Q: Why can't Collier County property owners rent out "guest houses" or "mother-in-law" units even though legally permitted when built? It is legal in Lee County! People are doing it everywhere anyway, which is no surprise given the economy, but they will only take cash.
— Cindy Buckley, Naples
A: UPDATE: It is a violation of Collier County Land Development Code for homeowners to rent rooms, guest houses or mother-in-law suites.
Of course, new living units added on to an existing home must be developed with the proper permits and meet local building codes. The new square footage also is subject to thousands of dollars in local impact fees and will increase the property tax value.
It also is the responsibility for Collier landlords and rental agents to collect a 4 percent tourist development tax, sometimes referred to as a "bed tax," on all accommodations that are rented for six months or less. Every owner of a short-term accommodation — whether it is in a resort hotel, motel, condominium, apartment complex, mobile home park, rooming house, beach cottage or a single-family dwelling – is required to register with the county tax collector.
Of course, the state of Florida also levies a 6 percent sales tax on this rental income, which also would be subject to federal income tax.
So, are homeowners accepting only cash for rentals to avoid bounced checks from renters or because the home is in foreclosure, or are they attempting to fly under the radar without a paper trail to skirt payment of additional fees or taxes?
Nonpayment of the bed tax is not widespread in Collier County, said Rob Stoneburner, Collier's deputy tax collector, but when it occurs the office has ways to find out and can put a lien on the property.
"There are many ways we find out that somebody's renting property. If they lie to us, they have to lie to the feds and they have to lie to the state," Stoneburner said.
Landlords and homeowners should realize that the bed tax collected from the renter is not a tax on them nor the rental property, he said.
"This is not money that comes out of your pocket. It is over and above the rent. You were just collecting it," Stoneburner said. "It never was your money. You were holding on to it."
All bed tax funds collected comprise the budget for the county's Tourist Development Council, which uses it for beach renourishment, tourism advertising and other projects to attract tourists to the area. During the last fiscal year, the TDC received nearly $14.9 million in bed tax funds collected from area hotels, condos and homes.
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Golden Gate traffic light
Q: There is a new traffic light at Golden Gate Boulevard and 23rd with a sign that says "temporary traffic light coming soon." There does not appear to be a reason for the light to be there. Can you find out why it's being placed there?
— John Reynolds, Naples
A: A temporary traffic signal has been installed at that Golden Gate Boulevard intersection to assist with the traffic that will be detoured to 23rd Street Southwest for about eight or nine months while a new bridge is under construction in Golden Gate Estates, said Connie Deane, a spokeswoman for the Collier County Growth Management Division.
"This is part of the plans for a temporary detour while the bridge on White Boulevard across the Golden Gate Main Canal is demolished and rebuilt," Deane said.
The temporary traffic signal will be activated once a temporary bridge is in place.
"At this point, we are expecting the detour to start some time after mid-December, perhaps closer to the end of December," Deane said. "The contractor is in the process of installing the temporary bridge now."
In addition to the temporary traffic light, Estates motorists will notice pavement markings, temporary speed humps and signage planned to assist travel in this area. The speed limit in the bridge work area will be 30 mph, according to a county news release.
At their Sept. 11 meeting, Collier commissioners approved a $1.9 million contract with Zep Construction Inc. for construction of the new bridge.
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"In the Know" is published Mondays and Wednesdays in the Naples Daily News, but because Tim Aten is on vacation this week, the column will not be published this Wednesday nor next Monday.
Find a complete archive of "In the Know" columns at naplesnews.com/intheknow.