Question: Our condominium documents state that we can rent our units for a one month minimum. Some owners believe if they rent for one or two weeks in a month, and they do not rent for the rest of the month, they are complying with the documents. What is your opinion on this matter? J.G. (via e-mail)
Answer: Minimum lease term restrictions are common because many condominiums want to avoid having the “hotel-like” atmosphere that comes with short and frequent rentals. In fact, if a condominium permits rentals of less than thirty days more than three times per year, the condominium is considered a “place of public lodging”, and can be subject to various laws pertaining to “public accommodations”, including Chapter 509 of the Florida Statutes, which is often referred to as Florida’s “hotel/motel” law.
In your example, if the tenant only stays for two weeks, and no other tenants occupy the unit for the next two weeks, that scenario might be seen as even better than tenants being present for the full 30 day rental. However, some people believe that there is a significant difference between the types of use that a two week tenant makes of a unit as opposed to a monthly tenant.
I assume the belief is that a two week tenant is likely on vacation and will “live it up” all 14 days, and nights, while a monthly tenant may be more likely to act more like a resident, who keeps traditional hours and treats the property with care and respect.
Further, if the unit owner is allowed to resume occupancy for the remaining half of the lease, then the community is burdened with both a short-term rental and full occupancy for the entire 30 day period, albeit by the owner for the remaining lease term. But clearly in that case, the rental restriction is effectively rendered useless.
In my opinion, if an owner submits a proposed “monthly” lease, and the rent to be paid is clearly below market value, or there are other terms or information indicating the intent to actually lease for less than a month, the association (assuming it has lease approval rights) can disapprove that lease as a sham transaction. There may be valid reasons for a reduced rate, so some investigation may need to take place before an official disapproval is given. Proving the lease is a sham beforehand might be difficult. But we have had cases where it is discovered that the owner is advertising less than monthly rentals on vacation websites. In some cases, “weekly” and even “daily” rental rates are posted. That makes it easier for the association to disapprove an apparent sham lease term.
Finally, I believe it is reasonable and consistent with your rental restriction to adopt a restriction that nobody, not even owners, can occupy a unit if the tenants leave before the lease ends. Legal counsel should be consulted as to whether this can be accomplished through a board-made rule, or whether a document amendment is required. You certainly cannot stop any tenant from leaving early, but you can restrict the use of the unit consistent with the restrictions in the declaration of condominium.