ORANGE PARK – While only a few short-term rental properties like AirBnB homes have popped up locally, more could be on the way as the council recently learned Florida law does not allow municipalities to ban these types of rental businesses.
Town attorney Sam Garrison said that after looking into the power the council might have over short-term rentals, he told them during the town council meeting on March 5 it couldn’t do much to prevent them from occurring in Orange Park.
“The main thing I wanted to let you know, because it was brought forth, is can we just ban these sorts of things?” Garrison said. “The answer is no, we can’t. Love it or hate it, single-family properties are allowed in the state of Florida...to rent out all or a portion of the single-family home and while we certainly can regulate it in certain respects, we cannot ban it.”
According to Garrison, regulations can occur, but they must be done so in a non-discriminatory fashion, and regulations cannot be done to the extent that short-term rental business owners are being driven out of Orange Park. The town can, however, charge a business tax to these property owners.
Other regulations include trash, noise ordinances, which are already in place within the town, parking rules and occupancy standards. Currently, only trash and noise ordinance are in place. The other regulations would have to be enacted further down the road, should the council wish to pursue them.
While some regulations are possible, there’s a lot that the town can’t do as a result of Florida statute. Unless certain rules were put into place prior to 2011, there’s not a lot the town can do in the future.
“The way I’m hearing it, no matter how we committee this or task force it, I don’t know if we can do anything here unless we enacted something before 2011,” Mayor Gary Meeks said.
According to Garrison, the definition of short-term rental is quite broad.
“Under the statute, typically, it’s considered six months or less,” Garrison said.
Town Manager Sarah Campbell expanded on this with a more precise definition from the League of Cities.
“A [short-term vacation rental] is a property that’s rented more than three times a year for less than 30 days at a time,” Campbell said.
Campbell said if it’s being rented for longer than 30 days at a time, it’s then considered something more long-term, like a lease. Vice Mayor Ron Raymond said that he surprisingly agrees with the League of Cities but finds the Florida statute that prohibits the town from doing much regarding short-term rentals unfair. Because of that, Raymond suggested that the council work with the League of Cities to get this kind of legislature changed or reworked to yield municipalities more ruling in these situations.
No official motion was made but Garrison said he and staff will work to further the conversation for the council.
“I feel like [Campbell] and I have a pretty good handle on where the five of you are on this issue,” Garrison said. “If something needs your approval, we’ll bring something back to you that gives us the ability to do what we can with the law as it is and see if it works for the majority of the council.”