A New Wrinkle to Short Term Rentals
By Anne McKay Garris
The long fight to protect the residents of Clearwater Beach from the detrimental effects of short term rentals in their neighborhood is far from over, but progress is being made.
When week-end parties spread parked cars all over the neighborhood and all night partying kept neighbors awake into the small hours of the night, the Clearwater Beach Association began lobbying the city to enforce the laws against short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods. This effort was quickly met by a law suit from thirty-one short-term rental landlords, claiming grandfathered status. After a long legal battle, Judge Nellie Khouzam ruled, in April of 2007, that the claim of grandfathering status was valid and the short-term rentals could be continued under the city's rules for grandfathering.
After considering the type of evidence presented by the landlords in the case, the Clearwater City Council voted unanimously to appeal the judge's decision. Councilmembers considered the detrimental effect of party houses in the midst of a settled neighborhood to be extensive enough to justify the appeal. The appeal is still in process. According to a spokesman at the City Attorney's office, the last brief will be filed next week and the city has requested oral arguments in the case. The court will have to decide if this is permitted. At this time, no date has been set for trial.
Meantime, a new trend has appeared, as represented by the sign on a large house on Eldorado Avenue. The sign advertises the house for sale for $175,000. On closer look, you discover that $170,000 is the cost of a 1/7 share in the house. Each owner will have several weeks a year to use the house, thus having the same effect as a short-term rental facility.
According to an article in Newsweek magazine, this new phenomena is showing up in popular resort areas all over the world with wealthy people joining resort clubs and paying large prices to have a vacation in expensive exclusive residences for a fraction of the cost of full ownership.
Although some of the offensive behavior of short-term renters has been curtailed, several are continuing to be a nuisance to their neighbors, and are being reported to the Code Enforcement Department of the city for enforcement of the violations involved. According to a spokesman for the Clearwater Beach Association, short-term renters who violate any of the city codes will continue to be reported until the beauty, peace and quiet of the neighborhood is restored.
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