Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Beach residents fight Florida bills targeting ban of short-term rental homes

CLEARWATER — Beach homeowners are mobilizing against two bills speeding through the state Legislature that could squash Clearwater's long-standing ban on short-term rental homes.

The rentals, homeowners say, are the bane of the beach: crowded with parties, scattered with trash, loud into the night. They say spring break hordes skirt the city's ban, turning the manicured streets of North Clearwater Beach into strips of seedy motels.

But state legislators, acting on suggestions from the vacation rental industry, have proposed forbidding local governments from treating "vacation rentals" differently than other homes, effectively axing the ban.

If passed, the bills — SB 476, sponsored by state Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker; and HB 883, sponsored by Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee — could become law as soon as July.

"For me, it's a simple issue of fairness," Rep. Horner said. "These folks shouldn't be discriminated against. If you have a concern that someone's throwing loud parties, you should pass a noise ordinance and apply it across the board."

Beach residents and City Council members said the legislation could have unintended and disastrous consequences for beach neighborhoods, with Mayor Frank Hibbard saying it amounted to "open season" for rental landlords.

Clearwater Beach Association vice president Jerry Murphy, who lives in a cottage on Mandalay Avenue, said a dozen renters packing into one small home is common during the beach's busy months.

"They don't know how we live here," Murphy said. "They're vacationers, and they don't see any need to keep the lid on things. We've got a lot of strange people walking around in our neighborhood that we don't know."

City Council members also called the legislation an attack on home rule, and said state politicians are trying to redefine local law. Clearwater leaders in 2003 banned home rentals shorter than a month.

"This is pure, unadulterated micromanagement," council member Paul Gibson said. "I'm sure if Gov. Scott found a short-term rental next to his house, and all of the parties and noise it created, we might have a different deal."

Though new short-term rentals are banned, 31 homes on North Beach remain open for rent. In 2007, a state appeals court sided with beach landlords who called the city's law too loose and a breach of their property rights. The court decided the ban applied to any property that started the practice after 2003, when the city began to enforce the ban in earnest.

One of those landlords who won in court, David Allbritton, rents out the Sandpiper and Beachcomber, two-bedroom duplex homes on Mandalay Avenue. At up to $1,600 a week, the homes come with king beds, living rooms, a gas grill and a Florida room. As a perk, renters can borrow bikes, rafts, tennis rackets and beach toys.

Allbritton — who, in keeping with the law, must hold a special license and pay a 12 percent tourism tax — said his rentals don't degrade into sordid mini-motels. He cleans regularly, tries to filter out rowdy crowds and rents mostly to families.

"We don't want to get a bum rap," Allbritton said. "We're licensed. We pay our taxes. We try to do it the right way. A lot of (landlords) don't."

In Tallahassee, the bills in question are cruising easily through committee votes and have yet to find major resistance. Last Monday, the City council sent state Sen. Dennis Jones, the Seminole Republican chairing the Regulated Industries committee, a letter expressing "profound concern" with the bill. The next day, Jones' committee voted unanimously in support.

Council members said the bills — now before the House's economic affairs committee and the Senate's judiciary committee — seemed heavily skewed toward the rental business.

The bills would reclassify "resort condominiums" and "resort dwellings" as "vacation rentals" and add an eleventh member, from the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, to the state's advisory council. Contribution records show the real estate, lodging and tourism industries have given Rep. Horner's campaign more than $65,000 since 2007.

Horner said the bills helped defend local property rights from unfair rental bias. Vacation rentals, he said, are "a very important segment of our hospitality industry. They deserve the recognition this bill affords them."

Contact Drew Harwell at or (727) 445-4170.

Beach residents fight Florida bills targeting ban of short-term rental homes 03/29/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 7:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021


    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  2. Sputtering Rays keep falling one run short

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Even going into play against the Angels on Tuesday just a game under .500 at 23-24, the Rays have some issues they have to resolve.

    Rays starter Alex Cobb waits for Mike Trout to finish his trot after homering to give the Angels a 2-0 lead.
  3. Analysis: Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared


    LONDON — For Britain's security agencies, London always seemed like the likely target. For years, the capital of 8 million with hundreds of thousands of weekly tourists and dozens of transit hubs had prepared for and feared a major terror attack.

  4. Dade City man dies after crashing into county bus, troopers say

    Public Safety

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 38-year-old man died Tuesday after colliding into the rear of a county bus on U.S. 301, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  5. Suspicious device at Pinellas Park home was a spent artillery round, police say

    Public Safety

    PINELLAS PARK — Bomb squad investigators determined that a "suspicious device" found at a Pinellas Park home Tuesday afternoon was a spent artillery round, police said.