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Pinellas County, Florida Short-Term Rental Regulation: A Guide For Airbnb Hosts

Pinellas County, Florida

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What are Short-Term Rental (Airbnb, VRBO) Regulations in Pinellas County, Florida?

Pinellas County, home to popular beach destinations like Clearwater, St. Pete Beach, and Treasure Island, has seen a surge in short-term rentals through platforms like Airbnb and VRBO in recent years. However, property owners looking to start a vacation rental business need to navigate a complex web of local regulations and zoning laws. Here's an overview of the key rules governing short-term rentals in Pinellas County as of 2024.

Starting a Short-Term Rental Business in Pinellas County

To legally operate a short-term rental in unincorporated Pinellas County, owners must first submit a Short Term Vacation Rentals Standards Acknowledgement form agreeing to abide by county standards, including occupancy limits, parking requirements, and tax obligations. A zoning permit may also be required depending on the property's location.

Zoning is a critical factor, as short-term rentals are only allowed in certain areas of the county. Generally, unincorporated areas, Largo, and Indian Rocks Beach permit short-term rentals, along with specially designated zones in Dunedin and Gulfport. However, many cities like St. Petersburg, Treasure Island, and Redington Beach have more restrictive rules or outright bans on rentals under 30 days in residential neighborhoods.

For example, St. Petersburg's local ordinance stipulates that properties can only be rented up to three times within a consecutive 365-day period, except in specific zoning districts. Treasure Island prohibits "tourist dwellings" in single-family and multi-family zones, with caps on the number of allowed occupancy changes per year.

In addition to zoning, short-term rental operators must meet minimum safety standards set by the Florida Building Code, register and pay local business taxes, and collect state and county taxes from guests, including a 6% Tourist Development Tax. Failure to comply can result in fines and restrictions.

Short-Term Rental Licensing Requirement in Pinellas County

To legally operate a short-term rental (STR) in unincorporated Pinellas County, property owners must navigate a series of licensing and registration requirements. Here's a detailed breakdown, based on information from the official Pinellas County website:

Zoning Clearance: STR operators must submit a Zoning Clearance application through the Pinellas County Access Portal. This involves creating an account, selecting "Develop and Start an Application," and choosing the Zoning Clearance option. The completed Short-Term Vacation Rental Standards Acknowledgement form must be uploaded during this process.

Business Tax Receipt: Owners are required to obtain a Business Tax Receipt from the Pinellas County Tax Collector. The application can be submitted online, by mail, or in person. Fees vary based on the number of rental units, starting at $22 for a single unit.

Tourist Development Tax Registration: STRs must register with the Pinellas County Tax Collector to collect and remit the 6% Tourist Development Tax. This can be done by emailing touristtax@pinellastaxcollector.gov to request an application.

Florida Department of Revenue Registration: Owners must also register with the Florida Department of Revenue to collect and pay state sales taxes on rental income. This is done through the Department's online registration system.

Florida DBPR License: If the STR qualifies as a "transient public lodging establishment" under state law, a license from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) is necessary. This ensures compliance with state safety and sanitation standards.

The zoning clearance and business tax receipt processes typically take 1-2 weeks, while state registrations may require additional processing time. Failure to obtain proper licenses and pay applicable taxes can result in significant penalties:

  • Operating without a zoning clearance may lead to fines of $500-$1,000 per day.
  • Neglecting to collect and remit tourist development taxes can trigger audits, back taxes, and additional fines.
  • Violations of state DBPR regulations can result in license suspension or revocation, along with monetary penalties.

To avoid costly missteps, Pinellas County STR owners should carefully review all licensing requirements, gather necessary documentation, and submit applications well in advance of launching their rental business. Consulting with local tax professionals and real estate attorneys can also help navigate this complex regulatory landscape.

Required Documents for Pinellas County Short-Term Rentals

To legally operate a short-term rental in Pinellas County, property owners must submit several key documents as part of the registration and licensing process. Here's a breakdown of the required paperwork based on information from official county sources:

Short-Term Vacation Rentals Standards Acknowledgement Form: This form, available on the Pinellas County website, requires owners to acknowledge and agree to abide by county standards for short-term rentals, including occupancy limits, parking requirements, and tax obligations. It must be completed and uploaded as part of the online Zoning Clearance application.

Zoning Clearance Application: Owners must submit a Zoning Clearance application through the Pinellas County Access Portal to ensure their property is located in an area that allows short-term rentals. This involves creating an account, selecting "Develop and Start an Application," and choosing the Zoning Clearance option.

Business Tax Receipt Application: A Business Tax Receipt from the Pinellas County Tax Collector is required for all short-term rental operators. The application can be submitted online, by mail, or in person, with fees varying based on the number of rental units.

