HOLMES BEACH – It’s been a long, sometimes rough road for the city’s vacation rental certificate program and the code enforcement officers who oversee it since the program’s inception two years ago. Now with the first round of certificate renewals occurring, commissioners are re-evaluating the program.
On second reading, an amendment to the VRC program failed due to a list of questions and concerns voiced by Commissioner Jim Kihm that caused his fellow commissioners to agree to take the amendment back to a work session rather than vote to approve the suggested changes. The amendment will now be studied by commissioners in a work session before returning to regular meetings for two public hearings and votes before any changes can be enacted.
The decision came the same day that Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer hosted a stakeholder public forum for short-term rental owners and agents to come to learn about the proposed changes to the program and ask any questions. Now those changes may or may not materialize.
The primary reason for enacting the changes to the program was to give code enforcement officers the ability to immediately fine property owners for some violations of the certificate program including misleading advertising, renting for higher occupancy than allowed or for fewer days than permitted, and for not including the unit’s VRC number on advertising. With the program in its second year, Tokajer said the ticketing changes would help to reinforce the city’s stance on violating the program.
Rental owner Lynn Tran spoke to commissioners during public comment about the proposed changes to the program and how requiring property owners and agents to add more information to advertisements could become a hardship due to increased cost. She suggested finding a compromise between what the city wants and what’s considered reasonable for owners.
Though the changes to the VRC are going back to a work session for further review and discussion, commissioners did vote unanimously in favor of approving a contract with Host Compliance LLC in San Francisco for $30,600 to monitor rental advertisements for Holmes Beach properties online and alert police when a potential violation of the rental certificate program is noted. Sample violations include the advertised length of stay or occupancy and the lack of a VRC or business tax receipt number in the advertisement.
Once alerted of a potential violation, Tokajer said police would do their own investigation to determine if the property owner or agent is in violation of the VRC program and issue a citation, if necessary.