Friday, March 21, 2008

RENTAL RIGHTS UPHELD, Municipality Liable For Unduly Restrictive Zoning Determination

Property Rights v. Municipal Abuse of Power

VENICE, FL - This week, Florida's 12th Judicial Circuit Court  issued an important pro-property rights ruling overturning a municipal zoning determination that limited short-term rentals to three times per year. Judge Robert Bennett's order in Stephen E. Milo, et al. vs. the City of Venice, stated the City's decision was "clearly erroneous."

In August 2006, the City's planning and zoning director declared that houses in single-family residential neighborhoods could not be rented for 30 days or less in excess of three times per year. Property owner Stephen Milo joined with a group of owners in appealing this decision to the Planning & Zoning Commission. The P&Z Commission sided unanimously with Milo. In December 2007, the City Council overturned the P&Z and supported the zoning director's decision to limit rentals. With deplorable arrogance, Mayor Ed Martin remarked, "The owners can accept that fact or go to court." Which the owners did.

Judge Bennett's ruling invalidates the City Council decision and clarifies that temporary residences are expressly allowed under City Code, without limitations.

This ruling has statewide implications as it sends a clear message to municipalities that they will be liable to property owners for unduly restrictive ordinances that prevent them from pursuing their constitutionally-guaranteed rights of deriving income from their property investment. This issue has become more important now than ever in light of Florida's current property tax and insurance crises ; denying non-homestead property owners the ability to derive income from their property may effectively force some owners to relinquish ownership.  Regulations which diminish usage rights and openly discourage property investment are not healthy for property rights or Florida's economy.

Municipalities across Florida may now be forced to reconsider their policies and could be liable for financial damages inflicted by ordinances restricting short term rentals. The ruling may impact municipalities inappropriately limiting rentals on the basis of duration or frequency of use and may apply to the enactment of rental restrictions where owners are not compensated for the impact of these regulations.

"This is a clear victory for property owners," said Valerie Fernandez, managing attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, a non-profit, public-interest legal organization which assisted in the case. "The court ruled unambiguously that, when governments seek to take property or even a portion of someone's property, the owners must be justly compensated under the 5th Amendment."

Read the Coalition for Property Rights Article

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