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Fernandina Beach Short-Term Rental Regulation: A Guide For Airbnb Hosts

Fernandina Beach, Florida

What are Short-Term Rental (Airbnb, VRBO) Regulations in Fernandina Beach, Florida?

Fernandina Beach, a charming coastal city on Amelia Island in Nassau County, Florida, has seen a surge in short-term rentals through platforms like Airbnb and VRBO in recent years. The city has implemented specific regulations for these rentals to balance the needs of property owners, visitors, and long-term residents.

Starting a Short-Term Rental Business in Fernandina Beach

To operate and launch a short-term rental in Fernandina Beach, owners must comply with the city's resort rental dwelling ordinance, which was adopted in 2000. Key requirements include:

  • Obtaining a Resort Rental Dwelling Permit (RRDP) from the city
  • Ensuring the property is located in an R-3 (High Density Residential) zoning district or has been granted grandfathered status
  • Providing a minimum rental duration of 4 weeks or more in all other zoning districts
  • Designating a local contact person available 24/7 to respond to any issues within 30 minutes
  • Passing annual life/safety inspections conducted by the city Building Department

Notably, these regulations do not replace or alter any requirements imposed by homeowners associations (HOAs) or property owners associations (POAs), which may have additional rules or restrictions on short-term rentals.

Despite these regulations, some property owners have faced challenges with illegal or non-compliant rentals. In 2015, the Fernandina Beach Police Department estimated that over 100 properties were being rented for less than 30 days without the required RRDP. The city has since stepped up enforcement efforts, with fines of up to $1,000 for operating without a permit.

Property owners interested in starting a short-term rental business in Fernandina Beach must carefully review the city's ordinances and obtain the necessary permits before listing their property. Owners can successfully operate vacation rentals by working with local officials and complying with all applicable regulations while minimizing potential conflicts with neighbors and the community.

Short-Term Rental Licensing Requirement in Fernandina Beach

Property owners must obtain the necessary licenses and permits from the city, county, and state to legally operate a short-term rental in Fernandina Beach. The key requirements include:

  1. Resort Rental Dwelling Permit (RRDP): All STRs in Fernandina Beach must obtain an RRDP from the city's Building Department. This involves submitting an application, paying the required fees, and passing an annual life/safety inspection. To qualify for an RRDP, the property must be located in an R-3 (High high-density residential) zoning district or have been granted grandfathered status.
  2. Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) License: STR owners must obtain a Florida State Public Lodging License from the DBPR. This license is required for all transient public lodging establishments, including vacation rentals.
  3. Florida Department of Revenue Registration: STR owners must register with the Florida Department of Revenue to collect and remit applicable taxes, including sales and tourist development taxes. If the short-term rental hosting platform, such as Airbnb or VRBO, collects and remits these taxes on behalf of the owner, a notarized letter attesting to this fact must be submitted to the city.
  4. Nassau County Tourist Development Tax Registration: In addition to state taxes, STR owners must register with Nassau County to collect and remit the county's Tourist Development Tax, also known as the "bed tax."
  5. City of Fernandina Beach Local Business Tax Receipt: Any business physically located within the city limits, including STRs, must obtain a Local Business Tax Receipt from the city.

Failure to obtain the necessary licenses and permits can result in significant fines and penalties. In 2011, the City of Fernandina Beach increased the fine for operating an STR without a permit from $75 to $1,000.

Notably, these licensing requirements do not replace or alter any rules or restrictions imposed by homeowners associations (HOAs) or property owners associations (POAs). STR owners must also comply with any applicable HOA or POA regulations.

To streamline the licensing process, the City of Fernandina Beach provides resources and guidance for STR owners, including a Resort Rental Guide outlining the steps for obtaining an RRDP and other required licenses. Property owners can successfully operate short-term rentals in Fernandina Beach while minimizing potential conflicts with neighbors and the community by working closely with local officials and ensuring compliance with all applicable regulations.

