Weekend renters have been known to party like there’s no tomorrow, disrespect neighboring homeowners, park anywhere and everywhere, and fill every trash receptacle on the street full of beer cans and booze bottles on their way out of town. That’s why Lake Ozark is stiffening a law that prohibits homeowners from renting out their homes for less than 30 days at a time. The first reading of Ordinance 2013-35, which clarifies several other zoning regulations as well, was held November 12. Aldermen supported the measure unanimously. The second reading was scheduled for November 26, after this edition of the “Lake of the Ozarks Business Journal” went to press.
“Instead of having their house sit vacant, some people put their houses on a vacation rental program. The problem is that a lot of those vacationers think they’re coming down here ‘incognito’ and they can do whatever they want – act as wild and crazy as they want – because nobody will know. With the way many of these homes are built, they don’t have a lot of space between them so when renters are whooping it up next door, it’s almost like they’re in your house,” said Lake Ozark City Administrator Dave Van Dee. “We welcome tourists – they do bring additional revenues into our city – but we also want to protect the rights of our homeowners.”
He said over the summer, 25 people showed up at one Lake Ozark home that was “smack dab” in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The weekenders filled the entire street with cars; they played loud music day and night; and they partied on neighboring docks – even going so far as to eat food and drink beverages from the refrigerator on one of those docks.
“We felt we had to put a stop to it sooner rather than later,” he said, explaining that instead of adopting a new ordinance, they just clarified wording on an existing law so it now mirrors the state statute.
It’s also similar to an ordinance that’s been on the books since the summer of 2004 in the Village of Four Seasons. Village Clerk Tom Laird said trustees were quick to adopt the ordinance once they learned that a homeowner had started renting to entire fraternities and sororities – a practice that already was prohibited by the Four Seasons Property Owners Association, a homeowners association that governs activity inside its boundaries.
“I got a call from Carolyn Loraine, who was still presiding commissioner of Camden County at the time, asking me to come over to her house so I could see for myself what was going on. Literally – there were 100 cars. They were parked on every single yard on the street and they filled a tennis court that was owned by an individual that lived at the end of the street,” he said. “Fifty people were on that home’s dock – it was barely above water – and they had taken over neighboring docks as well. The fraternity president was very polite when I knocked on the door. In fact, he told me that if I thought it was crowded then, I should have seen it the night before when the sorority was there partying with them!”
Laird said now when they learn that homeowners are violating the ordinance, in addition to issuing citations, which can come with up to a $500-per-day fine, they also report it to the Camden County Assessor’s Office.
“Currently, single family residences are assessed at 19 percent. However, if it’s being used as a commercial property – and if you’re using that home as a money maker that makes it commercial – the assessment goes up to 39 percent. We want people to know that we plan to make it as difficult as possible for them if they’re going to violate the law,” he said.
Van Dee said those who continue to violate the Lake Ozark code could be assessed a fine of up to $100.00 a day. The municipal judge would determine the amount of the fine.
“If we have to pursue the matter through district court the penalty could be in the form of a permanent injunction enjoining them from continuing to violate the code and if they did, it could be treated as a contempt of a court order action,” he said, adding that he also will inform the state that the homeowners are operating as a hotel. “And the regulations for hotels are a whole lot stricter and include regular inspections and certifications. I really don’t think it would be worth the time and trouble.”
Kathy Beeler, president of the Bagnell Dam Association of Realtors, said while she understands why people wouldn’t want partying renters in their neighborhoods, she feels that is the exception rather than the norm. She also said by adopting laws prohibiting nightly rentals, municipalities and subdivisions are restricting the sale of properties in their areas.
“We get a lot of people who are buying five or 10 years out from retirement. They know they want to move to the Lake when they retire so they buy a house now in hopes of renting it often enough to make the payments. When showing homes, we tell them that won’t be possible in these areas so they look elsewhere. I know of several cases where homes were passed over because they couldn’t be rented,” she said.
Cary Patterson, city planner for Osage Beach, said they’ve taken a slightly different approach than Lake Ozark and the Village. So far, he said it seems to be working. They’ve had just three reports of problems in the 15 years he’s worked for the city – and one was about a mom and dad with three adult children that each drove their own vehicle, resulting in extra parking on the street.
“We understand this is a resort community and expect rentals. However, in our single family residential, we expect single-family residential activity and behavior – regardless of which family is staying there and the length of their stay. We try to head off problems by regularly reminding property rental firms of those guidelines in writing.
If that ever stops working we have the capability of enforcing our regulations. We’ll start by writing a letter, then we’ll start issuing citations. If we get a homeowner that refuses to comply – that continues to have an inordinate amount of trash, an inordinate amount of parking problems, an inordinate amount of noise – we’ll just send a compliance officer there daily. A judge can set fines of up to $500 per day,” he said.By Nancy Zoellner-Hogland, Lake of the Ozarks Business Journal