As an LGBT tourism destination that lacks sufficient hotel beds to serve the number of tourists we welcome, properly run vacation rentals play a critical role in supporting our local business community and the residents they employ.
On the other hand, mismanaged and improperly run vacation rentals have no business being in our city. They are on notice; they are not welcome here!
As a commissioner, I have worked aggressively to increase enforcement on problem vacation rentals. I have made this a regular agenda item, under new business, since February (https://bit.ly/3wF0wY7) when I demanded a plan from our city staff on how they would identify unregistered vacation rentals and address them.
Those who regularly attend our commission meetings will recall that I petitioned my fellow commissioners to change our code to require all short-term rentals to be registered with the city, and not just those that are not homesteaded.
At our most recent commission meeting, I requested that vacation rentals be made a recurring part of our reports from the city manager and/or police department during each commission meeting so we can understand the progress being made to address the problem of vacation rentals that still exist in our city.
Here are a few of the actions we’ve taken recently:
- Our police department has been trained on new procedures for handling code complaints like noise, too many cars, etc. The new procedures ensure that owners of short-term rentals will receive a notice of violation, and, with the magistrate's support, the maximum fine allowable by Florida law. These fines quickly escalate for repeat offenders.
- Our code compliance department is nearly complete with the review I requested at the February 23 commission meeting, resulting in many unregistered vacation rentals being identified and brought into compliance. Some of these unregistered short-term rentals have already had to appear in front of the special magistrate.
- We have hired a new code compliance supervisor and part-time code officer. Our code compliance team has been woefully understaffed, and this additional staff will hopefully provide our residents with much-needed relief.
This is not an exhaustive list of all that we have done, and I certainly remain open to any additional measures we can legally take as a city to address problem vacation rentals. As a commission, we have asked our city staff and city attorney to evaluate our short-term rental ordinances and ensure we are doing absolutely everything we legally can.
While there were a number of suggestions recently from residents on how we might approach this problem, our city attorney reminded us that a number of them would potentially be against Florida law and result in our city being sued. Miami-Beach recently lost a very expensive lawsuit for trying to implement fines and regulations that were not allowable within Florida state laws.
I want to reiterate that I do support properly run vacation rentals. I have publicly disclosed that I manage a short-term rental. It is for that reason that I proactively reviewed my public statements and votes with the Florida Commission of Ethics to ensure I was acting ethically in my duties as a City Commissioner. I believe in transparency in governance, and therefore, I will continue to seek their opinion anytime I have input (positive or negative) about short-term rentals.
- Chris Caputo
Wilton Manors City Commissioner