Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed concerns Monday about legislative proposals that would further prevent local governments from regulating short-term vacation rentals.
DeSantis said he hasn’t made up his mind on the bills (HB 1011 and SB 1128) but is “leaning against” the effort.
“We have 22 million people almost. We are a very diverse state. For us to be micromanaging vacation rentals, I am not sure that is the right thing to do,” DeSantis told reporters after a dedication ceremony at Florida A&M University.
“These are things where you’ll have kind of a quiet neighborhood,” DeSantis continued. “Then you will have someone doing this and there are parties going on and some of the residents get upset. My view would be, probably, that should be determined locally.”
DeSantis, who has lived on the East and West coasts of the state, said he’s expressed his views with members of the Legislature.
“Yay, good, thank you Gov. DeSantis, I agree with your comments, and what we ought to do is let that bill die in committee,” said Flagler County Commission Chairman Dave Sullivan this afternoon. Flagler County government has been at the forefront of preserving local-government regulation since the Legislature returned such authority to local governments in 2014–the culmination of a lobbying effort that began in Flagler, and was pushed through the Legislature by then-Sen. John Thrasher.
Sen. Travis Hutson, a House member at the time, went along, but was more reluctant, and has been more supportive of preemption since: he voted for the Senate bill in committee earlier this month.
“That’s a biggie,” Sullivan said of DeSantis’s statement, “that’ll encourage people like Travis Hutson to do what I just said.”
The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, and Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud, has cleared its committees and is ready for consideration by the full House. The Senate measure, sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, needs approval from the Rules Committee before it could go to the full Senate.
Last week, the House Commerce Committee brought the two bills closer in alignment by adding language that would require online platforms such as Airbnb to collect and remit taxes on vacation rental properties, ensure that only properly licensed rentals are advertised and provide the state with specific information about the rentals.
In exchange, inspection or licensure regulations would be “preempted” to the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, taking away regulatory authority from local governments.
Local governments would able to regulate issues such as noise, parking and trash, so long as vacation rentals are treated in the same way as other homes in neighborhoods. But that’s essentially nullifying local regulatory capabilities beyond those factors (such as local licensing, requiring a local contact or agent for complaints, and other regulatory issues more specific to vacation rentals), because it is pragmatically and financially impossible for a local government to inspect all residential households as it would need to inspect vacation rentals.
“We’re taking this on as something that’s important to our county,” Sullivan said. “We have an excellent ordinance that we put forward in the unicorporated area to handle all this. As you know the city of Flagler Beach’s ordinance goes back to 2008 and wouldn’t be affected by this.” But if the current legislative proposal becomes law, it would invalidate Flagler’s ordinance. “We fought the battle hard for two or three years and were successful. At this point we’ve decided we’re going to fight for our ordinance, we can’t take on the whole state on this.”
Sullivan said DeSantis’s statement about the diverse areas of the state should suggest to legislators that “there are places where it makes sense and other places where it doesn’t, so the governor’s statement makes perfect sense.”
Fischer said Thursday the proposal is about protecting property ownership rights and that many issues about vacation rentals are nuisance-related and could still be addressed locally.
“Nothing in this bill encourages the situation of a party house,” Fischer said. “Nothing in here would stop local governments from passing a noise ordinance and enforcing those noise ordinances. Those good-neighbor ordinances are still allowed, they just can’t target vacation rentals.”
Under current law, cities and counties cannot prohibit vacation rentals or regulate the duration or frequency of the rentals. But local governments are allowed to license and inspect properties.
Condominium and homeowner associations (that is, HOAs) would be carved out of the new rules.
Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham told the House Commerce Committee last week that the issue has exploded the past few years as corporations have started buying homes in single-family neighborhoods for use as “commercial entities.”
Florida Association of Counties lobbyist Eric Poole told the committee that existing rules are already “friendly” to Florida’s vacation rental industry, which last year generated $1.2 billion in revenue through 6.6 million guests.
DeSantis’s stance raises the possibility of a veto, Sullivan said, which “might slow the bill actually ever coming to the floor for final vote.”
–FlaglerLive and News Service of Florida