Holmes Beach already taxes short-term rentals in its vacation rental program.
At a Sept. 10 meeting, the mayor and city commissioners reached consensus to draft an ordinance regulating long-term — monthly and seasonal — rentals, including a tax on the property owners.
If enacted, the ordinance stipulates that monthly rentals are subject to the same regulations and fees as weekly rentals, which means long-term rental owners would go from no fee to licensing and a payment of $545 every three years, while weekly vacation rental owners would pay $545 every two years.
“This basically just turns our monthly into the same thing we require for weekly,” Mayor Judy Titsworth said Sept. 10.
She said that administering monthly rentals requires the same amount of work for city staff as weekly rentals. So she determined both types of rental units should be charged the same fee.
“We are doing the exact same thing for monthly as we are for weekly,” she said. “How can we charge differently for one than the other when we are using the same exact program and inspections.”
Titsworth said she directed city treasurer Lori Hill to come up with a total “break even cost” for the vacation rental certificate program. Hill determined, each unit owner would pay $545 biennially for the city to break even, based on the current number of rental units in the city — 1,378.
At the Sept. 10 meeting, commissioners approved the first reading of an amended VRC ordinance, which increased the biennial fee for weekly rentals from $150 to $695.
At the work session following the meeting, Titsworth said, if commissioners approve the monthly rental ordinance, the fee for weekly rentals could be lowered to $545 on final reading.
Commission Chair Jim Kihm agreed with Titsworth.
“It’s not so much what category you’re in, but what work is required by our code compliance people to do the inspections,” he said.
Commissioner Carol Soustek, who owns a long-term rental, said she is concerned the increased fee could lead to fewer monthly rentals in a city where long-term rentals are diminishing.
“My worry is that we have so very few monthlies,” she said. “We have more people wanting to rent the monthlies than we have a supply. And most of the monthlies are residents who rent (their) places to offset cost factors that have hit them over the years.”
Soustek also said many monthly or seasonal renters are a part of the community, and don’t create the same noise, trash and parking problems associated with short-term renters.
Commissioner Pat Morton agreed with Soustek. “I’m worried we’re driving them out,” he said of long-term rental owners.
Titsworth suggested the city charge the $545 fee every four years for long-term rentals, instead of two.
But, Kihm said it could become a safety concern.
He preferred to have “more eyes on it and make sure everything is being operated properly,” adding the costs are estimates, so the fee could change.
Soustek asked the commission to compromise on three-year fees and inspections for monthly rentals.
The commission reached consensus to amend the draft ordinance to include a three-year $545 fee for monthly rentals and two years for weekly rentals, and move it to a first reading and public hearing.
The next city commission meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, with a work session to follow.