Homeowners file zoning dispute claims against nightly rentals

Some residential communities in resort areas are in an ongoing battle with local officials over what they see as illegal nightly rentals of vacant homes. It’s a problem that arises frequently in a state like Florida where resort districts and residential retirement complexes exist pretty much alongside each other. In recent years, there has been an increase of owners renting their second homes in resort areas to nightly or weekend visitors. This practice often leads to a zoning dispute when the rental takes place in a development of single-family homes that is zoned residential.
The zoning laws generally prohibit nightly rentals in developments zoned single-family residential. Protesting homeowners claim that there is plenty of nightly space available in nearby areas zoned for hotels, motels, and nightly rentals. The issue in many cases boils down to the failure of zoning officials to enforce the laws against residential homeowners who continue to rent to nightly guests.
Zoning officials complain that it is extremely difficult to identify and enforce the law against the owners. When they do send warning letters, many owners ignore the letters and continue to rent to nightly visitors. To add to the complexity of such disputes, local residents are not always of one view. Many who are in the business of selling and renting real estate are in favor of more diversity in allowing the nightly rentals.
Because nightly rentals of residential homes are an attraction to many tourists, those in the tourism industry also come down in favor of allowing the practice as it increases business. Furthermore, when an area that specializes in tourism is in an economic slump, these conflicts are even more visible. Also, some of the rentals are placed in homes by massive online services that do it all electronically, making it even harder to find and press a violation against an absentee owner. In Florida, the zoning offices continue to deal piecemeal with the problematic zoning dispute involving residential homeowners versus nightly rentals, with no comprehensive resolution immediately in sight.
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This is not intended to be legal advice for any specific situation and the reader should consult their attorney regarding their situation.