City Cracking Down on Illegal Short Term Resort Rentals

Because of persistent complaints from legitimate permit holders, the City of Fernandina Beach has begun new enforcement efforts to combat illegal short term resort rentals.

City Cracking Down on Illegal Short Term Resort RentalsBecause of persistent complaints from legitimate permit holders, the City of Fernandina Beach has begun new enforcement efforts to combat illegal short term resort rentals. Based on recent estimates perhaps more than one-hundred local properties are being rented for less than thirty days at a time, in violation of the City’s Resort Rental ordinance.

In order to qualify for a Resort Rental Dwelling Permit (RRDP) the property must be located in R3 Zoning or be specifically granted an exemption by “grandfathering.” The RRDP can be purchased at City Hall for $300.00 and can be renewed annually for $200.00. The ordinance also protects visitors from unsafe structures and conditions by requiring that a certified home inspection be conducted on the property. The property owner must provide proof of a registered State of Florida Tax ID and all advertising of the property must include a reference to the permit number.

Some individual property owners have reported being unaware of this ordinance, which has been in effect since 2000, and claim that they were simply unaware that they were not allowed to rent their property or that they needed to acquire a city permit to do so. Many others may be hiding behind vacation rental websites, such as Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO), Airbnb, Flipkey, and many others, to deliberately disguise property details and to conduct business without revealing the exact location of the property.

It is important to note that in 2011 the City increased the fine from $75.00 to $1000.00 for failing to obtain the required permit for short term rentals and that property owners risk appearing before a Special Magistrate or the City Code Board if cited for a violation. In addition, some property owners risk exposure if they have failed to file applicable County Bed Taxes, State of Florida Taxes, Federal Income Taxes, or if it is determined that the rental property benefits from a Homestead Exemption.

The City is willing to work with property owners to insure that they are in compliance with this ordinance. Please call Angie Lester at 904-310-3146.

Sec. 26-101. – Permit required.
(a) It shall be unlawful for the owner of any dwelling unit in the city to permit the occupancy of any dwelling unit for resort rental dwelling purposes, unless such occupancy has been authorized by the issuance of a resort rental dwelling permit (RRDP) as provided herein. “resort rental dwelling” or “resort rental residential” shall be as defined in sections 1.07.00 and 4.02.05 of the city’s land development code and which are limited to occupancy periods per rental of less than 30 days.

(b) A resort rental dwelling permit shall be issued only when all of the following conditions have been met:
(1) The owner or his/her agent makes application for a resort rental dwelling permit or a renewal permit on a completed form prescribed by the city accompanied by a fee in an amount to be set by ordinance; and
(2) The resort rental dwelling unit is in compliance with the Land Development Code, including but not limited to regulations restricting outdoor lighting during sea turtle nesting season and has been inspected by the city, a contracted residential home inspector, or the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and determined to be in compliance with and licensed in accordance with all applicable provisions and referenced documents of F.S. 509, Lodging and Food Service Establishments; as well as the uniform fire safety standards of the Florida Fire Prevention Code, NFPA 1 and 101, editions adopted and incorporated in the F.A.C., Rule 69A-3.012.
a. Inspections shall be conducted at least once annually by a city official for a fee to be determined by ordinance, by DBPR or by a professional residential home inspector licensed by the State of Florida. All inspections shall be conducted using a city checklist of inspected areas of dwelling unit.

(c) The procedure for issuance of a resort rental dwelling permit is as follows:
(1) The owner of any dwelling unit or his agent shall apply to the city for a RRDP or annual renewal and shall provide such information as required by the city to render a decision. Such application shall be submitted at least 30 calendar days prior to the proposed occupancy date. It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to make a false statement in an application for a RRDP.

(d) A resort rental dwelling permit shall remain valid for a period of one year from the date of issuance.

(e) The RRDP shall state:
(1) The date of issuance;
(2) The street address and parcel identification number of the dwelling unit;
(3) The name, address and signatures of the owner, authorized agents, and authorized property managers;
(4) The name and telephone number of a contact person who may be reached 24 hours per day;
(5) The property has been licensed by the DBPR certifying compliance with the standards for resort rental dwellings (transient public lodging establishments) as set forth in F.S. ch. 509, and subsection (b)(2), above;
(6) The total gross floor area of the dwelling unit, as determined by the county property appraiser’s office or a certified survey of the dwelling unit, shall be used to calculate the maximum occupancy rating, which is calculated at 150 square feet gross floor area per person;
(7) A valid and current federal employer tax identification number (FEIN) if applicable, and a Department of Revenue taxpayer ID number for the owner(s) of the property;
(8) A valid and current Florida Department of Revenue Sales Tax Identification Number;
(9) A valid and current DBPR license number under F.S. ch. 509; and
(10) The address and 24-hour contact number for the Fernandina Beach Police Department.

