MAILBAG: Batte misses the point, and other rental ordinance viewpoints
Batte misses the point
Councilor Joe Batte's commentary, while passionate and eloquent, misses the point on many fronts. I am responding not so much to him as to all of city council. Obviously councilor Batte is in the majority, and I suspect his feelings about the matter reflect the majority of council as well. Here's where Batte is just plain wrong:
First, the rental ordinance recall petition is not "government by special interests," as he charges. It is an attempt by the people to take back the government that has been hijacked by those who have hidden agendas that go way beyond "quality of life." Marco Island's city charter provides the mechanism, and it's not easy, for citizens to say "stop!" Even councilor Ken Honecker said in a recent council meeting that he wanted a referendum to "hear what the people have to say."
What the people have to say is that if you want to control the noise and the other problems with renters, then control that! There is no need for a bureaucratic overlay. The problem is the city manager, and the chief of police, who in the past have not taken an aggressive stand on controlling noise. The rental ordinance does nothing to give them this authority, so why is it necessary? It's the noise ordinance, which is not the subject of a recall petition, that gives the city the authority it needs.
As to the citizens involved, there are far more than Realtors and the chamber of commerce, as everyone will see shortly when the required number of signatures, over 1,200, are obtained and certified. The island as a whole is hopping mad that city council settled on a rental ordinance, and then upended it when some councilors decided that "everyone" had to be regulated. This is like setting out to stop speeding on Marco Island, and then enacting an ordinance requiring annual car inspections even if you only ride a bike.
Second, Batte uses words like "despicable" to ask "since when do duly elected officials of the city council" etc. Well, to councilor Batte I would say, with respect, "since" those duly elected officials decided to address problems not in the jurisdiction of local government, that's when. "Since" those officials ignored the hundreds of requests. "Since" those officials changed their mind after the decision had been made and everyone had left town.
Third, to councilor Batte, it's not a "phony" attempt, as you called it. It's a serious redress of government overreach. Councilor Batte asks what will happen if the ordinance recall effort is successful. What should happen is that city council gets serious about solving the problems created by problem renters and quits whining when their almighty "legislation" is too much for the citizens of Marco Island to stomach.
Enforce laws we have
I recently read a letter from Mr. Batte in the newspaper. I found a few issues that were brought up that I felt were inaccurate. If renters don't pay their fines there is plenty that can be done by the city to collect. Not only that, the fines can be substantial. You have to make it very expensive for a renter to ignore a fine.
In Florida, you may be arrested for disorderly conduct if you make unreasonable or offensive noise or engage in threatening or violent behavior—such as fighting or brawling— in a public place. Inciting or participating in disorderly conduct with two or more other people is classified as a riot, and is also illegal in Florida.
In Florida, disorderly conduct is a second degree misdemeanor. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, and up to one year in jail, or both. More violent or disruptive disorderly conduct (like fighting in public) is a first degree misdemeanor, and penalties include a fine of up to $500, up to 60 days in jail, or both.
Rioting is a third degree felony, and penalties include a fine of up to $5,000, up to five years in prison, or both. Three people constitutes a riot in Florida. The right to collect fines and court cost is a civil action. If the renter doesn't pay, Florida/Marco can seek a judgment and collect like any other creditor.
A ticket with the penalties if not paid spelled out on the citation should make renters think twice about not paying a fine.
A well-worded notice in a rental that spells out the rules, the fines and the action that will be taken if not paid goes a long way to keep renters in line. This could be a requirement for homes/condos that are rented. The key to success is the follow through.
Why don't we try this approach instead of jumping to more restrictive and stringent ordinances which by its nature pits residents against owners of rental property? Insinuating that owners of rental properties are somehow villains only interested in the $$$ that they get for rental is not fair to most of us?
We as owners want respectful renters. We as owners want to be good neighbors. We as owners cannot control every aspect of a rental. We as owners also understand that there will be some owners that do not care and we understand your concerns. However, taking someone's ability to rent away because they may have had some bad luck with renters is not reasonable and will do nothing to stem the tide of behavior that you are trying to control.
Renters who have no culpability in being disorderly will just move on to a different unsuspecting owner's property the following year when they can no longer rent with the current owners. Enforce the current laws, fine them and go after them if they don't pay the fine. I doubt they will be back to Marco ever if we hold them responsible for their actions and if they have to pay court fees as well as a stiff fine. Marco will certainly lose it's luster for these types of renters.
I have been renting our two condos for over 20 years without issue. I would be very upset and financially strapped if I could not rent my condo if for some reason I had some bad luck and had a couple of disruptive renters.
You see, contrary to your position, no matter how good an owner I am, I am not my renter's keeper and have no legal right to be their keeper. Only the city has a legal right to hold renters accountable.
The fact that the city has not done that is not the fault of the owners of rental property, but the failure of the city to enforce its laws and to pursue those who do not pay their fines. Let's punish the right people. Let's just enforce the laws we already have.
Don't include condos
We have been a condo owner for 15 years at The Village at Smokehouse Bay and three years at the Bayside Club.
Our condo rules and board control and address any problems with renters. In addition they have background checks prior to renting. I am a taxpayer on two properties. I do not need an ordinance to ensure that we are renting our properties to responsible tenants. We are strongly against condos being included in the rental ordinance.
William and Joan Brannick