Monday, July 16, 2018

Short Term Vacation Rentals and North Bay Village

Listening to our commission and what they choose to emphasize, you would think that the most important issue facing North Bay Village is Short Term Vacation Rentals offered by companies like AirBnB and VRBO. 

The subject was brought up several times in the last commission meeting, by Commissioner Mary Kramer's Husband and squatting Commissioner Laura Cattabriga.  Both of them congratulated our Code Enforcement for enforcing our current ordinance requiring registration of short term rentals properties.  And it is an issue.  

But there are some important points that need be understood about the position and North Bay Village.  

  1. We are preempted by state law from prohibiting or tightly regulating the short term vacation rental market.   We had our chances before 2011 to put legislation but never did.  Florida then passed a state law which governs the process and does not allow cities or counties to prohibit STVR's.   
  2. The very limited things we can legally do are require that STVR's register with the Village and require that they have a 24 hour contact for issues arising.  
  3. The major issue is in the multiunit buildings - condos and rental buildings - and the Village ordinance does not address these, leaving the decision on STVR's to the building owners and management.   There are very few STVR's in the single family neighborhoods on Treasure Island and North Bay Island.  
But those single family STVR's have been the subject of intense concern, particularly on North Bay Island, and the Village has responded.  By passing an ordinance requiring registration and enforcing the ordinance through fines for properties listed without being registered.  Here is the coding report on the single family homes known to be renting for STVR.  

What jumps out is that there are 12 on North Bay Island and 10 on Treasure Island, again they only count single family homes so the impact is clearly higher on North Bay Island.   

But I think our enforcement is missing the mark.  A simple search on AirBnb shows the following  128 available so the bulk of them are in apartment/condo buildings.  


And that's where the problems are the biggest.  

There are several things that the Village can legally do.  

  • The Village could expand the ordinance to require that buildings register their STVR's.  
  • The Village could embark on a campaign to educate the owners and renters of the Village parking, noise and other ordinances.  
  • The Village could aggressively enforce noise ordinances, fining both the owners and the renters who violate them.   
Imagine a program whereby each time a home was rented, the occupants received a "Welcome to North Bay Village" packet.  It could include listings of our few businesses, an overview of parking and noise regulations, a number to contact if there are issues, and maybe even some coupons and tips for the local area.   Something friendly but clear about the expected behavior.  

Then with proper enforcement where the police show up and check noise levels from outside and ticket for infractions, the internet would quickly do what the internet does best - disseminate information.  

My disclosure:  I'm too nervous to rent out my house to strangers but I do rent places through VRBO and AirBnB.  I read the reviews and if I saw a review that said something like "I got a ticket for noise at 11:30 PM and the party was ruined."  that would probably be a property I would rent.  Were it 20, oh hell, truthfully, 30 years ago back when I was getting funky with my friends, I'd avoid it like the plague.  Alright, maybe it's 35 years since I got funky but you get the idea.  

If on the other hand, the reviews wrote about the peaceful neighborhood, the waterviews, the easy access, I'd sign right up.   

The Village is limited but it looks like what we have is a tactic for North Bay Island and no strategy at all for the Village. 

As the candidates come asking for your vote this fall, be sure to ask each of them what they think of this issue.  

I've started this conversation over on the Facebook page and I hope it will continue either here in the comments or on the Facebook page.  We have to have it. 

UPDATE:  Regular Contributor Ritch Holben and the guy who everyone tells George Clooney he looks like posted a really important point.  I quote it here. 

To those of you who have not used a short term rental service, like AirBnB, you should know that they have a 5 star rating system that is based on reviews of actual stays. But more importantly, every guest gets a rating from the host also! One does not see the other's review until they've both completed the process. This means that a host has the ability to evaluate a potential guest BEFORE they accept their reservation, and usually they have several direct conversations too... completely unlike a hotel reservation system. What this should mean is that a host can and should have the ability to deny any guest with a rowdy or destructive behavior, and has more control in being sure that they treat their neighbors with respect and courtesy. But in the end, it is the responsibility of the HOST to be sure they run their business in a neighborly way. If they do not, repeatedly, and complaints are on file with the police department, the village has the right to deny their license.
Thanks Ritch. 

Kevin Vericker
July 16, 2018 


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