Approximately 200 short-term rentals operating in Fountain Valley will be forced to cease operation and deemed illegal before the start of the new year or face fines and further enforcement from the city. 

This decision comes after the Fountain Valley City Council unanimously gave final approval to an ordinance banning short-term rentals in October. The ordinance states that short-term rentals, such as AirBnbs, that are either hosted or unhosted by the owners, will be banned within the city, and that there would be increased administrative and criminal fines for both short-term rental and building code violations.

The Fountain Valley municipal code did not previously directly address short-term rentals and the new ordinance now targets both those owners currently operating short-term rentals and those who may think of doing so in the future, aiming to prevent any such lodgings in the city. 

The City Council favored a ban saying that by prohibiting short-term rentals, it would give residents their neighborhoods back. 

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During public hearings on the issue, both Fountain Valley residents and short-term rental owners spoke out for or against the ordinance. 

“As a mother, Airbnb gives me an opportunity to raise my kids, have quality time with them and still make an income for the family,” said resident and local AirBnb owner Jenny Tran. “Short-term rentals not only brings income to families, but creates jobs for local people.”

Other homeowners complained about short-term rentals.

“It will be wonderful when the strangers from the short-term rentals can’t fly their drones over my roof,” said resident Sandy Strech. “It’ll be great when there’s no more trash in the gutter, no more beer cans in the front yard, no more loud music, no more blocking driveways, no more heavy traffic, no more taking pictures of the children running in our neighborhood, no more strangers every three or four days.”

The ubiquitous nature of short-term rentals have caused several Orange County cities to propose ordinances tightening regulations or banning these properties. 

Short-term rentals have never been permitted in Fountain Valley, but were also not explicitly prohibited in the municipal code. 

“The city has never issued business licenses (for short-term rentals),” said Councilwoman Kim Constantine during the Oct. 18 public hearing before the council took a final vote on the ordinance.

First-time violations of the new ordinance will cost rental owners a fine ranging from $100 to $1,500. Fines will increase to $3,000 for the second offense and $5,000 for the third offense, according to a city staff report.

Some residents were upset that the fines in the ordinance weren’t high enough and wanted the council to consider increasing the amounts.

“I feel like the fine stipulations are way insignificant as compared to the income that they (the short-term owners) are making. A $500 fine for someone who is making 700, 800, 900 dollars a night, and they’ve got a three day rental, they still made money,” said Lisa Sanders, a Fountain Valley homeowner and business owner. “It’s insignificant, and I think it needs to be reevaluated.”

Councilmember Glenn Grandis urged short-term rental owners to comply with the new law.

“Let’s do it right the first time,” said Grandis, who owns two short-term rental properties – one in Big Bear Lake and the other in Palm Desert. “I would encourage the owners (to pay) if they owe… I will make it my personal mission to make sure our city does everything to get what we’re entitled to.”

The city will start sending the first letters about the ban on short-term rentals at the beginning of January, according to City Attorney Colin Burns, which will give rental owners a 30-day period to shut their rentals down.

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