Opinion | Tony Jones: Good neighbor guidelines should apply to more than just short-term rentals

I just got back from summer vacation in Florida. My parents live in the panhandle and it was hot and crowded. Florida is of course a vacation magnet, with white sand beaches, warm aquamarine gulf waters, and Mickey Mouse. Tourism is a huge industry across that state and short-term-rentals are part of that economic ecosystem. 

Given that short-term rentals are a hot button issue here in Summit County, I did a bit of informal research into Florida’s governance of that industry. The conclusion of my unscientific analysis is that Florida’s regulation of this industry looks a lot like Summit County’s, replete with municipalities regulating parking, trash and noise.

Cities in Florida are allowed to make their own rules governing short-term rentals, just like in Colorado. One difference I found is that Florida law prohibits counties and municipalities from outlawing short-term rentals — an effort to preserve the property rights of homeowners. Presumably, a similar law in Colorado would be problematic to the caps and moratoriums that towns in Summit County and across the state have instituted. Interestingly, I also came across articles from last year relating to a bill that would centralize governance of short-term-rentals within Florida’s state government. From all appearances, it looked like it was an effort to preserve and/or standardize the right to use one’s property as one sees fit, but the bill did not pass.

While there, thanks to the marvels of the internet, I was also able to complete the online application for our own short-term rental in Dillon, ensuring that we are complying with Dillon regulations for the 10 or so times a year that we rent our condo out. With some new requirements in place, I must admit that it was more of a challenge than last year’s application, but that’s OK, I appreciate the opportunity to offset some costs while preserving most of the time at the condo for ourselves. 

However, there was one form that I was required to fill out that gave me pause. It’s the “Good Neighbor Guidelines” form and its purpose is to “educate Short-Term Rental (STR) owners and tenants/guests on the importance of being a good neighbor”. Seems reasonable, pick up your trash and your dog’s droppings, keep your property clean and presentable, that kind of thing. But it got me thinking about the applicability of such guidelines outside of the world of short-term rentals.

Short-term rental owners are incentivized by the prospect of rental income to do all the things the guidelines suggest. So financial incentives and pride in ownership go a long way to ensuring compliance with regulations and good neighborliness. 

But how does this apply to long-term rentals? Presumably, most long-term rental owners work to ensure that their properties are kept up and their tenants follow good neighbor guidelines. But my own experiences living near long-term rentals have not been great and include issues with unkempt lawns, untrimmed trees blocking public thoroughfares and garbage collection problems with associated vermin issues. I would guess that there are long-term rental units in Summit County where similar problems occur. Perhaps having long-term rental owners sign off on similar neighborliness guidelines and affidavits and ensuring they’re held accountable to those attestations should be considered as well.

And for that matter, how about homeowners who occupy their properties but don’t bother with the maintenance and neighborliness guidelines that short-term rental owners must testify to? I’m sure that some readers will agree with my observation that there are homeowners who do only the bare minimum, sometimes less than that, when it comes to the care and presentability of their properties. 

The point is that these good neighbor guidelines are something that we should all adhere to, regardless of whether we are renter or owner, and for owners, whether our properties are rented short term, long term, or are owner occupied. Requiring only short-term rental owners to testify to these guidelines smacks of the regulatory bias against this industry. And while it’s important that short-term rental owners follow these guidelines and other regulations in the town they’re in, it’s equally important that all homeowners and renters do their part to be good neighbors and ensure our homes and neighborhoods are something we can be proud of. 

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