A four-bed, three-bath home that sleeps 12 on Lakeside Harbour is available for rent. It's within walking distance from the Intracoastal Waterway and has a heated pool. Its listing on the website VacationRentals.com says the home costs up to $650 per night, $4,500 per week and $9,500 per month.
There's plenty of others just like it – houses, condos, apartments – in Boynton Beach. They're all for rent on websites like Airbnb.com, Flipkey.com, Rentalhomes.com and even Craigslist.
But the listings haven't only attracted the eyes of prospective renters. They've caught the attention of the city, too – and the city has concerns about their effects on neighborhoods and whether their owners are paying the proper taxes.
"We know it's a problem in other cities," said Nancy Byrne, the city's director of development. "It doesn't seem there's a ton of that in Boynton, but because we don't have regulations to permit these to occur right now, it's a problem for us."
Byrne plans to embark on a fact-finding mission.
Vacation rentals are more often these days being advertised on Internet sites than through actual Realtors, creating concern for both local and state officials. Are the homes being regulated? What kind of impact, if any, do these homes have on their neighbors? What if the home doesn't look anything like what it was advertised as?
And is anyone paying the required bed or business taxes?
"It may be that people just aren't aware. They think it's a great idea. They need a little extra income," Byrne said. "But it's got regulations governing it from the state level, and what we're trying to determine is: Do we want to accommodate it on a local level? And if we do, how to minimize the impacts?"
Boynton Beach is just the latest municipality in Palm Beach County to show concern. Lake Worth and West Palm Beach have addressed these types of properties within the past few years and most recently, so has the county government itself.
The Palm Beach County Tax Collector in January filed suit against four online travel companies – Air BNB, HomeAway, TripAdvisor and CouchSurfing International – alleging they haven't paid the county the daily 5-cents-per-dollar bed tax from the homes booked through the sites. The tax comes from hotel stays and vacation rentals of six months or less, and proceeds from it are spent on tourism marketing.
The tax collector also has its staff hitting the streets, looking for properties that may not be following regulations. The office has collected $643,918.75 of bed taxes from Oct. 1, 2013, through May 31 on just Boynton Beach properties.
But current Boynton Beach regulations don't permit vacation rentals. The city allows a property to be rented out, but the minimum amount of time for that is 30 days and the renter must be on at least a 30-day lease and show intent to live in the property long term.
The owner of each single-family property that is rented out must pay business taxes to the city. The minimum payment per residence is $35.28 per year.
Byrne mentioned the topic at a recent city strategic plan meeting and said it's becoming "more and more popular." However, the city commissioners during a prioritization exercise didn't vote for the topic as a top contender, which Byrne says forces her to change her course of action.
Now she plans to discuss these properties with code enforcement and hopes to come up with a plan to deal with them. That includes looking at the budget to see if money can be spent on a more "intense" business inspection process, she said.
Grace Cerrone, who lives out of the state and works in Washington, D.C., has been renting out her late parents' Boynton Beach home off and on since 2012, sometimes for months at a time and sometimes for weeks at a time. She's used some of the travel sites to advertise the lakefront home near Congress Avenue, but now prefers Craigslist.
She said she knows vacation rentals have become a controversial topic, but she wants the city to do its best to make it a win-win situation for everyone.
"People have been renting in South Florida since the beginning of time. This isn't new. Air BNB came in and started to change the market. Internet has given more access to these properties so they're not going through real estate agents the way they used to," Cerrone said. "I think that homeowners do want to comply, but they don't know how to and they don't know the laws."