Tourist Development Tax Registration: Owners must register with the Pinellas County Tax Collector to collect and remit the 6% Tourist Development Tax. This is done by emailing touristtax@pinellastaxcollector.gov to request an application.

Florida Department of Revenue Registration: Registration with the Florida Department of Revenue is necessary to collect and pay state sales taxes on rental income. This is completed through the Department's online registration system.

Florida DBPR License: For properties that qualify as a "transient public lodging establishment" under state law, a license from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) is required to ensure compliance with safety and sanitation standards.

Proof of Passing Fire Inspection: In some municipalities like Dunedin, owners must provide proof of passing an initial fire inspection as part of the Business Tax Receipt process. This helps ensure the property meets fire safety codes.

Proof of General Liability Insurance: Certain cities, such as Dunedin, require short-term rental operators to submit proof of general liability insurance coverage as part of their registration application.

While the specific requirements may vary slightly depending on the municipality, these core documents form the foundation of Pinellas County's short-term rental registration and licensing process. By gathering and submitting this paperwork, owners can ensure they are operating in compliance with local regulations and avoid potential fines or restrictions.

Pinellas County Short-Term Rental Taxes

Short-term rental operators in Pinellas County must navigate a complex web of state and local taxes. Here's a breakdown of the key taxes that apply to vacation rentals, along with potential deductions to keep in mind.

State Sales Tax: Florida levies a 6% sales tax on all transient rental accommodations, which includes short-term rentals of six months or less. This tax is collected by the Florida Department of Revenue and is remitted monthly by the rental operator.

Tourist Development Tax: Pinellas County imposes an additional 6% Tourist Development Tax (TDT), also known as a bed tax, on all short-term rentals. The TDT is used to fund tourism marketing efforts, beach nourishment projects, and capital improvements like stadiums and museums. It is collected by the Pinellas County Tax Collector and must be remitted monthly, even if no tax is due.

Discretionary Sales Surtax: Some Florida counties levy a discretionary sales surtax on top of the state sales tax. As of 2024, Pinellas County charges a 1% surtax, bringing the total sales tax rate to 7%. This surtax applies to short-term rentals and is remitted to the Department of Revenue along with the state sales tax.

In total, short-term rental operators in Pinellas County must collect and remit 13% in taxes - 6% for the state sales tax and surtax, and 6% for the county TDT. It's critical to keep accurate records and file returns on time to avoid penalties and interest.

Deductions and Write-Offs

While the tax burden for short-term rentals can seem daunting, there are several potential deductions that can help offset the cost:

  1. Mortgage interest and property taxes
  2. Utilities, insurance, and HOA fees
  3. Cleaning, maintenance, and repair expenses
  4. Supplies like linens, toiletries, and kitchen items
  5. Advertising and platform fees (Airbnb, VRBO, etc.)
  6. Depreciation of furniture and appliances
  7. Home office expenses, if actively managing rentals

Owners should keep detailed records and consult with a tax professional to ensure they are taking advantage of all available deductions. By carefully tracking income and expenses, short-term rental operators can minimize their tax liability while remaining in compliance with state and local regulations.

Florida Wide Short-Term Rental Rules

In addition to local regulations, short-term rental hosts in Pinellas County must also comply with state-level laws and ordinances. The Florida Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 280, which sets uniform rules for vacation rentals across the state. If signed by Governor DeSantis, the bill will take effect July 1, 2024. Here are the key provisions that will impact Pinellas County hosts:

Statewide Registry: All vacation rental properties in Florida will be required to register with a new statewide database administered by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). This is in addition to any local registration requirements in Pinellas County.

Occupancy Limits: The bill allows local governments to set occupancy caps of up to two people per bedroom, plus two more in one common area. Alternatively, the limit can be based on a minimum of 50 square feet per person. Pinellas County hosts will need to adhere to these caps or any stricter limits imposed by the county or municipality.

Inspections and Licensing: Under SB 280, local authorities may require vacation rental inspections and charge an inspection fee. Hosts may also need to designate a party responsible for handling guest issues 24/7. Additionally, all Florida vacation rentals must obtain a license from the DBPR to ensure compliance with state safety and sanitation standards.

Taxes: Short-term rental marketplaces like Airbnb and Vrbo that collect payments from guests will be required to collect and remit state sales taxes on behalf of hosts. However, Pinellas County operators are still responsible for collecting and paying the 6% Tourist Development Tax to the county. Hosts must register with the county tax collector and state Department of Revenue.

Grandfathered Ordinances: Any local vacation rental regulations passed before June 1, 2011, that are stricter than the state law can remain in effect. This means certain areas of Pinellas County may have additional layers of restrictions beyond the new state rules.

Pinellas County Airbnb hosts should carefully review these incoming statewide regulations alongside local ordinances to ensure full compliance and avoid potential fines or license suspensions. With oversight increasing on both the state and county level, it's more important than ever for short-term rental operators to stay informed of their legal obligations in this dynamic regulatory environment.

