ARE SHORT-TERM RENTALS ALLOWED IN COLLIER COUNTY?

Jeff Wright, Esquire

Given its status as a tourist destination, and the proliferation of online rental platforms, it would seem that Collier County is the perfect place for Airbnb and similar services to thrive. While these platforms continue to grow, both the City of Naples and Collier County have taken the position that daily, weekly, and/or monthly rentals of single family homes  (also known as vacation rentals, short-term rentals, transient rentals, and/or transient occupancy) are generally prohibited.

Home rentals have been popular in Florida for decades. Prior to the age of Airbnb (which launched in 2008), short-term rentals were allowed to exist “off the radar” with little to no zoning-based enforcement. Successive single family rentals were not  particularly  problematic in single family zoning districts before the internet. As technology continues to evolve, renters, neighbors, elected officials, and code enforcement have easy access to vacation rental information.

In 2011, amendments to state law preempted local governments from adopting ordinances relating to the “use” and “occupancy” of short-term rentals. In 2014, this preemption was removed and replaced with a preemption on local regulation of “duration” and “frequency” of short-term rentals. The remainder of this post will explain the current status of regulation of short-term rentals of single family homes in the City of Naples and in unincorporated
Collier County.

CITY OF NAPLES SHORT-TERM RENTALS
Naples has taken the position that under a 2008 City Ordinance, short-term rental of single family homes is limited
to three times per year, and advertisement of these rentals is prohibited (unless the zoning district expressly allows it – a rarity in Naples). However, the City’s regulation is arguably ambiguous, and some have said the plain language of the ordinance allows short-term rentals of single family residences that are not part of a “complex of buildings” (transient lodging). Because Naples adopted their 2008 ordinance prior to the state preemptions in 2011 and 2014, Naples has taken the position that its ordinance is grandfathered, and fully enforceable.

ADVERTISING SINGLE FAMILY HOME RENTALS
Because proof of transient use can be elusive, and it is difficult to distinguish a renter from a relative, enforcement is difficult when based on use. To combat this, Naples has focused enforcement resources on online advertisement. Under the City’s position, regardless of whether a single family home is ever rented to anyone, advertising alone can constitute an enforceable land use violation.

COLLIER COUNTY
As some may recall, Collier County had a rental registration ordinance which was rescinded in 2010. Under that ordinance, any property owner in unincorporated Collier County could rent their single family residence, for any length of time, as long as they registered their rental with the County and paid an annual fee. Property owners residing outside of Collier County had to designate a “Local Agent,” and zoning review was not part of the
registration process.

Collier County has since taken the position that any rental of single family homes for less than six months is prohibited (unless the zoning district expressly allows it). However, there is no stated limit on short-term rentals in Collier County’s codes. Instead, the County relies on the state tourist tax law (requiring payment of bed taxes on rentals of 6 months or less), and “passive enforcement”. However, that may be changing — at its first meeting in 2019, the Board of Commissioners directed staff to prepare a report and recommendations on addressing the problems created by “short-term vacation home rentals.”

The report was presented to the Tourist Development Council on February 25th, and will be heading to the Commission in the near future. Bottom Line Short-term rentals are not going away, and they are one way
that a property owner can maximize the value of their investment. If you’re considering purchasing a home for short-term rental, or if you are renting out your existing home for short-term rental, it is important to know the regulatory landscape to avoid costly problems.

About the Author – Long-time Naples resident, Jeff E. Wright is Board Certified in City, County and Local Government law, a designation by the Florida Supreme Court that recognizes special knowledge, skills, and proficiency in this area. He represents private property owners, associations, and investors in addressing land use and permitting concerns, particularly as they impact private property rights, property value, and investment decision-making. Jeff may be reached at jeff.wright@henlaw.com or by phone at 239-344-1371.

 

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