The Tallahassee tax code is keeping many students from finding a short-term place to live.
Students are generally required to sign a one-year lease in August, although some students graduate in December.
Why is there a lack in short-term leases, despite the number of students who find themselves in this situation each semester?
The answer is the Tourist Development Tax, which is charged to landlords who rent a property for six months or less, according to the Leon County Tax Collector’s website. Mark Payne, owner of several properties in the Tallahassee area, explains that landlords typically avoid this scenario.
“We try to lease at least seven months,” Payne said. “Anything less than that and the city will hit us.”
The Tourist Development Tax, however, is not the only contributing factor to the problem. When tenants vacate a home, the property manager must go in and have it cleaned and prepared for the next rental. These maintenance costs, which are referred to as “turnover,” can become pricey. These costs are especially high when short-term leases are signed because the property will need frequent cleaning.
So what happens to students who need a place to stay for just a few months? Stephanie Harris, a senior broadcast journalism student from Washington D.C., faced a similar situation.
“I’ve been looking all over Tallahassee for a short-term lease,” she said.
Harris lives in a townhome on a month-to-month basis. She used alternative means to find her new home.
“I ended up having to go on Craigslist to find the place that I live now,” Harris said.
Laura Kenney, a realtor for Pro Players Realty in Tallahassee, said short-term leases are rare In her experience. Kenney said, however, that a short-term lease can be reached between a landlord and a tenant with some negotiation.
“Landlords are going to prefer a long term, but a realtor can negotiate a term for your needs,” Kenney said.
A 12-month lease may be negotiated down to seven. Students willing to commute a little farther may be able to find a short-term lease right outside of the Tallahassee area.