Could Background Checks Become a Requirement for Vacation Rental Properties in Fort Lauderdale?

By Michael Klazema on 9/20/2015
Come November 1st, owners of vacation rental homes in Fort Lauderdale will become a little more limited in who they are allowed to have as tenants. The Florida city recently approved a new set of rules regarding how vacation rental properties are used. Specifically, the new law will make it so there can no more than two tenants per bedroom in any given vacation rental home or cottage. However, locals want other rules applied to the new law, such as a limit on total guests per rental, or a background check requirement for anyone renting out a property.

Currently, the new law does include one stipulation regarding criminal activity. Convicted sex offenders will not be allowed to occupy vacation rental properties that are "within 1,400 feet" of schools, school bus stops, daycare or childcare facilities, parks, or playgrounds. However, at a recent City Commission meeting, local residents asked that commissioners go one step further. Specifically, residents want to bar sexual predators and other dangerous criminals from occupying any local vacation rental, regardless of proximity to schools or parks.

The City Commission has a tough task to deal with here, thanks to the time sensitive nature of getting the new law to a fully realized point. The commission passed the law on August 18th but wants to have it in effect by November 1st. Needless to say, that window doesn't give a lot of time for fixes and revisions.

The original goal was to have the law in place by the time Fort Lauderdale's tourist season rolls around. Indeed, the primary purpose of the new vacation rental rules is to cut down on the rowdy partying that tends to take place at those properties during tourist season. By limiting tenant numbers and imposing other regulations, the City Commission is hoping to keep out-of-town visitors from getting too out of control.

Still, locals seem to think that the new law doesn't go far enough in keeping Fort Lauderdale a safe, family-friendly place.Background checks for all visitors would help to keep known violent offenders, thieves, drug dealers, and other offenders out of the area during high-traffic times. Since partying is common for Fort Lauderdale tourists, particularly among those who rent out houses for a week or weekend, things can get fairly chaotic during tourist season. Background checks would hopefully reduce the likelihood of criminal activity playing out in the midst of that chaos.

Already, the new law will require people who rent out their homes to pay a significant fee, $750 initially and $500 for annual renewal. Money from those fees could help fund a more comprehensive background check policy for renters if the City Commission does decide to heed requests from local residents.
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