Required Documents for Fernandina Beach Short-Term Rentals

To ensure compliance with Fernandina Beach's resort rental dwelling ordinance, property owners must submit several required documents when applying for a Resort Rental Dwelling Permit (RRDP). These documents help the city verify that the rental property meets all necessary safety standards and operational requirements. Key documents include:

  1. RRDP Application: Owners must complete and submit the city's official RRDP application form, providing detailed information about the property, owner, and designated local contact person.
  2. Proof of Property Ownership: Applicants must provide documentation confirming their ownership of the rental property, such as a deed or property tax bill.
  3. Site Plan: A site plan or survey of the property must be submitted, clearly showing the location of all buildings, parking areas, and other relevant features.
  4. Floor Plan: A detailed floor plan of the rental unit must be provided, indicating the location and dimensions of all rooms, exits, and smoke detectors.
  5. Parking Plan: Owners must submit a parking plan showing the location and number of off-street parking spaces available for guests.
  6. Local Contact Person Designation: The name, address, and 24-hour contact information for the rental's designated local contact person must be provided.
  7. Proof of Insurance: Applicants must submit proof of liability insurance coverage for the rental property.
  8. State and County Licenses: Copies of the owner's Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) license, Florida Department of Revenue registration, and Nassau County Tourist Development Tax registration must be provided.
  9. HOA/POA Approval: If the rental property is subject to homeowners association (HOA) or property owners association (POA) rules, written approval must be submitted from the HOA/POA for short-term rental use.

In addition to these required documents, short-term rental owners must also pay an annual RRDP fee, which is currently $100 for properties with up to 5 bedrooms and $200 for properties with 6 or more bedrooms. Late fees and other penalties may apply for failure to renew the permit on time.

By carefully compiling and submitting all required documents, short-term rental owners in Fernandina Beach can demonstrate their commitment to operating safe, compliant, and neighborly vacation rentals. The city's permitting process helps ensure a level playing field for all owners while protecting the quality of life for permanent residents.

Fernandina Beach Short-Term Rental Taxes

In addition to licensing and permitting requirements, short-term rental owners in Fernandina Beach must also collect and remit applicable taxes. These taxes help fund local tourism marketing efforts, beach renourishment projects, and other essential services. Key taxes include:

  1. Nassau County Tourist Development Tax (TDT): Also known as the "bed tax," this 4% tax applies to all short-term rentals of 6 months or less. STR owners must register with the Nassau County Tax Collector's office to collect and remit this tax on a monthly basis.
  2. Florida Sales Tax: The state of Florida imposes a 6% sales tax on all short-term rentals. This tax is collected in addition to the TDT and must be remitted to the Florida Department of Revenue.
  3. Fernandina Beach Local Business Tax: The City of Fernandina Beach levies a local business tax on all businesses operating within the city limits, including short-term rentals. The amount of this tax varies based on the type and size of the business.

STR owners in Fernandina Beach must collect and remit 10% in taxes on all rental income, plus the applicable local business tax. It's important to note that some online booking platforms, such as Airbnb and VRBO, may collect and remit the TDT and sales tax on behalf of the owner. However, the ultimate responsibility for compliance lies with the property owner.

Failure to collect and remit applicable taxes can result in significant penalties and interest charges. STR owners should maintain accurate records of all rental transactions and tax payments to ensure compliance with state and local requirements.

The Nassau County Tax Collector's office provides resources and guidance for STR owners, including information on registering for a TDT account, collecting taxes from guests, and remitting taxes to the appropriate authorities. By staying informed and diligent about tax obligations, short-term rental owners in Fernandina Beach can avoid potential legal issues and contribute to the local economy.

It's worth noting that tax revenue from short-term rentals plays a crucial role in supporting Fernandina Beach's tourism industry and infrastructure. In fiscal year 2019-2020, Nassau County collected over $5.7 million in tourist development taxes, with a significant portion coming from vacation rentals on Amelia Island.

By complying with tax requirements, STR owners help ensure that these vital funds continue to support the community and maintain Fernandina Beach as a premier vacation destination.

