St. Armands

Residents Association

Hotel House Overview

Rental Abuses are Hurting Neighborhoods and Residents

In Florida, and throughout the US and around the world, especially in tourist areas, rental abuses are hurting the character of neighborhoods and the quality of life of the people who reside there.  In the City of Sarasota’s barrier island neighborhoods, the worst abuse is from properties in single and multi-family zones that are being rented to large groups of people who do not meet City’s requirement of “household living” which requires family occupancy or that there be no more than four unrelated persons per dwelling unit. 

High Occupancy is NOT Residential Use

Residents refer to these high-occupancy rental properties as Hotel Houses.  The frequent noise, unruly behavior, parking and other nuisances stemming from these large groups is not consistent with the prescribed use of these properties in City zoning code.  And, while any City resident should be allowed to have guests and throw parties, a Florida Court of Appeals has ruled that "the frequency and intensity of large groups at a rental property is not typical residential usage as measured by common practice" (Bennett v. Walton Cnty., 2015 Fla. LEXIS 2745  Fla., Dec. 9, 2015). Click here to read the full ruling.

The City of Sarasota’s Vacation Rental Ordinance

While Florida Statute prevents local governments from prohibiting vacation rentals, from limiting their frequency or duration, or from classifying them as commercial businesses, many municipalities have successfully regulated them by limiting their occupancy and by requiring property owners to register with local authorities. Whether a property is owner-occupied or rented out, the use of that property must still conform to the table of allowed uses for a residential zone.  

Example of the issue:  Multiple families are prohibited by city code from living together in a single-family zone, but people are renting to multiple families.  More than four unrelated persons are prohibited by city code from living together in a single-family zone, but people are renting to more than four unrelated persons.  And people might not even know that they're doing this:  they, or their rental agencies, either aren't asking, or don't have the controls in place to ensure that the make-up of rental groups complies with city codes.

On May 4th, 2021, the City Commission of the City of Sarasota unanimously passed a Vacation Rental Ordinance that was modeled after those ordinances successfully implemented in several other Florida communities.

Who is Impacted by the Vacation Rental Ordinance?

You are only affected by the ordinance if you rent out your entire house (not a condo, not a room in your house) for less than 30 days, and if you do that at least three times a year. That is the State of Florida's definition of a vacation rental. If that's not what you're doing, then the ordinance does not apply to you.

Condos are excluded because they are governed by the covenants, conditions and restrictions of their homeowners’ associations which are not constrained by Florida Statute with regard to vacation rentals. 

Are you Operating a Vacation Rental Lawfully Today?

If you are renting out your property as a vacation rental today, there is a list of requirements that you must comply with per existing law. Since you're already supposed to be doing them, providing documentation that you're doing them should not be a burden.

Here's the list with some helpful links:

  1. Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) License: more info, application, license search (note: If you use a rental agency, the agency can add your vacation rental property to their business license, which is much easier and less expensive than obtaining your own personal license)
  2. Florida Department of Revenue: Tax Registration and Sales and Use Tax
  3. Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax: registration
  4. Sarasota County Business Tax: registration, search
  5. City of Sarasota Local Business Tax: more info

For those property owners not currently doing everything on the above list, you have until March 1, 2022--the end of the registration period--to comply.

The Occupancy Limit

The most important thing that this ordinance does is to impose an occupancy limit on vacation rentals which goes into effect on June 1, 2022.  In a single family zone (RSF), the occupancy limit is two persons per bedroom plus two more, or 10 persons, whichever is less.  In a multi-family zone (RMF), the occupancy limit is two persons per bedroom plus two more, or 12 persons, whichever is less.

Vacation rentals that were operating lawfully (see previous list) when this ordinance was passed (on May 4, 2021) will get a temporary 16-person occupancy limit through Dec. 31, 2023, followed by a temporary 14-person occupancy limit through Dec. 31, 2024.

In all zones, children under age six do not count toward the occupancy limit. These occupancy limits only apply between the hours of 10pm and 7am.  You will not be allowed to advertise that you can sleep more people in beds than the occupancy limit allows.  The vacation rental owner is liable for any violations and therefore they (or a designated responsible party, see below) must make sure that renters understand and obey the occupancy limit.

The Rental Registration Program

The ordinance adds some additional responsibilities that you've never previously had to do. If you've been operating a vacation rental property lawfully up until now (see previous list), then these are the new requirements that the ordinance imposes on you:

  1. You must pay a fee to the City when you first register and an annual renewal fee
  2. You must provide various information/documentation to the City including the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, an interior and exterior sketch of the property/house, an example rental agreement, any pre-existing rental agreements, a signed affidavit, etc...
  3. You must designate one or more responsible parties (if not yourself) who must sign an affidavit that they are aware of the provisions of this ordinance, and who must be available 24x7 by phone and must be able to come to the property within one hour if required by a City Code Compliance or Police officer to assist with an issue (probably not a big deal if you're already using a local rental agency; may require you to find someone local to do this for you if you are remote and you're renting out yourself on AirBnb, VRBO, etc...)
  4. There will be a  building inspection to verify that you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, and door/window alarms if you have a pool (I believe all of these are already required in Florida whenever a house is built or sold), and that your property is in compliance with City Zoning Codes and Florida Building and Fire Prevention Codes
  5. You must provide various information to your renters (I think most landlords already do this; e.g. "the binder") including posting the maximum occupancy limit, the maximum number of vehicles allowed to park at the property, etc...

St. Armands Residents Association

P.O. Box 2482, Sarasota, FL  34230

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