Seminole looks at rules for Airbnb, other short-term rentals in neighborhoods

Article Courtesy of The  Orlando Sentinel

By Martin E. Comas

Published June 28, 2018

With the soaring popularity of home-sharing sites such as Airbnb, Seminole County commissioners on Tuesday will consider regulations on short-term vacation rentals after complaints by residents that homes in their neighborhoods have turned into mini-hotels with cars parked on streets and parties running into the early morning hours.

If approved, Seminole’s proposed rules would come on the heels of similar regulations enacted by Orlando in February that go into effect Sunday.

State law prevents local governments from prohibiting vacation rentals. However, counties and municipalities can regulate noise, parking and a registration process.

Under Seminole’s proposed ordinance, a property owner wanting to rent a home in unincorporated areas for less than a month would have to apply for and receive a “certificate of compliance” from the county at a one-time charge of $150.

Each short-term vacation rental home would be limited to two people per bedroom — or sleeping room — and have no more than four children under 13. The number of visitors to the home would not be able to exceed double than the number of people renting out the home.

Loud noise would be forbidden from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. And each house would need enough parking spaces on the property for at least two cars, plus an additional parking space for every bedroom beyond two, according to the ordinance. Guests could not park on sidewalks, bike paths or trails.

As the so-called "sharing economy" soars, so does the popularity of short-term rentals. But Seminole County residents are complaining that some homes being rented out are bringing too many cars and too much noise, The county will now look at some rules.


Short-term vacation rentals also would have to be registered with the state Department of Revenue and collect Seminole’s 5-percent tourist development tax.

Assistant County Attorney Paul Chipok said Seminole is trying to “provide a degree of safe-guard” to residents in neighborhoods with short-term vacation rentals, and also to the short-term renters.

George Sellery, a safety committee member for the Lake Forest Homeowners Association, a gated community off State Road 46, just west of Interstate 4, called it “a very important ordinance because vacation rentals have become a booming phenomenon in recent years.”

However, the ordinance doesn’t say that a homeowners association can prohibit short-term vacation rentals, Sellery said. Otherwise, residents of a gated community would lose their sense of security if renters were given the passcode into their community.

“I just think the county rushed this thing through without much input from the public,” Sellery said. “It’s the unknown of who is coming into your community….But overall, I’m in support of the vacation rental ordinance. But I do want to see that HOA [homeowners association] language included.”

In 2017, about 11,000 people used Airbnb in Seminole County. Elsewhere in Central Florida, Orange had about 235,000 guests; Osceola, 358,400; and Lake about 30,000, according to numbers provided by the company.

About 300 Seminole County residents — including those within cities — have shared their homes via Airbnb, said Benjamin Breit, a spokesperson for Florida Airbnb. A little more than half of those shared an extra unused room in their homes.

Under Orlando’s rules, a resident wanting to rent a home, condo or apartment must be living at the site and present when hosting guests. The ordinance also requires that a resident register rentals online and pay an annual fee of $275 for the first year and either $100 and $125 for each year afterward.

Orlando officials said short-term vacation rentals promote tourism and the city’s “unique” neighborhoods, along with bringing in additional tax revenues.

Orange County commissioners decided to wait and see how Orlando fares with its short-term vacation rules before taking action.

“It will most likely come back to our board in the future, but there is no specific date yet,” Orange County spokeswoman Doreen Overstreet said.

Lake County does not have regulations on short-term vacation rentals.