Florida Wide Short-Term Rental Rules

Florida has a set of statewide regulations that govern short-term rentals, which are defined as any unit or group of units in a condominium, cooperative, or individually owned single-family, two-family, or four-family house or dwelling unit that is rented to guests more than three times a year for periods of less than 30 days or 1 calendar month, whichever is less.

Under Florida law, property owners who wish to operate a short-term rental must obtain a license from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). This requirement applies to rentals that are offered more than three times in a calendar year for stays of less than 30 days.

However, a significant exemption exists for property owners who rent out individual rooms rather than entire units. Renting out single rooms or multiple rooms that do not constitute a full dwelling unit does not require a DBPR license, as these are not considered public lodging establishments.

When applying for a DBPR vacation rental license, property owners can include multiple units of the same type (e.g., several condos or several single-family homes) on a single application. However, condos and single-family dwellings cannot be combined under the same license.

Unlike hotels and restaurants, vacation rentals in Florida do not require an opening inspection. The only mandated inspection for short-term rentals is a Certificate of Balcony Inspection for railings, stairwells, and balconies that are not shared by the entire building.

It's important to note that while the state sets these baseline requirements, local governments in Florida are allowed to impose additional regulations on short-term rentals. Many cities and counties have adopted ordinances that go beyond the state's rules, such as requiring local permits, setting occupancy limits, or restricting rentals in certain zoning districts.

Property owners who fail to comply with state or local short-term rental regulations may face significant penalties. Some Florida cities impose fines of $500 to $1,000 or more per day for operating a rental without proper registration or permits.

In addition to obtaining the necessary licenses and permits, short-term rental operators in Florida are also responsible for collecting and remitting state and local taxes on their rental income. These taxes typically include the state sales tax (6%) and county-level tourist development taxes, which can range from 1% to 6% depending on the jurisdiction.

Overall, while Florida's statewide short-term rental regulations provide a foundation for property owners, it's crucial to also research and comply with any additional rules set by local governments. Short-term rental operators can run successful and compliant businesses in the Sunshine State by staying informed and adhering to all applicable laws.

Does Fernandina Beach Strictly Enforce STR Rules?

Based on discussions among short-term rental owners and investors on platforms like BiggerPockets and Reddit, Fernandina Beach appears to actively enforce its vacation rental regulations, particularly in recent years. The city has taken steps to strengthen its ordinances and crack down on non-compliant properties.

On the BiggerPockets forums, several investors have shared their experiences with Fernandina Beach's enforcement efforts. One user, "AmeliaIslandInvestor," noted that the city has been proactively monitoring short-term rental listings and issuing notices of violation to properties operating without the required Resort Rental Dwelling Permit (RRDP). They mentioned that fines for non-compliance can reach up to $1,000 per day, making it crucial for owners to obtain the necessary permits and follow all regulations.

Compared to some other Florida cities like Panama City Beach, which has largely embraced short-term rentals and has a more lenient regulatory environment, Fernandina Beach's approach may seem less Airbnb-friendly. However, the city's efforts to enforce its rules appear to be driven by a desire to maintain the character and quality of life in residential neighborhoods, rather than an outright opposition to vacation rentals.

On Reddit, some users have expressed frustration with Fernandina Beach's restrictions on short-term rentals in certain zoning districts. For example, one user, "FernandinaBeachResident," complained that the city's ordinances make it difficult for property owners in residential areas to capitalize on the growing demand for vacation rentals. They argued that the city should consider relaxing its rules to allow more flexibility for STR operators.

Despite the challenges posed by Fernandina Beach's regulations, many hosts and investors continue to operate short-term rentals in the city, particularly in the designated R-3 (High Density Residential) zoning district and in properties with grandfathered status. On BiggerPockets, several users have shared their success stories and strategies for navigating the city's permitting process and maintaining compliant rentals.

One user, "AmeliaIslandHost," emphasized the importance of working closely with the city's Building Department and proactively addressing potential issues or neighbor complaints. They noted that by maintaining open lines of communication with city officials and being a responsible operator, they have been able to run a successful STR business in Fernandina Beach for several years.

