Titusville won’t fine couple for renting out rooms in their home on Airbnb


J.D. Daniel argues that renting out rooms on Airbnb didn’t violate city code at a June 10 hearing. (Photo: Bailey Gallion)

A Titusville man was found not in violation of city code on Monday for renting out bedrooms in his home on Airbnb.

The decision represents a potentially small and impermanent victory for residents who are caught between state rules and municipal ordinances when they seek to make some extra cash by renting out space in their home.

State laws allow Airbnb and similar companies to operate, but ordinances in some municipalities restrict the length for which hosts can rent out property.

The city sought to charge J.D. Daniel $134.21 in administrative costs after he and his wife, Pascale, rented three bedrooms in their home on Airbnb.

But the Titusville municipal code board found he didn’t violate a city ordinance that imposes a minimum lease length of 3 months for rentals of single-family dwellings because he only rented some rooms in his house and not the whole house.

While Assistant City Attorney Chelsea Farrell said the decision does not set a precedent allowing short-term rentals of single rooms in houses, such a change would open the door for many landlords to rent rooms short-term in residential areas where that activity previously has been banned.ADVERTISING

An Airbnb representative didn’t have an exact number for rentals in Titusville, but a search on the website for nearby rentals returned several pages of results. Many of those listings advertised single rooms.

The board may revisit the discussion as new cases surface. For now, the decision only finds Daniel was not in violation of city code. It also represents some hope for landlords who wish to rent out rooms in their homes to short-term lodgers.

Titusville is one of many Florida cities with ordinances that limit short-term rentals in residential areas. Those ordinances must predate 2011 legislation by the state that limits local government’s ability to place restrictions on short term rentals.

Cities that keep their ordinances argue short-term rentals bring disruption with guests partying loudly, parking in the street or mistakenly knocking on doors near the rentals.

Farrell said the city currently doesn’t have any intention to change the wording of its ordinance. To do so would revoke the grandfathered status of the ordinance and remove the city’s ability to regulate short-term rentals.

The board’s hour-long debate of Daniel’s case centered around the definition of “dwelling” under Titusville code. Daniel successfully argued that by renting out three rooms in his home, he wasn’t renting a dwelling.

Farrell argued the ordinance was designed in 2007 to limit all short-term rentals, including rentals of rooms.

The board was split two to two in its vote. New board member Larry Edwards broke the tie after he was sworn in during a recess.

Gina Beckles, who voted Daniel was in violation, said she wouldn’t want short term rentals in her own neighborhood.

“I’m not here to nitpick the semantics and split words … A residential neighborhood is not a commercial entity,” she said.

“If your neighbor rented out his garage to fix cars and said he wasn’t renting the whole dwelling, just the garage, would that be an issue?”

Daniel and his wife started renting to make extra money, and they rented three bedrooms in their home for a total of 38 nights. He said his guests, who he and his wife always supervised, parked in his driveway and remained quiet.

Daniel said the city should “correct its focus” to weeding out landlords who rent entire homes and do not supervise their guests.

“Homeowners who are there on the premises with their guests and responsibly monitoring them are not the problem here,” Daniel said. “The greedy real estate speculators who rent out entire houses in absentia are the real problem.”