Enforcement of Short Term Rental Rules
By Anne McKay Garris
Since 2002, the Clearwater Beach Association officers have struggled against the deterioration of quality of life in the North Beach's quiet residential neighborhood, due to abuse of rental rules by those who want to rent by the day or week. Less than thirty days is considered short term, and lends itself to renters who often tend to loud parties, late hours, excess trash and indiscriminate parking on private property.
When the City began vigorously enforcing the laws against short term rentals, 31 property owners sued to be recognized as having legal non-conforming use of their property for short term rentals. These owners claimed they had been renting short term for a long time and their claim was upheld in court by the Judge Nellie Khouzam.
In December of 2007, the City's appeal of Judge Khouzam's decision was denied, but, in an e-mail to the Clearwater City manager, Assistant City Manager Leslie Dougall-Sides stated, "I recommend that the City continue to monitor the nonconforming uses and institute code enforcement in the event that the short-term rental use is demonstrably expanded or discontinued for six consecutive months."
Mrs. Dougall-Sides also made it clear that the short term rental rules could legally be enforced against all but the 31 properties involved in the law suit.
From the beginning the "short term rental committee" of the CBA has worked with the City as extra eyes to observe illegal activity in regards to short term rentals. As Spring Break rentals have increased the annoyance to neighbors by short term renters, the CBA has stepped up its efforts, both to encourage enforcement of the ordinance and aid the code enforcement department of the City to research incidents where the non-conforming properties are being used for other purposes, thus nullifying their right to the non-conforming status.
Proven violations of the non-confirming use will be presented to the City's Code Enforcement Board and will be subject to fines of as much as $250 a day liens on the property. Resulting loss of non-conforming status is not as clearly defined, according to the City Attorney's office, and could possibly require a reopening of the original law suit.
Action by the CBA and the City has at least limited the legal short term rental use on the North Beach to those 31 participants in the original law suit. Further Neighborhood Watch type action may eventually whittle that number down. According to Clearwater code, any evidence of six months of claiming homestead exemption on a property, any major expansion of the property or six months of the property remaining vacant are indications that the non-conformity should be forfeited.
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