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Marathon takes a new look at vacation rentals

posted Jan 8, 2015, 3:25 AM by Gidget Jackson   [ updated Jan 8, 2015, 3:25 AM ]

Marathon takes a new look at vacation rentals

BY WILLIAM AXFORD

The rules regulating vacation rental properties in Marathon could be in for stricter enforcement in 2015.

The City Council and the public will discuss issues surrounding the rentals at a 5:30 p.m. Jan. 7 meeting at the Marathon firehouse at Florida Keys Marathon Airport.

"The goal of the workshop is to do a review of what the state statute is, what we have on the books and what we can and cannot change," said Mayor Chris Bull.

Too many autos and boats parked, noise and trash are common complaints filed with the city, which received 20 complaints this year for the 498 licensed rentals within city limits. The rentals account for 11 percent of the 4,538 single-family homes in Marathon.

Despite the low number of official complaints filed, councilmen said numerous complaints are given to them in person from Marathon residents. Bull attributes the low number of complaints at the city level to a "live-and-let live" mentality. He said often, residents complain directly to rental managers to get issues resolved.

Under city code, registered vacation rentals have to be rented for a minimum of seven days and no more than 28. A rental manager must be within 24-hour contact. The manager has a one-hour period to respond to calls. Trash must be in covered containers and is prohibited from streets and rights of way.

There is no limit on the number of vehicles allowed.

Any major changes to the city's vacation rental ordinance could make it void, since it was grandfathered in after the state passed laws regulating vacation rental properties in June 2011.

"There's nothing we can do to change [the city ordinance] without getting ourselves into trouble," said Councilman Dan Zieg. "If we change, there can be daily vacation rentals. This is nothing the council is responsible for; we didn't make the ordinance."

Working within what the existing city ordinance dictates may be the only option for city officials.

If found violating city rules, the manager of a vacation rental could be fined $500 per day per violation. A property with three violations in a 12-month span can have its license suspended for a year.

New license fees for vacation rental homes run $500 and renewals are $250. Bull said licensing fees could be increased to help offset the costs for more enforcement.

"It might be a better way to solve problems as they arise," Bull said.