(f) The following regulations shall pertain and apply to resort rental dwelling use of or within a residential dwelling:
(1) A contact person must be available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, for the purpose of responding promptly to complaints regarding the conduct of the guests of the resort rental dwelling unit. The name and phone number of the contact person must be stated on the RRDP and shall be provided to the city police department by the city. Said contact person must be able to respond in person to a call regarding a complaint within 30 minutes of said call, and said contact person shall be responsible to take any action necessary to address the violation of law or city ordinance;
(2) The owner or manager shall maintain a guest registration, which shall include the name, contact information and address of each unit’s guest;
(3) Parking: The owner shall provide one off-street parking space for every four guests accommodated for sleeping in the unit. Additional parking requirements for new resort rental dwelling permits are set forth in the city’s land development code, section 4.02.05. Notwithstanding the minimum parking requirements stated above, existing developed dwelling units as of the effective date of this ordinance shall be deemed to comply with this section if they met the city’s parking requirements for the type of structure and zoning district at the time of issuance of the certificate of occupancy;
(4) The owner or his agent or manager shall require of each responsible guest a written agreement between a residential dwelling owner and the responsible guest and it shall contain the responsible guest’s agreement to abide by the city’s ordinances regarding the collection and disposal of solid waste as set forth in chapter 66, article II, sections 66-36 through 66-46; litter on private property as set forth in chapter 42, section 42-92; noise as set forth in chapter 42, sections 42-141 et seq.; nuisances as set forth in chapter 42, sections 42-41 and 42-42; beach littering as set forth in section 90-41; alcohol in open containers as set forth in chapter 10 of the City Code; restrictions on outdoor lighting during sea turtle nesting season as set for in the City Code and Land Development Code; and with F.S. § 562.111 which prohibits possession of alcoholic beverages by person(s) under the age of 21, as well as all restrictions, conditions and limits of any permit issued under this section. Copies of the agreement must be produced for inspection by the owner, manager or responsible guest at the request of a police officer or other city official in the lawful performance of his or her duties;
(5) Each resort rental dwelling unit owner shall participate in the city’s “roll-out/roll-back” service as provided in section 66-44(a)(2) of the Code of Ordinances, and condominiums and other multi-family units are exempt from this requirement if they use a common-area trash receptacle such as a dumpster;
(6) It shall be a violation of these regulations to enter into a long-term lease with the intent to subvert the regulatory goals of this section. It shall also be a violation of these regulations for a property owner to lease space to “roommates” for a period of less than 30 consecutive days, when not licensed as provided hereunder. For the purposes of enforcement, a rebuttable presumption shall exist that roommates use a common entrance to a dwelling;
(7) It shall be unlawful for any owner, agent, manager, tenant, guest, broker, real estate agent or other representative of the owner(s) to hold out or advertise a residential dwelling unit as a resort accommodation, resort rental dwelling or vacation rental if the property is not permitted, as provided herein. Any person or business who is found in violation of this regulation shall be subject to business tax receipt suspension and/or revocation;
(8) Every resort rental dwelling shall display at all times a current RRDP in a conspicuous place near the main entrance inside the dwelling unit;
(9) Every advertisement or listing for a resort rental dwelling shall include the current, valid city-issued RRDP #, including but not limited to advertisements or listings on the internet, newspaper, magazines, vacation publications and manager listings. It shall be unlawful to advertise or list a property for renting as a resort rental dwelling or vacation rental without a valid city-issued RRDP; and
(10) All dwelling unit owners with a valid RRDP shall file same with their condominium or homeowners’ association within ten days of obtaining or renewing the RRDP. The city may inspect all RRDP’s filed with any condominium or homeowners’ association.

(g) Fees; set by ordinance.
(1) An initial application fee in an amount to be set by ordinance by the city commission shall accompany the application for a resort rental dwelling permit (RRDP) and renewal as outlined in subsection (b)(1) of this section.
(2) A person or entity that holds a resort rental dwelling permit (RRDP) shall obtain the annual business tax receipt, as provided for in section 74-80, services, division 1 of this Code of Ordinances.
(3) Any late filing fees shall be the same as provided for in the business tax receipt section of this Code, or, at the discretion of the city commission, may be established by ordinance.

