As commissioners were debating new regulations on vacation rentals earlier this year, one concern was voiced more than once: would the regulations hold up in court if the city were sued?
The answer to that question may be coming soon.
Last week, Jeffrey Hill, Roger France, One Wilton Manors, LLC, Wilton Flats, LLC, and Graf Hill, Inc. filed a lawsuit against the city seeking relief from the new regulations.
The regulations were unanimously approved Jan. 26 and include registering with the city as a vacation rental, providing the city with the contact information of the person responsible for overseeing the property, waste disposal, occupancy and parking limits and compliance with inspections. The city defines a vacation rental as and residential unit or group of residential units that is rented to guests more than three times a year for periods of less than 30 days or one calendar month, whichever is less, or which is advertised as a place available for rent on a regular basis.
“The serious restrictions on the short term vacation rentals is unreasonable and unfairly singles out petitioners and others who rent properties on a short term basis. The discrimination has no foundation in reason and is an arbitrary exercise of power having no substantial relation to the public health, safety and welfare. Such treatment violates petitioners’ guarantee of equal protection and is an unreasonable restriction on the lawful use of the properties,” reads part of the lawsuit.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that the city is discriminating against persons who rent properties for less than 30 days and was passed “in order to eliminate short term rentals and affect their duration within the city. The ordinance was drafted to discourage persons from renting properties for 30 days or less and to require personal information from those renters that is not required of renters for durations of more than 30 days.”
The cost of registering a vacation rental was also included in the lawsuit and labeled as excessive. In the lawsuit, one of the petitioners claimed the regulations would require the expenditure of $13,500 a year to register all their properties. The city requires each unit be registered for $750.
During discussion on the regulations, despite calls from concerned residents wanting restrictions on the number of vacation rentals allowed, commissioners repeatedly said they could not and were not trying to prevent vacation rentals from operating within the city.
At the time of the approval of the regulations, City Attorney Kerry Ezrol said, based on some recent court decisions, that the city could enact some regulations as long as it doesn’t get too restrictive. “The more regulations that are imposed ... that is where the potential for litigation exists,” said Ezrol.