The debate over vacation-rental regulation in Florida has been ongoing in one form or another since 2011 when state law opened the way to unregulated rentals. In 2014 state law changed to give back local governments some regulatory authority, but the vacation-rental industry has since been pressuring state lawmakers again to eliminate, or “pre-empt,” local regulatory authority, reserving that much lighter authority to the state. The Legislature was close to passing such a pre-emptive law last year but fell short.
Legislators are again working on Senate and House bills to eliminate local authority, with the first such bill clearing a Senate committee last week, and another getting its first airing in committee Thursday. This year’s bills have caught the attention of cities especially because of a provision that would remove grandfather clauses. In Flagler Beach, for example, such a removal would nullify local authority, in place for a decade, to restrict vacation rentals to the city’s core commercial zone. On Tuesday, City Commission Chair Jane Mealy circulated a letter to her fellow commissioners and for dissemination through the city urging residents to oppose the proposal that would scale back local regulatory authority. The letter appears below.
The Florida State Legislature is currently in session and is continuing its attack on “home rule,” despite the fact that, in 1968, Florida voters amended the State Constitution to delegate home rule authority to municipalities and counties. One issue the Legislature is attempting to preempt cities and counties from governing in a way the majority of resident’s desire is that of vacation, or short-term, rentals.
In 2008, after a great deal of discussion and sometimes heated debate among residents and between residents and the Flagler Beach City Commission, an ordinance was passed in our city regulating short term rentals in the manner that worked best for our city. During the last few legislative sessions, our state leaders have attempted to preempt such ordinances at the city and county level and create laws at the state level that would be one-size-fits-all rules throughout the state. This year is no exception.
Should the bills up for debate in the Legislature this year pass, Flagler Beach would no longer be able to regulate commercial activity in residential areas. Legislators claim that vacation rentals are residential in nature and, thus, belong in residential neighborhoods. The house next to you, possibly owned by an out-of-state investor, could be turned into a “hotel,” causing you to have new neighbors every few days, putting a strain on residential infrastructure, causing parking and possible noise-level issues, putting a strain on first responders and sanitation workers.
Single family residential homes would be allowed to rent to up to six people per bedroom (a home with three bedrooms would equal 18 people). A local government could only regulate vacation rental properties in the same manner as it regulates all residential properties. The City Commission would no longer be able to determine short term renters’ length of stay nor the frequency of short term rentals at any property [though those prohibitions are already in existing regulations].
The Flagler Beach Commission and city manager have been actively working to prevent such legislation from being enacted. However, as legislative committees continue to meet, it appears as though this preemption will occur.
We are now asking for you, as a resident of our great city and a voter who elects our state level representatives, to become more actively involved by contacting our legislators and sharing your thoughts with them regarding this issue.
The bills you should discuss are:
- SB 1400 (submitted by Senator Steube)
- SB 1640 (submitted by Senator Simmons) – The Florida Vacation Rental Act, which will allow local agencies to follow zoning rules.
- Senator Travis Hutson
314 Senate Office Building
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100
- Representative Paul Renner
1101 The Capitol
402 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
Let’s all work to preserve the unique character of our city, to preserve the Commission’s ability to govern as is best for our city, and to preserve our residential neighborhoods.
–Jane Mealy, Flagler Beach City Commissioner and Chair.