A letter from multiple realtor associations was enough to cause a lengthy commission discussion on the new vacation rental regulations, but not enough to stop the regulations from being approved.

At their Feb. 23 meeting, commissioners unanimously approved the new regulations, which go into effect 90 days from the time they were passed. That leaves the commission time to make changes.

Commissioners expressed annoyance at receiving the letter only hours before their meeting. “I’m a little perturbed by that. I don’t like the manner in which this was presented,” said Commissioner Julie Carson. Mayor Gary Resnick called it “bad faith.”

Adam Sanders, director of government affairs for The Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors, wrote in an email, “I apologize for the late arrival of the analysis, which the National Association of Realtors and the partnered firm have been working on extensively.” 

Vacation rentals have been controversial for years with residents complaining that visitors who rent homes in their neighborhoods are often disrespectful, leave trash and cause a lot of noise.

“The time to take action is now,” said Sal Torre, president of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors. Those defending vacation rentals have said that not all of them create problems for neighbors and that many are professionally-run and actually help the city by improving property values.

Under the new regulations, vacation rental owners will have to pay registration fees, register their property, comply with waste disposal and maximum occupancy rules, be available 24/7 to address concerns, submit to inspections and provide hard surface parking for all vehicles. Parking in swales would not be allowed. The registration fee has yet to be determined.

Paul Rolli, president of the Central Area Neighborhood Association, suggested that a list of vacation rentals should be made public so potential home buyers know if the property they want to purchase is next to a vacation rental.

The National Association of Realtors and Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors sent a letter to the commission outlining concerns they had with the regulations. The letter, drafted by the law firm Robinson & Cole, outlined concerns over potentially high registration fees and that certain regulations were “overly burdensome." 

Mindful of a possible lawsuit, Commissioner Justin Flippen said he wanted the regulations to be “as legally defensible as possible.”

City Attorney Kerry Ezrol reiterated that the more stringent and restrictive the regulations, the more likely the city could be sued. “It’s a question of what your appetite for litigation is,” said Ezrol. The state legislature has also prohibited local governments from passing laws which would prohibit vacation rentals.

A previous attempt by the city to regulate vacation rentals resulted in a lawsuit that the city lost. Ezrol said the city lost because former Community Services director Wayne Thies tried to regulate vacation rentals by classifying them as transient rentals. A judge disagreed with the classification.

Commissioners have said they are confident the new regulations fall within the law but also directed Ezrol to write the Attorney General Pam Bondi and ask if it is possible to limit the number of vacation rentals on one street. Commissioners compared that restriction to the laws that prevent bars from being too close to schools and churches.

Resident Paul Kuta suggested a 50 percent cap on each street. “I chose that generous percentage because that’s what we have in our ordinance as a limit on the number of bed and breakfast establishments we can have on NE 6 Avenue and NE 26 Street, and the city has never been sued.”