INDIAN ROCK BEACH, Fla. — A battle is brewing in neighborhoods across Florida as homeowners and vacationers clash on quiet neighborhood streets.
Now, one Pinellas County community is using a loophole to crack down on rowdy renters and it could inspire changes across the state.
Flash Gordon Williamson lives next to a vacation rental in Indian Rocks Beach. “Every time a new group pulls into the driveway next door, I know we’re being invaded," Williamson explained. “It’s upsetting us every day of our lives which is really not a way to live.”
Williamson says he's watched his tranquil Indian Rocks Beach neighborhood turn to chaos as up to 20 people check into a 1,500 square foot home. While the vacationers party, he feels like a prisoner in his own home. “We feel like we are being run out of our house. That’s really frustrating!”
Now, leaders in Indian Rocks Beach leaders have a new plan. They're working to pass a new ordinance that will require any homes posted on sites like Airbnb, VRBO or Home Away to get a business license. Then, they can hold those homeowners renting out their homes accountable for issues with trash, parking, and noise.
Florida law prohibits cities from cracking down on short-term vacation rentals, including any rules about the length of stay or a maximum number of guests. Yet, Indian Rocks Beach leaders say it doesn't keep cities from forcing homeowners to get licensed before renting their property.
Bill Thomas worries the new rules will punish responsible homeowners, like himself. “This is a great way for people to manage and keep their homes and pay their mortgages,” Thomas explained.
Thomas is retired and rents two bedrooms in his home— as a way to make ends meet. “I only rent the rooms in my home when I am home to accompany the renters. I feel like maybe 2 percent of people abuse the short term rentals and 98 percent are not. Now I'm about to suffer alongside the 98 percent who aren't doing anything wrong,” Thomas added.
Pinellas County beach community leaders, including those from Indian Rocks Beach, are at the Florida League of Cities meeting this week. They're brainstorming ways to take back their quiet neighborhoods alongside other local mayors and city council members.
Williamson is hopeful something will be done to curb the problem before he and his wife are forced out of the home and neighborhood they adore.
“I'm furious and I just need it to end," he added with a deep sigh.