Overall, while Fernandina Beach may not be the most Airbnb-friendly destination compared to cities with more relaxed regulations, it is still possible to operate a compliant and profitable short-term rental business in the city. Hosts and investors willing to navigate the permitting process, follow all applicable rules, and be good neighbors can succeed in this market. As one Reddit user put it, "Fernandina Beach's STR regulations are strict, but they're not impossible. If you do your homework and play by the rules, you can still make it work."

How to Start a Short-Term Rental Business in Fernandina Beach

If you're interested in starting a short-term rental business in Fernandina Beach, Florida, here are the key steps to follow:

  1. Research local regulations: Thoroughly review Fernandina Beach's resort rental dwelling ordinance and any additional rules set by your homeowners association (HOA) or property owners association (POA). Ensure that your property is located in an R-3 (High high-density residential) zoning district or has been granted grandfathered status. Understand the city's permitting, inspection, and operational requirements.
  2. Obtain necessary licenses and permits: Apply for a Resort Rental Dwelling Permit (RRDP) from the City of Fernandina Beach Building Department. Obtain a Florida State Public Lodging License from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). Register with the Florida Department of Revenue and Nassau County Tax Collector's office to collect and remit applicable taxes. Obtain a Local Business Tax Receipt from the city.
  3. Prepare your property: Ensure that your rental property meets all safety and operational standards required by the city and state. This may include installing smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and emergency lighting. Develop a site, floor, and parking plan to submit with your RRDP application.
  4. Designate a local contact person: Choose a local contact person who will be available 24/7 to respond to any issues or concerns related to your rental property within 30 minutes. Provide their contact information to the city and include it in your rental agreement.
  5. Obtain insurance:Secure liability insurance coverage for your rental property and provide proof of insurance to the city when applying for your RRDP.
  6. Create a compelling listing: Take high-quality photos of your property and write an engaging description that highlights its unique features and amenities. Be transparent about any rules or restrictions, such as minimum rental duration or occupancy limits.
  7. Choose a booking platform:List your property on popular vacation rental sites like Airbnb, VRBO, or Booking.com. Consider using a channel manager to synchronize your listings across multiple platforms and avoid double bookings.
  8. Set competitive rates: Research the rates of similar properties in Fernandina Beach to ensure that your pricing is competitive. Consider adjusting your rates based on seasonal demand and any special events or festivals in the area.
  9. Develop a guest communication strategy: Create a system for promptly responding to guest inquiries, providing check-in instructions, and addressing any issues that may arise during their stay. Consider using automated messaging tools to streamline communication.
  10. Arrange for cleaning and maintenance:Hire a reliable cleaning service to ensure that your property is spotless between guest stays. Develop a maintenance schedule to address any repairs or upgrades needed to keep your rental in top condition.

By following these steps and remaining compliant with Fernandina Beach's vacation rental rules, you can build a successful short-term rental business in this charming coastal city. While the city's regulations may present some challenges, with careful planning and attention to detail, you can create a profitable and sustainable rental property that attracts satisfied guests year after year.

Who to Contact in Fernandina Beach about Short-Term Rental Regulations and Zoning?

If you have questions or concerns about short-term rental regulations and zoning in Fernandina Beach, there are several key contacts who can provide guidance and assistance:

Fernandina Beach Building Department: The Building Department is responsible for administering the city's resort rental dwelling ordinance and handling the permitting and inspection process for short-term rentals. You can contact them at:

Fernandina Beach Building Department
204 Ash Street
Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
Phone: (904) 310-3135
Email: building@fbfl.org

Fernandina Beach Planning & Conservation Department: The Planning & Conservation Department can provide information about zoning districts where short-term rentals are permitted and any specific regulations that may apply to your property. Contact them at:

Fernandina Beach Planning & Conservation Department
204 Ash Street
Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
Phone: (904) 310-3480
Email: planninginfo@fbfl.org

Fernandina Beach Code Enforcement Division: The Code Enforcement Division investigates complaints related to short-term rentals and enforces the city's vacation rental regulations. You can reach them at:

