Orlando could require home-sharers to be at home
Jeff Weiner, Orlando Sentinnel on November 14, 2017
Though hundreds of Orlando listings can be found on sites such as Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway, the city considers short-term rentals of fewer than 30 days a code violation in neighborhoods. Violators are typically cited only when complaints arise.
But city planners have proposed a change that would let homeowners rent out space for short-term stays, but only if the owner is living on the property at the time, which the city calls a “hosted rental.”
For example, a homeowner could rent out a room, garage apartment or mother-in-law suite for a night or days at a time, within the rules.
The goal, officials said, is to embrace modern rental technology while keeping Orlando’s neighborhoods primarily a place people call home and to let visitors see the city with a local as their guide.
“Those folks have an opportunity to kind of learn about local destinations from the homeowner,” said Kyle Shephard, chief assistant city attorney. “That’s the idea, to sort of give people an opportunity to see the other side of Orlando by having local hosts.”
Matt Kiessling, vice president of the Travel Technology Association, an industry trade group that includes Airbnb on its board, predicted the city will have a hard time enforcing a live-on-site policy “other than, I guess, to spy on your residents to make sure if they’re in the home or not.”
Kiessling argued cities should allow short-term renting as a standard residential use, though he said his group does not oppose requiring homeowners who rent out space to register with the city, pay a modest licensing fee and fork over hotel and sales taxes.
Alia Faraj-Johnson, spokeswoman for the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association and Airbnb, would not weigh in on the hosted-stay idea. “We look forward to reviewing the proposal,” she said.
The proposal is set to go before Orlando’s planning board Nov. 21. Officials said they also plan to propose a registration requirement for would-be short-term renters, though the fee hasn’t been decided.
Property owners who rent their homes for short stays but don’t live on-site would remain in violation of city code. Shephard also stressed that the change would not override neighborhood or homeowners-association rules that may prohibit renting.
Jason Burton, chief planner for the city, said the hope is that requiring the owner to live on-site will cause short-term guests to treat their rentals like a bed-and-breakfast. “The problems occur when people turn over the unit, and it becomes like a party house,” he said.
Kiessling said nuisance ordinances are enough to address problems caused by unruly renters. He disputed the notion that lack of regulation would lead to neighborhoods overrun with short-term rentals.
“I think that concern is far more theoretical than realistic,” he said. “At the end of the day, the market is not going to allow for that to exist."
Randall Baker, who has been battling the city about fines he accrued for renting a pair of cottages in College Park on Airbnb, said the proposed rules could be a step in the right direction.
Baker, who had a business license and a five-star rating for his rental service, accrued nearly $6,000 in fines. He got a city board to reduce the figure by half on appeal but opted to appeal again in Orange Circuit Court; that appeal is still pending.
He said regulation is needed — but so is a policy that allows those who rent their property responsibly to do so without facing penalties.
There are “more and more people just trying to jump onto the Airbnb and VRBO wagon because it’s an easy buck, but it’s not an easy buck if you do it right,” he said.