SEMINOLE, Fla. — Some Pinellas County residents are concerned and frustrated about the growing number of short-term vacation rentals not only in beach towns but also in unincorporated areas. 

What You Need To Know

  • Regulations on short-term rental properties have become a contentious topic among residents and lawmakers alike 

  • Some residents in unincorporated Seminole are frustrated about the growing number of short-term rentals in the area

  • State law restricts what local governments can do to regulate short-term rentals

To Joe Russo, his neighborhood in unincorporated Seminole is a slice of paradise.

Russo wants to keep his neighborhood peaceful and is concerned about the number of homes turning into short-term rentals.

“I like the proximity to the water. I like how quiet it is back here,” he said.

Russo has lived in his home for nearly 25 years. Two years ago, the house across the street became a short-term rental, and with it came disruption. In addition to late-night noise and overcrowding, Russo said his mailbox has been hit and needed to be repaired more than a dozen times.

“It’s never-ending,” he said. “People are here to party. They’ve got this great opportunity to get a house with no rules and they want to get their money’s worth.”

Luis Bedoya is a realtor in Pinellas County and a short-term rental owner. Bedoya said more people are buying rental properties in unincorporated areas because there are minimal regulations. 

“I know this county is all about peace and quiet and being able to enjoy our beaches — and I get it,” he said. “Within the last two years, we’ve had such an increase of short-term rentals, especially in our hometowns and neighborhoods, not just the beach.”

Bedoya said for many home buyers, owning a short-term rental property is an ideal way to have a vacation home while earning passive income. In his rental property, Bedoya has cameras, noise alarms and rules posted on his property to keep guests in check, and he advises his clients to do the same. 

“We don’t want to disturb the peace in our neighborhoods,” Bedoya said. “We don’t want to bring parties, we don’t want to upset people in our communities. I would say, if you’re buying a home here and renting it as an Airbnb, you should have a manager.”

Each municipality has its own regulations for short-term rentals. An unincorporated area, like Russo’s neighborhood, adheres to county rules.

In Pinellas County, short-term rental properties are permitted in all residential districts, according to a county spokesperson. In order for a single-family home to be used as a short-term rental, owners must complete a zoning clearance form and agree to follow standards, including:

  • Quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m.
  • Minimum of one off-street parking space for every three occupants
  • A maximum occupancy of no more than two people per bedroom plus two people in one common area, not to exceed more than 10 people in total

Code enforcement is responsible for investigating noise violations and other complaints. This year, the division responded to 40 cases, according to the county.

State law restricts what local governments can do to regulate the number of short-term rentals and the duration of stays. Ultimately, Russo and his neighbors would like to see stricter regulations, including a minimum stay of 30 to 60 days, so their quiet neighborhood doesn’t feel like a resort town.

“We don’t have anything against the folks that are coming,” he said. “People are people. We want them to have a good time, but don’t come in my neighborhood. Go out to the beach, go to Disney. There are a lot of places you can go to, a lot of beautiful hotels in the area.”

Florida lawmakers have attempted to update regulations on short-term vacation rentals multiple times in recent years, including a failed attempt during the last legislative session. On Wednesday, Senator Nick DiCeglie, a Pinellas County Republican, introduced a new bill that would revise the current requirements for short-term rental properties. 

A companion bill has not yet been filed in the House. The next legislative session opens on Jan. 9.