Bradenton approves regulations for vacation rental homes
Homeowners who choose to rent their homes to guests will soon be subject to new rules and regulations in the City of Bradenton.
After a few weeks of debate and feedback from residents, Bradenton City Council voted Wednesday morning to approve a licensing program that aims to inspect and track short-term rental properties. Similar programs already exist on the island of Anna Maria.
Short-term rentals, also known as vacation rentals, allow customers to rent an entire home for a few days or a few months. Prior to the council vote, landlords did not need to seek permission from the city to rent their homes. Bradenton officials say there are more than 600 short-term rentals within the city limits.
Vacation rental properties have been popularized by websites like Vrbo and Airbnb which allow owners to list their properties on online platforms. Florida law prevents local cities from banning short-term rentals or determining how long guests are allowed to stay.
Under Bradenton’s program rules, homeowners will need to apply for a license from city officials. Approval of a permit will be subject to an inspection which will give municipal staff the authority to limit occupancy and parking based on the size of the home.
Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey first raised the issue last February, after sharing some of the neighbors’ complaints with her fellow board members.
“95% of the laws we make are for 5% of the population. What’s happening with Airbnbs is people are basically getting an exemption to our zoning laws,” Barnebey said. “We can require permits for people who want to cut down a tree or put up a fence, but we have no influence on where they can operate or how long they can operate an Airbnb, but that’s a company. When you have a business, you have to follow business rules.
Councilors Patrick Roff and Bill Sanders joined Barnebey in voting in favor of short-term rental regulations. Councilors Jayne Kocher and Pamela Coachman cast dissenting votes.
What will Bradenton’s short term rental rules do?
Without regulation, council members said some short-term rentals get away with causing neighborhood unrest with noise, parking and litter issues.
“Our citizens want us to protect them,” Roff said. “It’s our job.”
In recent town hall meetings, neighbors spoke with the board to ask for protections and guidelines for short-term rental properties to follow. Even when complaints are made about rowdy neighbors, the Bradenton Police Department can take days to track down the landlord, Police Chief Melanie Bevan previously told council members.
The city’s new program aims to address this issue by requiring short-term rental operators to provide contact information for a property manager.
“We’ve had a lot of absentee owners that we can’t contact if there’s a problem, and that continues,” Barnebey added.
Some short-term rental hosts have criticized the city for approving the program. They said the rules are too broad to be effective and predicted they would only limit the number of vacation rentals available in the city.
“If I have to pay hundreds of dollars in fees every year, I sell my property and tell people not to move here because the city rules suck,” said Cornelia Winn, an Airbnb host with multiple properties. in Bradenton, to the members of the Board of Directors.
Other hosts called on city officials to enforce rules already in place to punish hosts who allow guests to create disputes with neighbors. Board members who voted against the program agreed with this suggestion.
Councilman Kocher said she thinks the city’s licensing program “would create a huge quagmire” and suggested a different approach that would only allow the city to target rental properties that had become repeat offenders.
The city council made changes to the initial proposal presented in January by removing a few rules that the hosts described as “heavy” and intrusive.
Bradenton’s program will not require interior and exterior sketches as part of the application, landline telephones at each rental property or a 2-year record of contact details from previous guests.
How will Bradenton determine maximum occupancy?
The occupancy limit will be based on the number of bedrooms and square footage. The new system will limit guests to the smallest number according to the following formula:
- Two guests per room, plus two additional guests
- One guest per 150 square feet of climate-controlled space
- Up to 12 people
For example, a 2,000 square foot three-bedroom home would be limited to eight people – two people per bedroom and two other people. However, even large properties will be limited to 12 people.
Once a maximum occupancy has been set by the city, it will be illegal for short-term rentals to advertise a capacity to accommodate more guests than the city allows.
Owners will also be asked to provide off-street parking for four occupants. For example, a vacation rental that houses 12 people should provide three parking spaces.
Some properties advertise the possibility of accommodating more than 20 people. Bradenton will retain these existing properties to continue to accommodate two people per bedroom, plus four additional people.
Grandfathered status requires proof of an existing vacation rental and will last for five years before expiring.
When can you apply for a vacation rental license in Bradenton?
The city’s regulatory program will take effect in January 2023, but rental companies will need to submit license applications before then.
Because inspections will need to be scheduled, owners are asked to submit their applications before August 1 in order to receive their registration certificate before the end of the year. Application forms are not yet available and will be provided by the city at a later date.
City Administrator Rob Perry said Bradenton hasn’t set a final price for the application fee, but it’s expected to cost between $200 and $300. Vacation rental operators will need to renew their licenses annually, according to city officials.