Does Pinellas County Strictly Enforce STR Rules?

Based on discussions from real estate forums like BiggerPockets and Reddit, Pinellas County appears to be one of the stricter areas in Florida when it comes to enforcing short-term rental regulations. Many hosts and investors report that the county has ramped up enforcement efforts in recent years as the vacation rental market has boomed.

Pinellas County Code Enforcement investigates all complaints related to short-term rentals and applies the standards outlined in Ordinance 138-3232. In 2023, the division handled approximately 40 cases involving issues like failure to obtain proper permits, exceeding occupancy limits, trash, noise violations, and other complaints - a 300% increase from the prior year.

Fines for violations start at $150 for the first offense and escalate to $500 for repeat offenses. The county may also pursue more serious penalties through the court system, including property liens and injunctions.

Compared to other popular Florida destinations, Pinellas County is much less Airbnb-friendly overall. While certain beach communities like Indian Rocks Beach and Dunedin allow short-term rentals in designated zones, many cities such as St. Petersburg, Treasure Island, and Redington Beach heavily restrict or outright prohibit stays under 30 days in residential areas.

Despite the rules, some hosts still attempt to operate illegally, especially in high-demand areas near the beaches. However, the risks are significant. With the county deploying more sophisticated tracking software and responding to the rising number of complaints, the chances of getting caught and facing stiff penalties are higher than ever.

The general consensus among BiggerPockets and Reddit users is that operating a successful short-term rental in Pinellas County is very difficult in the current regulatory environment unless your property is specifically zoned for it. Most recommend focusing on the few STR-friendly pockets, pursuing month-to-month rentals instead, or investing in more welcoming counties altogether.

So, in summary, while the Airbnb and vacation rental market is thriving in many parts of Florida, Pinellas County remains one of the toughest places to navigate as a host due to its strict enforcement, escalating fines, and patchwork of local prohibitions on short-term stays. Investors should think twice and do thorough due diligence before attempting to set up shop in this challenging jurisdiction.

How to Start a Short-Term Rental Business in Pinellas County

Starting a short-term rental business in Pinellas County requires careful planning and compliance with local regulations. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process:

Research zoning regulations: Determine if your property is located in an area that allows short-term rentals. Pinellas County has a patchwork of zoning laws, with some cities like St. Petersburg and Treasure Island heavily restricting rentals under 30 days in residential areas, while others like Dunedin and Indian Rocks Beach are more permissive in designated zones. Use the Pinellas County Property Appraiser website or consult with local real estate professionals to verify your property's zoning and eligibility for short-term rentals.

Obtain necessary permits and licenses: Apply for a Short Term Vacation Rentals Standards Acknowledgement form through the Pinellas County Access Portal. This involves creating an account, selecting "Develop and Start an Application," and choosing the Zoning Clearance option. You'll also need to obtain a Business Tax Receipt from the Pinellas County Tax Collector. Gather all required documents, such as proof of property ownership and a detailed site plan, before beginning the application process to avoid delays.

Register with tax authorities: Short-term rental operators must register with the Pinellas County Tax Collector to collect and remit the 6% Tourist Development Tax. You'll also need to register with the Florida Department of Revenue to pay state sales taxes on rental income. Keep detailed records of all rental transactions and tax payments to ensure compliance with state and local requirements.

Obtain a state license: If your rental qualifies as a "transient public lodging establishment" under Florida law, you'll need to obtain a license from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to ensure compliance with safety and sanitation standards. Apply for your DBPR license online and be prepared to provide proof of passing a fire inspection and general liability insurance coverage.

Prepare your property: Ensure your rental meets all local safety and occupancy standards, including fire safety codes, parking requirements, and maximum occupancy limits. Consider investing in quality furnishings, amenities, and professional cleaning services to attract guests and garner positive reviews. Create a detailed property manual with house rules, local recommendations, and emergency contact information to provide a seamless experience for your guests.

List your property: Once you've obtained all necessary permits and prepared your property, list your rental on popular platforms like Airbnb and VRBO. Craft a compelling listing with high-quality photos, detailed descriptions, and competitive pricing to stand out in the market. Consider using dynamic pricing tools to automatically adjust your rates based on demand, seasonality, and local events to maximize your revenue potential.

Manage your business: Establish a system for handling bookings, guest communication, cleaning, and maintenance. You can choose to manage the property yourself or hire a professional property management company to handle day-to-day operations. Regularly monitor your listings and guest reviews to address any issues promptly and maintain a high rating on rental platforms.

Starting a short-term rental business in Pinellas County requires diligence and attention to detail, but with proper planning and execution, it can be a lucrative venture. Stay informed about local regulations, prioritize guest experience, and adapt to market trends to ensure the long-term success of your rental property.

