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West Palm Beach commissioners tackle spike in bad temporary neighbors

'It’s parking issues. Sound issues. Trash issues and people just really abusing the neighborhoods.'
Posted at 6:29 PM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-29 18:29:00-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Vacation rentals like Airbnbs bring in a lot of revenue, tourism and they also improve the value of homes. But there are reports of a spike in bad temporary neighbors and now West Palm Beach commissioners are working to address them.

Janice Wight owns a luxury vacation rental home named The Chardonnay Resort that she claims hasn’t seen much down time.

“Before the pandemic I had a lot of guests coming from England, Paris, Italy, Germany - everywhere around the world,” said Wight. “Now most of my guests come from around the United States to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries - even visiting families they have in the county.”

And Wight can count the number of bad renters on one hand.

”Owners need to look for red flags. Do their homework really,” Wight said. “It’s your business, your property so you have to be responsible as well.”

And in West Palm Beach's historic neighborhoods east of I-95 there’s a microscope on property owners. Regulation of vacation rentals was a topic of discussion during a Sept. 28 city commission work session. Commissioners discussed concerns they're hearing from neighbors.

”There have been incidences where there’s fighting on lawns. There’s been incidences where neighborhood kids have found people passed out from overdoses in their front yard,” said Christy Fox, West Palm Beach District 3 commissioner.

”It’s parking issues. Sound issues. Trash issues and people just really abusing the neighborhoods,” added Christina Lambert, West Palm Beach District 5 commissioner. “So what we’re doing right now is looking at the rules that we already have on the books and seeing in what ways can we help make sure that they’re being followed and that the city is enforcing those policies.”

Under Florida law, city and town governments can’t prohibit vacation rentals or the duration of the rental. Commissioners are considering what they can do legally. Like requiring people to register, regulating the number of occupants in a bedroom and regulating overnight parking. Part of an ordinance adopted by the Village of Wellington within the last month.

“You can’t have nuisance activity at the properties like drug sales, prostitution, gang-related activity and other nuisance activity. So I think that if we created regulations that prohibit nuisance activity it shouldn’t conflict with the state statute,” said Kimberly Rothenburg, City of West Palm Beach attorney.

Mayor Keith James proposes compiling a list of ordinances and resolutions already on the books to be shared with property owners on how to next move forward.