Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Venice swirling in police and short-term rental lawsuits

The battle continues in Venice.  The city has paid out about $500,000 in fines, legal costs and consultant costs in its effort to restrict or ban vacation rentals, and several lawsuits against the city have are still in progress.  In the meantime, the current law has been suspended while the courts try to make final decisions about whether it is constitutional or not.

By Kim Hackett

Published: Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 12:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 25, 2011 at 10:36 p.m.
VENICE - Property owners can now rent their houses to vacationers for short-term stays without fear of breaking a city law and facing hefty fines.

The city suspended its resort dwelling ordinance earlier this week while the Second District Court of Appeal considers whether the city's ban on rentals for 30 days or less is constitutional.

A court date has not yet been scheduled.

The ruling could have implications for other communities trying to regulate short-term vacation rentals, which are growing in popularity.

Many property owners unable to sell their homes or other properties in the current economy are advertising them on the Internet as weekend vacation rentals. The property owners, often aided by property rights' groups, have organized to fight restrictions.

Neighbors near the rentals say trash, noise and parking disrupt neighborhood tranquility.

In the Venice case, the City Council in December decided to appeal a judge's determination that the city had improperly "taken" owner Martha Gwynn's property rights without compensation when it prohibited vacation rentals for less than 30 days in a July 2009 ordinance.

Gwynn had been renting her property before the ordinance and missed a window to obtain a city license. After a neighbor showed up at City Hall with pictures and a log book charting the activity at Gwynn's property, the Code Enforcement Board fined Gwynn.

Gwynn at the time was not challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance, she just wanted to continue renting the dates she booked before the ordinance went into effect.

But now, depending on how the court decides, Gwynn may have unraveled six years and about $400,000 spent by the city trying to stop short-term rentals.

The city's ordinance followed a costly landmark lawsuit filed by another property owner. That landowner successfully argued that the city did not have an ordinance regulating vacation rentals. The city had to pay owner Steve Milo $300,000 as part of a settlement, and has since then spent about $100,000 on consultants and legal fees trying to come up with an ordinance.

The city has taken a hard line, denying anyone a license whether they were renting before the ordinance or not. Obtaining a license once required installing fire sprinklers, a costly improvement, but a new state law struck down that requirement.

A third lawsuit was filed in February by Gwynn and another group of property owners challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thoughtful comments are welcome, whether you are in favor of vacation rentals or concerned about the impacts of VRs on your community. Comments that contain advertising, including ads for properties, will be deleted.