Who to Contact in Pinellas County about Short-Term Rental Regulations and Zoning?

If you have questions about short-term rental regulations or zoning in Pinellas County, here are the key contacts and resources to help you navigate the process:

Pinellas County Development Review Services (Zoning):

  1. General Zoning Information: (727) 464-3401, DRS-Help@pinellascounty.org
  2. To schedule a pre-application or site plan meeting: (727) 464-5530
  3. Zoning Manager, Glenn Bailey: (727) 464-5640

Pinellas County Tax Collector (Tourist Development Tax Registration):

Tourist Development Tax: (727) 464-7777, touristtax@pinellastaxcollector.gov

Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (State Licensing):

Customer Contact Center: (850) 487-1395

Municipal Contacts for Short-Term Rental Questions:

  1. Clearwater, Rosemarie Call, City Clerk: (727) 562-4092
  2. Dunedin, Rebecca Schlichter, Deputy City Clerk: (727) 298-3014
  3. Gulfport, Lesley DeMuth, City Clerk: (727) 893‐1012
  4. Indian Rocks Beach, Deanne O'Reilly, City Clerk: (727) 595-2517
  5. Largo, Diane Bruner, City Clerk: (727) 587-6710
  6. Madeira Beach, Clara VanBlargan, City Clerk: (727) 391-9951
  7. Oldsmar, Ann Nixon, City Clerk: (813) 749‐1115
  8. Pinellas Park, Diane Corna, City Clerk: (727) 541-0706
  9. Safety Harbor, Marcie Stenmark, City Clerk: (727) 724-1555
  10. St. Pete Beach, Amber LaRowe, City Clerk: (727) 363-9220
  11. Tarpon Springs, Irene Jacobs, City Clerk: (727) 938-3711
  12. Treasure Island, Ruth Nickerson, City Clerk: (727) 547-4575

In addition to official county and municipal resources, Pinellas County hosts may find support and advice in online short-term rental communities. The Airbnb Community Center has an active forum where hosts discuss local regulations, best practices, and industry trends. BiggerPockets also has a Short-Term & Vacation Rental Discussion subforum where investors share insights on Pinellas County and Florida markets.

Joining local host groups on Facebook can provide valuable networking opportunities and keep you informed about regulatory changes impacting the industry. Search for terms like "Pinellas County Airbnb Hosts" or "St. Petersburg Short-Term Rental Alliance" to find active communities to engage with.

By leveraging these county, municipal, and community resources, short-term rental operators can ensure they stay compliant with local regulations while optimizing their business strategies in the dynamic Pinellas County market.

What Do Airbnb Hosts in Pinellas County on Reddit and Bigger Pockets Think about Local Regulations?

Discussions on Reddit and BiggerPockets reveal that many Airbnb hosts in Pinellas County are frustrated with the complex web of local short-term rental regulations. Here are some key insights from these online communities:

Confusion over zoning laws: Many hosts express confusion about the specific zoning rules in different parts of Pinellas County. One Redditor noted, "Pretty much, it was a city rules and regulations article that banned short term rentals in Pinellas County...Does anyone run an Airbnb in St. Pete that can give me some pointers on the required paperwork so I don't get fined?"

Strict enforcement in certain cities: Hosts report that some municipalities, like Clearwater and St. Petersburg, are particularly strict about enforcing short-term rental bans. A BiggerPockets user shared, "I understand that in Pinellas county at least a few beach cities like Madeira Beach have put a firm ban in place with police and high fines."

Operating illegally: Despite the regulations, many hosts continue to operate short-term rentals illegally, taking a calculated risk. One Redditor asked, "Are they just operating illegally? Are the laws not really enforced here?" Another BiggerPockets member wondered, "Is it sort of just a risk that everyone is taking until they get caught?"

Hefty fines: Some hosts have been hit with significant penalties for violating local ordinances. A BiggerPockets user mentioned, "I've read that some hefty fines have been issued to some folks."

Conflicting information: Hosts express frustration with the conflicting information available about short-term rental laws in Pinellas County. One Redditor shared, "Upon doing some research, I've realized that there is a ton of conflicting information out there, and I'm looking for some clarification."

Seeking workarounds: Some hosts are actively looking for ways to circumvent the regulations, such as finding areas that are more welcoming to short-term rentals. A BiggerPockets member asked, "Does anyone know of anywhere in the Tampa Bay area (preferably the beaches) that is more welcoming to the idea of str's?"

These discussions highlight the challenges faced by Airbnb hosts navigating the complex regulatory landscape in Pinellas County. Many are seeking clarity on the rules, weighing the risks of operating illegally, and searching for ways to comply with local ordinances while still running successful short-term rental businesses.

Disclaimer: While we here at BNBCalc strive to keep all of our 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 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.