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Short-term vacation rentals could soon be regulated by the City of Jacksonville
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Short-term vacation rentals could soon be regulated by the City of Jacksonville

Short-term vacation rentals could soon be regulated by the City of Jacksonville
Photo Credit: ActionNewsJax.com

Jacksonville City Hall.

Short-term vacation rentals could soon be regulated by the City of Jacksonville

The City of Jacksonville may soon start regulating short-term vacation rentals.

City Councilman Jim Love has put forward a proposal to create a registration program and establish rules around properties being rented through sites like Airbnb. The City has previously studied the issue, including forming a Special Committee, but that group was terminated by Council President Aaron Bowman in February. Bowman’s memo on the decision says State lawmakers have taken up the issue. 

Love chaired that Special Committee, and he tells WOKV that it’s possible the action being considered in Tallahassee doesn’t pass, or passes but could be “detrimental” to Jacksonville citizens, so he decided to act now by putting forward this bill. 

“It is important to my constituents to get this bill right. First it must protect the rights of those living in residential neighborhoods without interrupting the enjoyment of their community and to legitimize those who want to provide short term rentals in a responsible and controlled way,” says a statement from Love to WOKV. 

The registration program would have someone who wants to list their property as a short-term vacation rental notify the City’s Planning and Development Department. In order to get the registration, the operator would have to give basic information, show proof of insurance, provide evidence of the property passing inspection by the Fire Prevention Division, pay a fee, and- in the case of renewals- submit documentation on the number of rental nights and amount of taxes paid during the prior registration period. The registration would need to be renewed by January 31st of even numbered years, meaning every two years. 

Within six months of being registered, the property operator and any Point of Contact they designate to assist with renters would have to go through the City’s Landlord Training program. 

Once the registration is obtained, the person involved would then have to get a Certificate of Use for each property they’re operating. Getting that requires submitting a site map of the property that highlights the guest amenities and parking, proof of insurance, Rules of Conduct, and related areas. As defined in this bill, the Rules of Conduct would have to list noise, waste, and other City regulations along with emergency contact numbers. Those would have to be posted in the property at all times. 

There are several rules specifically listed in this bill for operation of the property, including that the rentals are not for commercial or social events like weddings. The rental would be capped to two people over 16-years-old per room and three rooms per property. Children are not limited per this ordinance, but overall occupancy would be dictated by fire code. The bill also requires the property have at least one off-street parking spot available per bedroom, and that renters be notified about those limitations. The operator would further not be allowed to rent a space if it is an “accessory structure”, or something that wasn’t built or legally modified to be lived in. 

While the bill doesn’t have specific restrictions on what locations the rentals can be in, there are requirements for whether there is on-site property management. If the rental is in a residential zoning district or planned use but mainly residential, the bill would require a property agent live on site through the time of the rental. If the property is in commercial or industrial zoning areas, that requirement does not exist. 

Love says there are several goals to the program, like addressing concerns he has heard about noise and the disruption of what he calls the “neighborhood atmosphere”. The bill itself says the rules are designed to “protect the public health, safety and welfare of its citizens and visitors, to prevent unreasonable burdens on services and impacts on residential neighborhoods”, while also ensuring the rentals are compatible with the area. 

This would also be a step toward ensuring that Jacksonville is collecting the appropriate taxes on these types of rentals. 

Mid-last year, the City Council Auditor’s Office released a report that found Jacksonville was missing out on potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in taxes from people who are required to self-report that they operate a rental like this and remit the appropriate county tax. Airbnb partners with some cities in Florida to directly collect local taxes through their site, which they then remit, but there is no such agreement in place with the City of Jacksonville. That means people who list on their site are responsible for directly reporting themselves to the City, and it can be difficult to ensure that’s taking place. 

Love says, even with this registration system in place, it would still largely up to the property operators to self-report, although they would also be able to investigate complaints, as is done now. He says the Tax Collector would be responsible for ensuring the proper taxes are being remitted. 

For the City’s share, he says that could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars, which would go toward the Tourist Development Council. A portion of the State tax also stay in Jacksonville. 

Airbnb estimates that, in 2018, they collected and remitted $89.5 million in tax revenue to state and local governments in Florida. That figure is nearly double the 2017 collections. Around 40 of Florida’s counties have an agreement letting that company collect local taxes, and Airbnb says that totaled around $27 million in 2018. 

The Florida Vacation Rental Management Association says rentals are already licensed and inspected by the State, and should not face any more regulation than long-term rentals. Executive Director Denis Hanks tells WOKV that they previously gave many suggestions to the City, but this doesn’t capture that.

“Two bills currently being heard in the state legislative session that we are supporting passage of are HB 987 and SB 824 which seeks to control this type of rampant over reach by a city or county imposing local regulations that strip property rights from law abiding Florida property owners. We support fair regulatory licensing and inspections but we cannot support this local regulatory change,” Hanks says.

He further says they believe the local concerns could be addressed through existing local ordinances dealing with noise and trash, as opposed to needing new regulations on one part of the rental market.

There are many properties excluded from the registration program established in this bill, including government-owned units, healthcare licensed facilities, units rented or provided for social or healthcare purposes, hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts. 

Love’s proposal is being formally introduced to the City Council on Tuesday, but faces several weeks of vetting before getting a final vote.

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