(h) Enforcement; penalties.
(1) A violation of this section includes any violation of RRDP requirements which are subject to the fines and penalties listed in subsection (h)(2) below, and owners and managers are jointly and severally liable for RRDP violations. Owners, guests and managers are also jointly and severally liable for guest violations of this City Code and Land Development Code regulations, including but not limited to noise violations, parking violations, outdoor lighting violations during turtle nesting season, nuisance and garbage violations which are subject to citations and fines in accordance with Florida Statutes, section 1-12 and chapter 42 of this City Code. “Jointly and severally liable” is defined as liability of more than one person for which each person is liable to pay the entire fine for violation of an ordinance.
(2) A first violation of the RRDP requirements (not having a valid permit) of this section within any 12-month period shall be punishable by a citation and fine of $1,000.00. Appeals of citations for violation of this section shall be made to the special magistrate as provided in chapter 2 of this City Code. If more than one violation of this section (permitting requirements) or any other City Code provision including but not limited to noise, outdoor lighting during turtle nesting season, nuisance or garbage violations occur in any 12-month period, the owner of the resort rental dwelling property shall be notified in writing of the violation, and the city shall proceed to prosecute the violation through the code enforcement board process as specified in chapter 2 of this City Code. If the code enforcement board finds a violation, the owner may be fined up to $250.00 per day and lien(s) may be placed on the owner’s property.
(3) In addition, any license or RRD permit granted hereunder may be revoked for cause. Any person may seek injunctive relief in a court of competent jurisdiction to prevent or enjoin a violation of this section.

(i) Upon the consummation of the sale or transfer of title of any dwelling unit for which an RRDP has been issued, the purchaser or transferee, or his/her authorized agent, shall apply for and obtain from the city a new RRDP in accordance with this section. If the seller/transferor had a valid annual RRDP at the time that the dwelling unit was sold or transferred, the purchaser/transferee shall apply for a new annual permit but not be required to pay an annual permit fee until such time as the RRDP must be renewed the next year. Nothing in this section shall affect the validity of the title between the seller and the buyer.

(j) Temporary RRD (resort residential or resort rental dwelling) permits may be issued by the city after inspection, if it has been determined that an existing violation poses no serious or immediate threat to the health or safety of an occupant or guest and when all of the following conditions are determined to exist:
(1) The owner has been delayed in correcting violations necessary to permit the issuance of an RRD permit but has a valid contract in writing with a qualified person or firm for the performance of work and the furnishing of the materials to correct such violation(s) and the contract specifies the dates for commencement and completion of the work; or the owner provides an affidavit stipulating that the work is to be accomplished by the owner, specifying the date by which the work is to be completed, and furnishes copies of all applicable permits required to enable the owner to make the necessary corrections; and
(2) The city finds that the delay in the correction of the violation(s) and the plans for correction are reasonable and the work can be undertaken and completed while the premises are occupied.

(k) The temporary occupancy permit shall expire at the time set forth therein. On or before the expiration of the temporary occupancy permit, a re-inspection shall be made.
(l) Temporary renewal RRDP’s may be issued by the city if the owner has not completed the required annual inspection as of the annual renewal date; however, such temporary renewal RRDP shall not be valid for more than 60 days after issuance.
(m) The provisions of this section shall not affect any right or obligation imposed by law or by agreement between any owner and occupant, but no agreement shall relieve any person of a duty or obligation imposed by this section.
(n) This section shall not apply to motels, hotels and bed and breakfasts.
(o) An RRDP shall not be required for occupancy of any dwelling unit by a tenant or guest in possession of such dwelling unit on the effective date of this section. Any dwelling unit vacant or vacated after the effective date of this section shall not be occupied for a rental period of four weeks or less than 30 consecutive days pursuant to an oral or written agreement until an RRDP has been issued by the city.
(p) The owner or an adversely affected person aggrieved by any decision of the city under this section other than the revocation or termination of a RRDP or receipt of a citation may appeal said decision by filing a notice of appeal with the community development services department within 30 days of the decision, said notice setting forth that the decision is illegal in whole or in part, specifying the grounds of the illegality; the code enforcement board will hear the appeal and render its decision within 30 days of receipt of the same.
(q) Nothing contained in these regulations shall prohibit the city from enforcing these regulations by any other means including, but not limited to issuance of a written warning, a notice of violation, a civil citation, a summons, a notice to appear in the county court, an arrest, or a civil action for injunctive relief. The enforcement procedures outlined herein are cumulative to all others and shall not be deemed prerequisites to filing suit for the enforcement of these regulations or any section of this City Code.
(Ord. No. 2000-16, § 1, 10-3-00; Ord. No. 2006-46, § 1, 12-5-06; Ord. No. 2011-23, § 1, 11-15-11)

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