ST. PETE BEACH – City officials are looking at crafting a chronic nuisance ordinance similar to the successful law put in place two years ago in Madeira Beach.
Although the range and design of a proposed ordinance has yet to be determined, St. Pete Beach Commissioners made it clear during a June 24 workshop with Madeira Beach community deputies and Madeira Beach City Manager Shane Crawford that they want something that targets not only drunk and disorderly renters, but also violations of the city’s short-term rental regulation and unsightly abandoned property.
The Madeira Beach ordinance is a “three strikes and you’re out” law. Basically, if a rental property has a history of police calls for a variety of violations, the owner of the property can be forced to appear before a city magistrate and face fines. Most landlords have cooperated, said Crawford, and generally evict tenants who are chronic neighborhood problems.
“We’re talking about a couple of different animals,” said Crawford. “First was the chronic nuisance ordinance. Then we put in a rental inspection ordinance.”
Under terms of the rental inspection law, Madeira inspects all rental properties every other year for safety violations.
“Now this short-term rental thing has evolved and we probably will include that in our chronic nuisance ordinance, probably in the next 90 days,” Crawford said.
Madeira has R-1 and R-2 residential zones that allow 3-month and 6-month rentals, respectively. It doesn’t address commercial or condo sites. Future amendments to the ordinance will give deputies more ability to curb short-term rental violations, which is an issue in St. Pete Beach.
“Our amendments to our regulations go back to 2006,” said Crawford. “So if a property was being rented as a short-term rental in 2006, it is grandfathered in. So say you purchased the property in 2009 but in 2006 it was a short-term rental, it’s still a short-term rental.”
Currently in St. Pete Beach, property can be rented three times per year on a short-term basis, from three to 30 days.
“When we put this into play, I expected a lot of complaint phone calls,” Crawford said. “We got a lot of phone calls but they were just trying to figure out what’s going on. Most of them can comply but just like with anything else, you’re going to have some people that are going to try to buck the system and try to get away with murder. But for the most part, we have very responsible people that want to do the right thing.”
Crawford said educating landlords on the ordinance played a key role.
The biggest issue is education,” he said. “Initally they (landords) just don’t get it … three strikes and you’re out. So we brought them in for a seven-hour symposium, plus these guys (deputies) go door to door.”
The results have been good. Not one case has resulted in a landlord being brought before a magistrate. Situations are settled before that stage.
Crawford said it’s not code enforcement. It’s code compliance.
“If we’ve got a problem, we ask how are we going to solve it?,” he said. “That approach goes a long, long way with 99 percent of the cases.”
Madeira Beach community deputy John Luckett said the ordinance made his job as a problem solver much easier.
“We had several calls at one location for drunk and disorderly conduct,” Luckett said. “What this ordinance enabled us to do was allow me to go in there and problem solve. I was able to push the owner of that property and say ‘we’re at a point now where we can take you before a magistrate and we don’t really want to go that way.’ After a couple of phone discussions, he said ‘I get it, I understand it.’ He went ahead and evicted his tenant. So we had a quicker resolve than having to drag it on for months and months (before a magistrate).”
Luckett said without the ordinance, deputies would not have the ability to do anything.
“Without it, he (landlord) could say ‘so what, they’re paying me every month,’” said Luckett. “But when he was faced with possible fines against him, it was easier for him to say let’s get somebody else in there and not have these kinds of problems. It’s fines vs. getting a better tenant in there.”