New technology and new investigators will join Monroe County’s campaign to crack down on illegal vacation rentals.
County commissioners, meeting Wednesday in Key West, voted to spend $97,238 on a one-year contract for a service that combs the internet for vacation rentals that have not been legally registered or operate in neighborhoods where short-term rentals are prohibited.
To make use of the information found by the Host Compliance firm, commissioners agreed on a 3-2 vote to hire two new Code Compliance officers at an estimated annual cost of $140,000.
Short-term rentals of less than 28 days in unincorporated Monroe County must be licensed, pay taxes and not operate in most residential zoning.
Commissioners Danny Kolhage and Heather Carruthers voted against the two new positions, saying the job could be done more inexpensively by contract workers or a single new county employee.
“It’s not that I don’t want to prosecute illegal vacation rentals,” Kolhage said. “I believe they’re destroying our neighborhoods and it’s happening where I live.... Go after them and go after them hard.”
Kolhage also cast the one no vote on Host Compliance’s no-bid contract as “ridiculously expensive for what they do.”
Assistant County Administrator Christine Hurley said staff researched similar companies and found that no other firm provides the same range of specific information on Florida Keys properties suspected being being used as vacation rentals.
Host Compliance says its has Florida contracts with Islamorada, Fort Lauderdale and Key Biscayne, along with other popular destination cities in California and elsewhere.
“Increasing pressure from tourists and the ease of online booking ... are negatively impacting our neighborhoods and quality of life for many of our residents,” said Deb Curlee, vice president of the Last Stand group.
Commissioners also voted to allow county staff to file “complaints with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation against property owners who been found to be illegally renting their homes as vacation rentals, and against real-estate agents who unlawfully advertised vacation rentals.”
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206