St. Johns County new vacation rental rules include occupancy caps, registering property

Article Courtesy of  The St. Augustine Record

By Sheldon Gardner

Published May 7, 2021


St. Johns County commissioners unanimously adopted vacation rental regulations on Tuesday, the culmination of a contentious process that began a few years ago.

Commissioner Henry Dean described the regulations as an attempt to balance the needs of vacation rental operators and the homeowners who are seeing more short-term rentals open in their neighborhoods.

"And they have the right to the quiet enjoyment of their residential neighborhood," Dean said.

Among the new rules:

  • Operators of vacation rentals have until Nov. 5 to register with the county, which is required. Registrations must be renewed annually.

  • Occupancy will be limited to 10 people per rental, not including children 12 and younger. The occupancy limit will be phased in over three years for rentals that had already been in operation over that limit in recognition of "owners with income-backed expectations whose single-family dwelling may physically house more than ten (10) occupants."

  • At least one on-site parking space is required per three guests.

  • At least one garbage can is required per four guests.

  • Violations will first be addressed with a warning. Citations and fines will follow. The county will penalize the renters and operators for their own violations. But if a property gets three or more violations in six months by renters, the operator of the rental can also be penalized.

The new rules apply, with a few exceptions, to properties east of the Intracoastal Waterway outside of the cities of St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach. Those cities already have their own vacation rental regulations.

Exempted properties are "All properties west of the Intracoastal Waterway, owner-occupied units, duplexes with at least one unit occupied by the owner; and multifamily with homeowners associations, condo associations or on-site property management."

Some say vacation rentals have changed the character of their neighborhoods and brought parking, noise and other challenges. Some operators say they are responsible, sensitive to neighbors and use the funds to supplement their incomes.

The county had a community workshop in October 2018. More workshops, a survey and Commission discussions followed.

Several people spoke during public comment on Tuesday, including people concerned about the proliferation of vacation rentals in the county.

Keto Burns, president of the South Anastasia Communities Association in St. Johns County, said in an interview after the discussion that SACA is concerned about vacation rentals operating as commercial businesses in residential areas, yet not having to follow the same rules as other businesses.

"There's a blur between commercial and residential right now," he said.