Thursday, October 6, 2011

Property owners fight with Venice again on rental ban

Those in new group say they were renting out before the ban

Published: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 7, 2011 at 10:00 p.m.
VENICE - A new group of property owners is suing the city of Venice, claiming its ban on short-term rentals is unconstitutional.
It is the third time the city has been challenged over its attempt to restrict property rentals that run for less than 30 days, with judges ruling against the city twice.
The latest lawsuit was filed last week by a half-dozen property owners who say they were renting their properties prior to the city's July 2009 ban. An attorney for the group said the city did not give them notice or time to comply.
"This lawsuit is about more than just these owners' right to make reasonable, constitutional use of their property," said the group's attorney, Steven Gieseler. "It lets government officials everywhere know they are bound to act within principles larger than their own preferences."
City Manager Isaac Turner said he has not received a copy of the lawsuit and could not comment.
The suit could have implications for communities across the state which have also tried to regulate vacation rentals at a time they are increasingly being advertised on the Internet. Residents argue that the frequent turnover is a nuisance and creates extra trash and noise.
Owners of local vacation rentals have organized to protect their interests, attracting the attention of property rights advocates statewide who do not want government to limit their ability to rent their properties.
Last year, the Florida Legislature exempted some vacation rentals from having to retrofit homes with automatic sprinklers, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars. The sprinkler requirement stopped many property owners from pursuing a Venice rental license, but now that the requirement has been lifted, they are arguing for the right to rent short-term without sprinklers.
The city is still embroiled in legal action over the ordinance with property owner Martha Gwynn, who is also a party to the recent lawsuit.
Gwynn appealed fines levied by the city's code enforcement board for renting her house without a city license. An appellate judge reversed the board's decision and concluded that the city had improperly "taken" Gwynn's property rights without compensation.
The council voted in December to appeal.
The ordinance came about after the city lost a lawsuit by property owner Steve Milo, who successfully argued, with help from a national property rights group, that the city did not have a law regulating vacation rentals when it fined him.
The city paid Milo $300,000 as part of a settlement, and has spent about $100,000 on consultants and legal fees.

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