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Affordable rental apartments hard to find for travel nurses in Palm Beach County

Seasonal prices increase rentals by several hundred dollars
Posted at 5:23 PM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-07 18:52:02-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Local hospitals are temporarily hiring nurses from outside Florida and other parts of the state to fill a void caused by COVDI-19.

But they could be facing an obstacle to bring them to Palm Beach County.

Traveling nurses are finding that they are needed at our local hospitals, but when it comes to looking for a place to live, Palm Beach County’s seasonal prices may drive them away.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Franchesca Tan of Orlando knew her current calling was to be a traveling nurse.

"The usual nurses in the hospital, like ICU nurses, and the usual staff are being put in the COVID unit. That’s why they are asking for travel nurses to come fill up the other positions," said Tan.

She's eager to work where the most help is needed, which frequently has been South Florida.

Traveling nurse contracts are usually 90-day contracts. The problem is finding a three-month rental they can afford.

Betty Lou Roe, real estate agent
Real estate agent Betty Lou Roe says travel nurses may be in Palm Beach County for only three months, but they are still under the rules of the county's bed tax.

"Most places, they have to be within 30 minutes driving to whatever hospital they are going to," said real estate agent Betty Lou Roe. "They have to come up with all the funds -- first, last [month's rent], security [deposit], the three months. If they have a pet, $250, possibly non-refundable, and then our bed tax."

Roe is currently helping seven traveling nurses find short-term rentals in Palm Beach County. She said usually they find a listing they can afford, but seasonal prices bump them up several hundred dollars.

"It’s just going up and up, and it’s like, 'OK, I don’t think I can afford this,'" said Tan.

According to Florida statute, every person who rents or leases for six months or less is subject to taxation. The county says the funds are used to pay debt service on specific bonds, and waiving the bed tax for any specific profession "raises the question of why one or some but not others."

"In St. Pete, what I saw is that the landlords are giving like discounts for travel nurses, and that helped me actually a lot," Tan said.

Tan was able to find a place in Palm Beach County after moving into an Airbnb in the meantime. She’s excited to help out at a local hospital but may have to leave after her contract is up.

"Even though the hospital will pay you more down in the south, it will end up that you will make a lot less because of all of the expenses, so it’s like I would rather just stay up north or taking a different assignment somewhere else," Tan said.