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Local Residents Battle Illegal Short-Term Rentals in St. Petersburg neighborhood Twelve Oaks

In a quiet corner of St. Petersburg, one woman’s crusade against illegal short-term rentals has sparked a regional conversation. What began as a local effort has rippled across Tampa Bay, shedding light on a growing issue that affects communities far and wide.

Hillsborough County, adjacent to St. Pete, permits short-term rentals but with a stipulation: they must be rented for a minimum of seven days. However, enforcement of this regulation has proven challenging, as revealed by the frustrations of a neighborhood grappling with non-compliant rentals.

Residents, such as Greg Bowles, have seen their serene communities transformed by the influx of short-term renters. Bowles, a longtime resident, describes his neighborhood as quiet and quaint, yet now finds his peace disturbed by frequent noise and disturbances.

The problem extends beyond mere inconvenience. Illegal short-term rentals not only violate county codes but also breach deed restrictions by converting single-family homes into makeshift apartment units. Despite numerous complaints and efforts to engage authorities, enforcement remains elusive due to the difficulty in distinguishing between genuine residents and transient guests.

Code enforcement’s reactive approach, triggered by complaints, has yielded mixed results. While citations are issued in about half of cases, persistent violators face fines that can range from nominal sums to hefty penalties.

Complicating matters further, neighborhoods like Bowles’ lack homeowners’ associations (HOAs), leaving enforcement of deed restrictions to individual residents. This has prompted some, including Bowles, to consider legal action as a last resort to preserve the integrity of their communities.

In 2023 alone, Hillsborough County received 50 complaints regarding illegal short-term rentals, a number that has already reached 34 complaints this year, signaling a concerning trend that shows no signs of abating.

As residents band together to safeguard the sanctity of their neighborhoods, the battle against illegal short-term rentals serves as a reminder of the importance of community vigilance and the need for robust enforcement measures to preserve the fabric of residential areas across Tampa Bay.

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