Fort Lauderdale is making it easier to legally rent on Airbnb

An Airbnb supporter with a T-shirt waits his turn to speak at Miami commission meeting discussing Airbnb on Thursday, March 23, 2017.
An Airbnb supporter with a T-shirt waits his turn to speak at Miami commission meeting discussing Airbnb on Thursday, March 23, 2017.

Fort Lauderdale eased its regulations against short-term rental owners Wednesday, making it easier to legally own a vacation rental on platforms like Airbnb.

City commissioners voted to slash the fee to apply to be a legal vacation rental owner, set in 2015, from $750 to $350. The renewal fee will also drop from $500 to $160.

The city will reward vacation rentals where the owner lives in the home with a reduced renewal fee of $80.

Since passing its vacation rental ordinance in August 2015, Fort Lauderdale has struggled to obtain compliance from local rental owners because of the hefty fee.

“We are trying to provide a little relief on this,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler at the commission meeting Wednesday.

The commission went back and forth about adding additional relief for vacation rentals where the owner is present in the home after Commissioner Dean Trantalis expressed concern over waiving an annual inspection required at short-term rentals.

“I’m getting complaints every single week from people who live in our communities, especially the most expensive communities, who feel their neighborhoods are ransacked with people renting in and out of the neighborhood with cars and people and parties,” Trantalis said. “What are we doing to our communities here?”

Miami-Dade County is one of the top five Airbnb destinations in the country, with 6,800 hosts renting their homes. But for the past year, Miami Beach has been fining locals who rent on platforms like Airbnb $20,000 for each violation.

The city agreed to amend the ordinance to waive the annual renewal inspection requirements at owner-occupied properties, as long as the property had not been in violation of the city’s short-term rental rules in the previous year. Owners will instead have to provide an affidavit of compliance with city regulations.

“Our history has shown from our staff that owner-occupied properties are not having the same impact as non-owner occupied properties,” Seiler said. “So as a way to encourage people to say look, register and if you are on the premise, we are typically not having to respond. The police are not out there because of noise or traffic or pollution.”

According to Fort Lauderdale’s code compliance department, 236 certificates of compliance have been issued through March. That is about 5 percent of all short-term renters in Fort Lauderdale, according to previous Airbnb estimates based on listings on its site and rental platform VRBO.

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado proposed in February passing an ordinance almost identical to the one in Fort Lauderdale, albeit with a $250 application fee. The ordinance got shelved as the city instead voted to affirm its zoning rules, which largely ban short-term rentals, in March.

Earlier this month, both Miami-Dade and Broward counties signed tax deals with Airbnb to collect the 6 percent resort tax in Miami-Dade and the 5 percent resort tax in Broward.