

At its March 4 meeting, commissioners approved a request by the Development Services Department to add two new staff positions, reclassifying one existing job, and to create the Vacation Rental Compliance Division. It will implement and enforce the expansion of short-term rentals from the current 138 units on the barrier islands to an estimated 700-plus across the city.

With no discussion among them, commissioners approved the resolution presented by Development Services Director Lucia Panica by a 4-1 vote with Erik Arroyo opposed. He was the lone dissenting voice in expanding the ordinance citywide.

“Staff has carefully examined the resources that will be needed to effectively execute the program and need the level of service that is expected for the city,” Panica said. “There are estimated to be approximately an additional 700-plus vacation rentals on the mainland that we'll be required to register now. This number continues to increase as additional vacation rentals are created, and we do see an increase on a weekly basis at least.”

The map shows known properties operating as vacation rentals on the mainland in Sarasota.
Courtesy image

For the remainder of fiscal year 2024, building the new division and laying the groundwork for the registration period — which won’t begin until 2025 — requires a budget amendment of $87,067. Currently, one code compliance specialist administers the vacation rental compliance program with the assistance of an administrative assistant, who spends one-third of her staff hours on vacation rentals. The current code compliance coordinator executes vacation rental inspections and will assist with training new staff on the inspection process.

For fiscal year 2025, the total increase in new spending for the program is $150,174 for all personnel, including salaries, taxes and benefits. Staffing will include a supervisor, a compliance specialist and an administrative assistant. Reclassifying the current compliance specialist position to supervisor represents an increase of $10,460.

All-in personnel costs for the department are $69,995 for the administrative assistant, $69,720 for the compliance specialist and $80,175 for the supervisor. The hiring process will be initiated as quickly as possible in hopes of onboarding new staff by May 1, 2024.

Beginning July 1, 2024, the city will begin accepting vacation rental certificate of registration applications for qualifying properties citywide. That process includes:

  • Applicants will submit vacation rental certificate applications online and in-person.
  • Staff will provide guidance to property owners or their representatives throughout the application process.
  • Applications will be audited for completeness, and staff will correspond with applicants if any additional information is needed.
  • Payments will be processed and financial reconciliation will be completed daily as necessary.
  • Staff will coordinate inspection scheduling and will conduct all initial inspections and re-inspections.
  • Upon time of inspection, staff will advise the applicant of the inspection results and will provide a report if any deficiencies are detected.
  • The vacation rental compliance specialist will be the primary inspector.
  • The inspector will provide results to the administrative staff, who will then complete the final review and issuance of the certificates.
  • Administrative staff will utilize the city’s Granicus software to proactively monitor compliance with all applicable ordinance standards once a property has been registered.
  • Code cases affiliated with noncompliance of registered properties will be initiated by staff as necessary.
  • Staff will complete the administrative tasks affiliated with these cases, including generating violation notices, tracking service, preparing postings, closing files and document retention.
  • The web-crawling Granicus software will proactively identify new vacation rentals as they appear.
  • Property owners of new vacation rentals will be notified of their requirement to register via the Granicus lettering module.
  • Staff will continue to collaborate with Granicus development team and support staff to ensure registration and compliance module efficiency.
  • Staff will generate weekly and monthly progress reports for management.
  • Administrative staff will continue to be trained in the foreclosure registration process.
  • Staff will assist the local business tax specialist as needed with processing new applications for vacation rentals.

The cost to register is $500, which includes an initial safety inspection by the city, with an annual renewal fee of $350 and a re-inspection fee, should one be necessary, of $100. The ordinance does not apply to owner-occupied homes that offer rooms for short-term rent. 

By Jan. 1, 2025, all current vacation rental properties will be required to be registered. 

Beginning July 1, 2025, all vacation rental certificates, including rentals on the barrier islands, will be required to renew the annual certificate of registration. Each vacation rental must be reinspected annually as part of the renewal application process. Proactive compliance monitoring will continue as part of the division staff's daily routine.



Andrew Warfield

Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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