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Key West Time
October 16th
10:46pm · 82°F
 
 

Choosing a Licensed Vacation Rental: Why It's Wise to Rent from an Established Local Rental Agency

This blog is an excerpt from article I published recently on ezinearticles.com.  While it's geared toward vacationers who rent vacation rentals for their accommodations, it is also important information for property owners to consider. Within the last few months in Key West, there have been an unfortunate rash of cases where people have rented properties off craigslist that have turned out to be scams,  and mega sites such as vrbo and homeaway that have turned out to be illegal.  Consequences have been disappointing and expensive lessons for all involved.  The message of this article is to stress the importance of working with a locally operated vacation rental agency that knows the properties they are offering for rent and is equally as familiar with local ordinances, rules, and regulations, and who can provide guests with detailed information about the neighborhood and community they are renting in.

Vacation rentals offer a great value to travelers and have become increasingly popular as travel accommodations. This trend has been driven by the plethora of unsold homes and condos in this economy coupled with the rapid proliferation of mega vacation rental websites such as HomeAway, where property owners can advertise and rent out their own houses.

Some mega vacation rental website ad campaigns poke fun at hotel rooms and point out the many advantages of renting private houses that include more space and privacy, a better overall value and a chance to experience living in a local neighborhood. Plus, property owners can help offset the expenses of their property by renting their properties to vacationers. These advantages are true, but there are some important 'buyer beware' issues pertaining to local licensing and rental restrictions that have been overlooked in vacation rental news. Bottom line is that it’s wise to rent a vacation rental property from an established locally operated rental agency with representatives that know the local regulations and are familiar with the local residential neighborhoods. Let’s take a brief look at why and consider these issues.

Many communities throughout the U.S. and in Europe have very specific licensing restrictions and laws regarding offering a private home as vacation lodging. If a property is not properly licensed to rent 'short-term' as a vacation rental, or is located in a neighborhood where vacation lodging is not allowed, it can actually be illegal to rent the property on a short-term basis.

There are some incidents where property owners who advertise their homes as vacation rentals on mega websites such as HomeAway and craigslist, have been unaware of or chosen to ignore local laws restricting vacation rentals. They advertise and rent their properties anyway, hoping to go undetected. Some tourist communities even have code enforcement departments where officers look for violations by reviewing websites and in extreme cases, where neighbors have complained, they actually visit occupied houses to determine if an illegal rental is in process. Unfortunately, in a situation like this, an unknowing tourist who has rented the illegal house, can become a third party to unknowingly breaking the law. There have been instances where guests have actually been evicted from the property they rented in the middle of their vacation, and property owners have wound up in court for violating regulations that result in  hefty fines.

At first it may seem unbelievable or unreasonable that there are local ordinances and laws that restrict property owners from offering their houses to vacationers. Some insist restrictions are a violation of property rights.  However, the general intent is to protect and preserve residential neighborhoods where full time residents have been disturbed by a 'revolving door' of renters who show up in their neighborhood for short periods of time to party.   In many communities, such as  Key West, Florida, legal vacation rental properties must have a short-term rental license issued from the City.

Another issue to keep in mind is that in most communities, property owners or agencies who rent private properties as vacation rentals are obligated to collect a state sales tax and often a county bed tax from the guests just as hotel / motel lodging is required to do. If this tax is not collected from the guests renting a property, it is a good indication that the property is being rented illegally.

With these caveats in mind, private vacation rentals are still an excellent value for tourists. Families can stay together and enjoy more space, more privacy, and often times luxury amenities such as swimming pools and Jacuzzi tubs.  Money saved by renting a house can be spent in the community on dining out and fun activities, and that becomes an economic boost for the communities.

One way for travelers to be sure their investment is protected is to rent from an established licensed and locally operated vacation rental business with representatives who know the community and the local regulations and laws.


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