This is to address some of the problems associated with single-family short-term rentals. The main problem is a lack of education in how the current regulations are supposed to work. People don’t know whom to call when they observe a problem with parking, litter or noise. Some think it is the sheriff’s office. Others think it is city code enforcement. But, it is neither. According to current rules, it is the Responsible Party, defined as the owner or owner’s agent. There is much confusion in this regard. The Responsible Party, by definition, is the one responsible.
For example, current rules require the Responsible Party to post his or her phone number in front of the rental house. However, the confusion occurs when people see a FOR RENT sign in the yard. They have no way of knowing that the same phone number to call for rental reservations is also the phone number of the Responsible Party. That’s why nobody calls the right number. City code needs to correct that.
The current rules are near-perfect, by about 95 percent. But they need to be revised to keep up with the changing times. For example, remote check-ins are problematic. That occurs whenever the Responsible Party never meets the newly defined “Rental Party Representative.” We need a rule to require the Responsible Party to meet with the “Rental Party Representative” before or shortly after arrival. The “Rental Party Representative” is to be defined in city code as the person booking the reservation and posting the security deposit. That, in and of itself, will solve many of our short-term rental problems.
The city needs to compile and maintain a roster of all single-family short-term rental homes including owner’s name, Responsible Party’s name, property address, and 24/7 phone number. This roster should be made available to the Sheriff’s Office, city code enforcement, HOA managers and neighborhood security agencies. By doing so, those agencies can either refer the caller to the Responsible Party, transfer them to the Responsible Party or contact the Responsible Party for the callers if they wish to remain anonymous.
It is the sole responsibility of the Responsible Party to comply with all of the current rules. Violations will result in a fine to the owner. Multiple violations and/or unpaid fines will result in a lien on the property. In my experience, that is the only way that we can get the single-family short-term rental problem under control.
These rules will better control nuisance issues only, such as parking, litter and noise. It is still the Sheriff’s Office responsibility to respond to calls reporting actual or suspected criminal activity, including illegal drugs and underage drinking.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: This column was written with the cooperation and input from the city manager and the short-term rental task force. We thank these dedicated volunteers for their contribution.
Jack Simpson has owned and managed rental properties in Destin since 1974 and has lived in the city since 1983. His column is designed to start conversations in the community. To respond to Jack’s column in The Log, email your letter to the editor or guest column to email@example.com. To contact Jack directly, email firstname.lastname@example.org.