SAN DIEGO (CN) - Encinitas charges an illegal annual $150 "short term rental fee" to discourage landlords from renting beach homes to tourists, a class action claims in Superior Court.
Lead plaintiff Chris Carrico, who owns a property management firm that rents beach houses, says the fee is an extra property tax that violates the California Constitution.
Carrico says the goal of the ordinance, in addition to collecting money for the city, is to drive out what the city perceives as rowdy summer tourists by fining landlords who can't control their tenants.
"A gullible Encinitas City Council, listening to an outspoken minority of 'locals', apparently believes, wrongly, that excessive noise, drunkenness, vandalism, trash accumulation and illegal parking is rampant in Encinitas and would not exist but for this specific type of vacationer," Carrico says.
He claims the poorly written, vague ordinance unfairly holds landlords liable for tenants' behavior. He says the ordinance exempts hotels from the same "stringent regulations and very stiff penalties" if their guests misbehave.
"The same misconduct that would be subject to fine and permit revocation when committed by a short-term visitor [less than 30 days] is not actionable under this ordinance when committed by renters of long-term rentals, hotels, or owner-residents," Carrico says.
Landlord fines start at $250 for a complaint not handled with 24 hours, and increase to $500, $750 and $1,000 for subsequent violations.
Carrico estimates the class at 200 landlords. He says summer rental income makes it possible for many beachfront homeowners to pay their mortgages.
The class seeks declaratory judgment voiding the ordinance and the fee, and their money back. It is represented by Edward Teyssier.
Internecine warfare among seaside cities in pricey San Diego County is not unusual. Residents of adjoining cities frequently complain - though not in court - that neighboring Police Departments arrest homeless people and "deport" them to the city down the road. The Police Departments, of course, deny it. But residents and some newspaper reporters insist that the practice is common.
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