A New Law That Alienates Not The Answer

Rather than craft a strict ordinance that will infuriate thousands, hurt the real estate market tremendously and probably be impractical to enforce, Ocean City simply needs to determine how best to raise awareness of current laws on rental properties and craft an official policy on how to ensure there is a consistent procedure to document violations.

At its most fundamental, the latest spate of complaints about rowdy renters impacting the quality of life of year-round residents in typically quiet neighborhoods is further confirmation of the changing clientele Ocean City seems to be attracting.

Contrary to the resort’s critics, we do not think it has anything to do with marketing dollars being directed to new areas or anything along those lines. The fact remains people are simply different now. The value system is not the same. Manners are not what they once were. Above all, there is a sense of entitlement prevalent today that was not years ago.

That’s why these days when a group of several couples in their 20s spend $4,000 for a week at the beach there is an intent to enjoy every minute of it how they wish without any respect or concern for what their actions will have on others.

People have always come to OceanCity to have a good time. Whether it be with family taking in the typical traditional favorites, like the beach, Boardwalk, amusement parks and shopping, or the single set enjoying the lively and thriving bar scene, Ocean City is a fun place, but like most things moderation is the key. That’s when the horror stories about discourteous renters, typically under the influence, expressed at this week’s Ocean City Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing come into play.

OceanCity should not change its rental laws to limit the amount of time people can rent in certain districts. Instead, the city needs to focus on the amount of people renting, rather than coming up with more regulations. That would be tantamount to using a sledgehammer to bang in a nail on a piece of molding when a small hammer will do the job.

When kept in the proper perspective, it’s simply not that major of a problem, although certainly the impacted neighbors would disagree. The problem lies in a few properties and the data confirms it.

In R-1 (single family residential) and MH (mobile home districts) zones, city law states, “a group of not more than four persons living together by joint agreement and occupying a single housekeeping unit with single culinary facility on a cost sharing basis” is prohibited.

The law is there to be followed, but causing some blur is the fact not all properties that are being rented are actually securing rental licenses. That’s an issue the city can and should crack down on immediately.

In this case, the city just needs to do a better job of reacting to complaints. It needs to be hyper reactive and be sure to let renters know this is a growing concern and they are the reason why.

Along with reacting in a more timely fashion, the answer here lies in better enforcement and reacting in a more timely fashion. Does that mean more staff is needed? The city will need to state that case if that’s so, but we find that doubtful. It’s facile to maintain enforcement of the noise law and the maximum occupancy clause in an ordinance must be enforced. It’s another matter altogether to carry out.

We believe with a refined procedure that requires property owners be immediately notified of renter problems with consequences if not addressed could be successful. This is not a problem that needs a heavy handed approach. As the data indicates, in the big picture, there are not a tremendous amount of problems when the total number of rental properties in OceanCity are considered.

This is an issue that requires a policy to carry out proper enforcement when there are violators. It’s also a matter that needs to be revisited often to ensure procedures are being followed. It’s not a topic that requires a new ordinance. The existing one on the books is appropriate. It just can’t be ignored.