• 9 Investigates: Local lawsuit could impact short-term rentals statewide

    By: Karla Ray

    Updated:

    ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. - 9 Investigates a lawsuit that has the potential to impact short-term rentals across the state.

     

    While those short-term rental properties exist in nearly every city and county in Florida, many local governments have implemented codes meant to prohibit or control the rentals. 

     

    Investigative reporter Karla Ray learned there’s a dispute headed to court to determine whether those codes are legal.

     

    On an unassuming corner lot in a neighborhood of single-family homes, one Altamonte Springs house on Parkwood Avenue is not like the rest.

     


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    “We’re in Florida, and we’ve got tourists. Every week they have someone. It’s steady,” neighbor Chantel O’Toole said. 

     

    The home is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the city of Altamonte Springs.

     

    The lawsuit aims to determine whether the owners of the home have the right to use the property as a short-term rental. 

     

    The home was being advertised on the popular site Airbnb.

     

    “I think they (the owners) do a really good job of screening who comes into the neighborhood because they realize that this is a family neighborhood; we have children around here,” O’Toole said. 

     

    City Manager Frank Martz said that’s only part of why Altamonte Springs passed a code banning short-term rental properties in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes.

     

    “There is a concern about diminished property values. There is a concern about additional traffic. There is a concern about the accountability of the people who are living in those homes,” Martz said.

     

    Airbnb shows the Parkwood Avenue property is not the only short-term rental in Altamonte Springs, but Martz said it is the only property the city has received complaints about.

     

    “Short-term rentals essentially operate as a business, so you could have 365 people living next door to you in your subdivision,” Martz said.

     

    In 2014, Florida lawmakers passed legislation stating that local governments can regulate short-term rentals to address some concerns. However, it left in language from a 2011 law that prohibits cities and counties from banning the properties outright, or regulating how many people can stay or for how long.

     

    Martz argues there is a gray area about “home rule,” and that’s where the city and home owners have agreed to let a judge decide.

     

    “I could see how it could possibly drive down property values or increase crime. So, I'm kind of skeptical,” O’Toole said.  “But, I believe in free enterprise and being able to make money.”

     

    9 Investigates spoke with a woman staying in the property, who said that it is operating as a bed-and-breakfast and indicated there were multiple renters at once.

     

    A message to the homeowner via Airbnb went unanswered.

     

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