PENINSULA - A recent search on the Internet yielded over 100 advertisements for unlicensed and illegal short-term rentals in the unincorporated area of Pacific County, according to Assistant Director of the Department of Community Development Mike DeSimone.

As of March 15, 2004 permits are required to operate a short-term rental in the county. Those seeking a permit must get approval from the surrounding residents before renting their property. Such factors as population density, sewer and water availability, and fire prevention issues are considered.

DeSimone said his office has had several complaints about unlicensed short-term rentals. He sited problems with renters being a nuisance, increased traffic, and general lack of compatibility issues among residential neighborhoods. He also said garbage and public health issues from septic systems were a possible concern.

Legitimate businesses pay a lodging tax the over 100 illegal short-term renters do not, and they must meet sanitation and fire codes the illegal renters do not have to comply with. Legitimate businesses also report their income to the IRS.

Illegal short-term renters invariably take away business from legitimate motels and bed and breakfasts, and then do not pay any lodging tax.

"We deal with people who buy a home here and then rent it out to help pay the mortgage," DeSimone said. "And when we tell them it is not legal they get upset, but they should check the ordinances before they buy."

If there is a problem with short-term rentals in your neighborhood, DeSimone or Mike Stevens at the county office have complaint forms that can be filled out.

"We'll investigate and take action if what we find warrants it," DeSimone confirmed.

A fine of $969 per day can be levied against any unlicensed short-term renter. Jail time is possible for repeat offenders and the offenders may also be reported to the local and IRS taxing agencies for investigation.

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