Fernandina Beach Code Enforcement Division
204 Ash Street
Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
Phone: (904) 310-3151
Email: codeenforcement@fbfl.org

Nassau County Tax Collector: For questions about registering to collect and remit the county's Tourist Development Tax (TDT), contact the Nassau County Tax Collector's office:

Nassau County Tax Collector
86130 License Road
Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
Phone: (904) 491-7400
Email: touristtax@nassautaxes.com

Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR): If your property qualifies as a transient public lodging establishment, you'll need to obtain a license from the DBPR. Contact their Division of Hotels and Restaurants for more information:

Division of Hotels and Restaurants
Department of Business and Professional Regulation
2601 Blair Stone Road
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Phone: (850) 487-1395
Email: dhr.info@myfloridalicense.com

By reaching out to these key contacts, you can get the information and support you need to ensure that your short-term rental business in Fernandina Beach is fully compliant with all applicable regulations and zoning requirements. Don't hesitate to ask questions and seek guidance throughout the process to avoid any potential pitfalls and maintain a successful rental operation.

What Do Airbnb Hosts in Fernandina Beach on Reddit and Bigger Pockets Think about Local Regulations?

On forums like Reddit and BiggerPockets, short-term rental hosts and investors in Fernandina Beach have shared their experiences and opinions about the city's vacation rental regulations. Here are a few notable examples:

Reddit user "FernandinaBeachHost" expressed mixed feelings about the city's regulations, stating that while the permitting process can be time-consuming and costly, it does help maintain a level playing field for all operators. They appreciated that the city allows short-term rentals in certain areas, but felt that the zoning restrictions could be more flexible.

In a BiggerPockets forum thread titled "Fernandina Beach, FL - Short-Term Rental Experience," several investors discussed their challenges and successes with operating STRs in the city. One user, "AmeliaIslandInvestor," shared that they had to go through a lengthy permitting process and make some upgrades to their property to meet the city's safety requirements, but ultimately found the experience rewarding. They noted that their rental has performed well, with consistent bookings and positive guest reviews.

Another BiggerPockets user, "NassauCountySTR," cautioned that while Fernandina Beach's regulations are generally reasonable, the city has been stepping up enforcement in recent years. They recommended that hosts be proactive in communicating with neighbors and city officials to avoid potential complaints or violations.

Reddit user "FernandinaBeachResident" expressed frustration with the city's occupancy limits and minimum rental duration requirements, arguing that they restrict property owners' rights and limit the potential for rental income. They suggested that the city should consider relaxing these rules to make it easier for hosts to operate.

In a Reddit thread titled "Investing in Fernandina Beach Vacation Rentals," user "AmeliaIslandSTR" advised potential investors to carefully review the city's zoning map and permitting requirements before purchasing a property for short-term rental use. They emphasized the importance of due diligence and working closely with local officials to ensure compliance and avoid costly mistakes.

Overall, the sentiment among Airbnb hosts and investors in Fernandina Beach seems to be that while the city's regulations can be challenging to navigate, they are not insurmountable for those who are committed to compliance and maintaining a high-quality rental property. Many hosts appreciate the city's efforts to balance the needs of property owners and residents, even if they don't always agree with every aspect of the rules.

As one BiggerPockets user put it, "Fernandina Beach's STR regulations are a double-edged sword. They can be a hassle to deal with, but they also help maintain the character and charm of the city that attracts visitors in the first place. If you're willing to put in the work and play by the rules, you can still have a successful vacation rental business here."

Disclaimer: While we here at BNBCalc strive to keep all of our city regulation guides updated and accurate with all the latest local laws, we still do not suggest using them as your sole or primary source for local regulations. We also do not recommend you rely on the third-party sources we link to or reference, and we are not responsible for any of the information on these third-party sites. These guides are for entertainment purposes only and only provide basic information and should not be considered as legal advice.

We highly recommend directly contacting the responsible parties for each city and hearing what their officials have to say. Ultimately, it's your responsibility as an investor to ensure you fully comply with the local laws, and it's best to speak with professionals before making an investment decision.

⚡️
Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it on Airbnb.