Complaints about the behavior of renters have increased dramatically in the past few months, maybe in part because Marco Island is increasingly attractive as an escape from grim conditions elsewhere. We on the City Council have heard from scores of permanent residents whose peaceful enjoyment of their homes has been compromised or ruined, and these citizens are demanding solutions. I thought it might be helpful to lay out the facts and some options.
Most important of all is to note that we do not have the authority to limit the duration or the frequency of single-family home rentals on Marco Island. The state legislature took away that right from local governments in 2011, although cities that had previously enacted restrictions, such as the City of Naples, were allowed to keep them. Condos are able to regulate pretty much whatever the board wishes to regulate, as are the Hideaway Beach and Key Marco communities.
What we can do, however, is to enforce existing regulations involving noise, trash and parking. Our city manager, police chief, and code enforcement officers have substantially stepped up their attention in these areas—on noise, setting standards is difficult. Should we use decibel meters? However, enforcement requires that an officer actually hear what the complaining homeowner hears. On trash, we can write tickets for bins put out early or not retrieved, but then of course we will snare the homeowner who just forgot. On parking, we can—and do—patrol at night and ticket vehicles parked in the swales or blocking sidewalks after 2 AM, but we have an ordinance which allows this between Nov. 15 and Jan. 15 as an accommodation to family gatherings during the holidays.
Part of the problem is that the wheels of justice turn slowly. All cases must come before a magistrate, and currently, we only have one magistrate for our city. She holds sessions monthly, but several have been canceled because of COVID, and most recently the hurricane threat. We have the authority to hire two additional magistrates, which I have advocated.
Under the leadership of our new assistant city manager, we have reached out to the large rental organizations such as Airbnb to request that they educate owners and renters about the laws on Marco Island. We have encouraged the printing of rules and posting them inside rented homes.
I am hopeful that the increased efforts will get the job done, but I am prepared to discuss further steps if necessary. I would encourage all our citizens to write or call your city councilors—including those running for election in November—to demand strict enforcement of existing ordinances, even if it is difficult to do so.
Larry Honig, Member
Marco Island City Council