Lauderdale seeks to tighten control of vacation rentals

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Larry Barszewski   

Published May 30, 2015


Homeowners offering their properties as vacation rentals could soon have to obey additional regulations if they want to continue operating in the city.

While the state won't let cities ban the rentals, city officials say they can do more to manage the practice that is a frequent source of complaints by residents upset with late-night parties, loud noise and parking nightmares. Some listed homes offer accommodations for up to 24 people.
The city attorney's office is working on proposed regulations that would require people offering their homes to vacationers to register with the city, provide local contact information for when problems arise and make sure they pay the appropriate business, sales and tourist taxes.

Looking for peace and quiet: Fort Lauderdale residents want relief from vacation renters in their neighborhood.


Commissioners would also like to see a formal process that would allow the city to revoke the licenses of homes that become a nuisance because of repeat violations of city laws.

The city has been stymied in its efforts to restrict vacation rentals because of a 2011 state law that allows short-term rentals of any duration, unless a city had restrictions on its books prior to the state law. Fort Lauderdale argued it did have restrictions, but lost that issue in court in 2012.

Now officials are trying to do what they can to make the situation more manageable. Mayor Jack Seiler wants any changes to be in place before the heavy tourist season returns.

"I'd like to have something on our books by September," Seiler said. "Once the season hits, we have to be really well prepared for this."

While city officials field complaints from residents upset by nearby rentals, there are others who want the ability to rent out their property.

Brian Donaldson, who lives in the Birch Park Finger Streets community on the beach, estimated about 30 of the 140 homes there are used as vacation rentals. The answer to dealing with problems is self-policing, he said.

"There are a lot of owners that are just opposed to banning it completely," Donaldson said. "We have just as many problems with owners as we've had with tenants."

Donaldson supports registration, but doesn't want the properties to have to post signs in their yards with local contact information as has been proposed by the city.

Marilyn Mammano, president of the Council of Fort Lauderdale Civic Associations, said licensing the rental properties would be a significant improvement.

"A license should be issued by the city that an owner is authorized to do short-term rentals on the property," Mammano said. That license should be revocable if rules are violated, she said.

City Attorney Cynthia Everett said the city should be able to do more to enforce the laws it already has on the books. Commissioners said many of the violations — such as putting garbage out too early or having cars parked on lawns — often disappear before further action can be taken, but are a continuing headache for neighbors.