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Members of the Hollywood Commission are continuing to express concern about vacation rentals in Hollywood. During recent public meetings, many residents complained about loud party houses, too many cars in quiet neighborhoods, and other problems associated with vacation home rentals.
At one of these meetings, a large group of angry residents spent about two hours discussing homeowners who rent their homes in residential neighborhoods to people who might want to have loud parties or engage in questionable activities.
“We want to respond to the complaints of neighbors about vacation rentals,” said Lorie Mertens-Black, Chief Civic Affairs Officer for Hollywood. Mertens-Black wants to see inspections of the properties to ensure they meet Florida building code standards and recommends the City hire a vacation rental coordinator.
According to Mertens-Black, a “vacation rental” is a piece of property that’s rented out more three times a year for less than 30 days at a time. One needs a license to operate a vacation rental and must follow various requirements, including having 24-hour contact information on the exterior of the building. The operators are considered to be running a business, and must document their sales. Violations can result in fines of $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense, and a suspension for a third offense.
As per City of Hollywood information, no license is required if someone is just renting one room in a home. If an entire house is rented out for three weeks or less, and more than three times in a year, it’s considered a vacation rental in a residential district, and a license is required. A home rented for more than three weeks is considered a residential rental property, and the property owner would need to apply for a business tax receipt.
Currently, about 785 homes in Hollywood are considered vacation rentals. Many of the property owners find lodgers through AirBnB, a service that pairs up travelers with people who have spare rooms in their homes. Sometimes, people will rent out entire homes. Under Florida law, municipal governments cannot prevent vacation rentals from existing.
However, most vacation rentals in Hollywood have drawn few complaints. People stay there for a few days, maybe a week or two at most, and don’t cause any trouble. The problem arises with vacation rentals that operate more like hotels and night clubs, and offer loud party scenes. News of these parties spreads through social media, and neighbors have called the police many times because of the resulting excessive and prolonged noise.
During the recent meeting, residents complained of vacation rentals that were playing very loud music throughout the night and into early morning hours. The many cars surrounding these rentals also caused concern. Some people stated that unsavory characters were coming into their neighborhoods and engaging in drug dealing, prostitution and other illegal activities. They also noted that some vacation rentals have absentee owners who don’t care about the local community. Several residents spoke out angrily and demanded that city leaders take immediate action, as they believe that this issue has affected their quality of life.
One woman who’s involved in the vacation rental industry admitted that the grievances indicate that there must be some major problems taking place in Hollywood. A man who operates one of the vacation rentals that has drawn many complaints spoke at the meeting. He said he’d be willing to work with the neighbors but that he was being unfairly targeted. He also mentioned that his operation should be respected because it’s part of Florida’s large tourism industry. In response, a number of residents yelled out that they did not believe him and demanded that he sit down.
Commissioner Peter Hernandez stated that he wants to see a strong ordinance for vacation rentals, one that has some teeth. “I have responded to complaints at 2 a.m. and gone to the properties that residents were complaining about,” he said. Addressing the property owner who’s received the most complaints, Hernandez said he was aware of the situation at the man’s vacation rental.
Hernandez added that he believes city codes regarding property uses need to be enforced and actions need to be taken against the vacation rentals that are causing issues. He also said that although most vacation rentals aren’t creating difficulties in the neighborhoods, the dozen that are need to be dealt with.
“We need to have inspections of the vacation rentals. The police are doing what they can but they have other problems to deal with,” said Hernandez.
Commissioners believe that state law prevents them from going after these properties, but they’re looking for ways to rein in the excess of vacation rental operators.
Earlier this month, the city revoked the vacation license of a vacation rental at 929 North Southlake Drive. The operator had said that no more than 10 transient people would stay overnight at the house. (Ten people were considered the limit for the house.) However, city officials found advertisements for the property stating that up to 20 people could stay in the house. This was considered a falsification of information and sufficient grounds for license revocation.