Letter to the Editor: Stop Demonizing Vacation Rentals

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We own and run a city and state licensed, tax paying business that brings hundreds of shoppers, tourists and future residents to Wilton Manors each year.

We pay double the real estate taxes of homeowners, and the 11 percent lodging tax.  We have invested over two million dollars in our city and created the equivalent of five full time jobs.

Now, the Wilton Manors Commission wants to put us out of business; they make absolutely no bones about it.

You see, we own vacation rentals.

We hold one of the 20 or so Florida State vacation rental licenses in Wilton Manors. Many other vacation rentals do not hold these licenses and are operating without them.  The City can enforce the existing laws to prevent their operation. The City will raise more revenue as these unlicensed rentals will then have to pay the 11 percent lodging tax that we already pay. The State will also be able to make sure the rentals are in compliance with the state regulations like our licensed properties.

The 2010 Census found 3,000 rental units in Wilton Manors, yet the City has issued only 1,500 licenses.  There are 1,500 unlicensed rentals in Wilton Manors. Yet, the City Commission wants to put our licensed vacation rentals out of business with their onerous and unfair Ordinance.

The City requires a $50 fee and annual inspection for licensing other residential rentals for 31 days or longer. However, licenses are routinely granted without any inspections. 

Our units, whether pool homes or apartment units in a self contained compound will now be required to each pay $750 for a city license, be inspected and be subjected to ‘at will visits’ from compliance officers.  We will be required to file paper copies of our leases (which don’t exist in this electronic age), and have a 24/7 on call contact living in Broward County to respond within one hour to complaints. No other rentals are required to have such onerous and unfair regulations. The City Commission is targeting only properties and owners who have legal vacation rentals.

This from a city, which is closed three days a week and does not require its workers to live in the city.

Currently, all properties, owner occupied, multi family or vacation rentals are subject to the same health, safety, fire, noise and parking regulations, and have been for years.   It’s a matter of Code enforcement. Period!

Let there be no understanding. We also want unlicensed rentals to either comply with the previous reasonable laws that we already have complied with or shut down, too.  But adding requirements for those already obeying the law doesn’t stop those who are now and will continue to be illegal.  Where is the equity in that?

It’s as if speeding was an ongoing problem on Wilton Drive and the City Commission decided the solution was to inspect all pickup trucks (at $750 each), give licenses without inspection to all cars (at $50 each), and allow delivery trucks only in a certain block (free).  Nothing related to actually addressing the problem.

We attempted for nearly two years to try and craft a workable ordinance  – we are greeted with ‘I don’t care what the law says, I want vacation rentals shut down.’

So, we were forced to file a lawsuit against the city to stop this unequal, unfair and unconstitutional treatment of short term and long-term rentals, and the punitive fee structure.

– Jeffery Hill and Roger France


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