When the Courts Talk about Property Rights They’re as Clear as Mud

Many local governments have ordinances limiting short term rentals, particularly in beach communities.  Most ordinances require that owners rent their homes for a month or longer so that beach communities aren’t rife with lots of little houses which are really hotels or motels.

In a really interesting case on short term rental bans, Bondar v. Town of Jupiter Inlet Colony ruled that an owner’s substantive due process rights aren’t violated when the city enforces its vacation rental ban.  Substantive due process protects against the government depriving people of fundamental rights ( such as religion, freedom from racial discrimination, etc.) or against arbitrary laws.  If a city were to enact a law that said people needed to clip their fingernails with scissors instead of nail clippers it would violate the substantive due process rights of every well-groomed person.  This law would make no sense.

The Bondars leased homes for short term rental purposes.  The city only had one zoning classification for single family residential.  When it issued violations to the owners for using the property for short term rental, the owners sued the city alleging that the city deprived them of substantive due process rights.  After all, how can a city cite an owner for violating a non-existent short term rental ordinance any more than it can cite someone for using nail clippers?

The Bondars lost the big battle at the appellate court.  The reason is because there’s no fundamental right to rent property and no constitutionally protected substantive due process right against the application of arbitrary land use ordinances.  But here’s the confusing part: the court said the fundamental rights to use property might include the right to own and posses real property.

Here’s the nonlawyer take: property rights are property rights until they’re not.  Welcome to my world and the clarity of the law.

If you have any questions, please contact Jay Small, who practices in the areas of eminent domain, condemnation, property rights, inverse condemnation, and land use.  If you are faced with the issue of how government regulations can affect your property, Jay can be reached at (407) 425-9044 and by email at [email protected], or follow Jay on LinkedIn.



This blog and these materials are not intended to provide legal advice.  They do not represent the legal opinions of the firm, nor should they be regarded as the legal positions of any client of the law firms of Mateer Harbert, P.A. They are provided for general informational purposes only.  These materials should not be used as a substitute for the advice of qualified legal counsel.


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