A long-running dispute over vacation rentals is heating up, as a Senate panel Tuesday approved a proposal that would give the state — not local officials — control over regulation of short-term rentals.
Protecting local, county regulation of vacation rentals has been central to Flagler government’s goals since 2014, when the county’s push led to the existing law.
Ignoring the pleas of dozens of local officials from throughout the state, the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee approved the measure (SB 1128) in a 3-2 party-line vote. Sen. Travis Hutson, who represents Flagler County and sits on the committee, voted for the bill.
“I’m in the unique position of passing the 2014 law which gave the local control back with some caveats,” Hutson said. Addressing the bill sponsor, he went on: “I’m going to support your bill today, thank you [for] working with me on the HOA carve-outs and making sure they were taken care of, because they have covenants and restrictions and contracts that the state can’t touch. I hope we can go further.” He proposed signage enabling people to call the Department of Business and Professional Regulations–which would be the only regulatory agency–to prompt inspections.
“What scares me to death,” Hutson said, “if we do full local control back, that they do want to take people’s property. They say when they come up here we’re all for property rights, but–and that is concerning. We see new ordinances that go above and beyond trying to regulate these things out of business and it scares the death out of me.”
“It needs a lot of work,” Sen. Victor Torres, the Osceola County Democrat, said before voting against the bill. “I’m impressed the elected officials besides the residents who came up here today to express their concerns on this bill.”
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, would “preempt” regulation of vacation rentals, including licensing and inspection, to the state.
Under current law, cities and counties cannot prohibit short-term rentals of residential properties unless their regulations pre-date 2011. And local governments have had the authority to regulate short-term rentals since 2014.
The proposed measure would negate local vacation-rental ordinances passed since June 1, 2011. But it would let cities and counties impose new regulations so long as the rules applied equally to all residential properties, including private homes as well as vacation rentals. Since local governments have no capacity to enforce regulations that apply so universally, such new regulations would be essentially impractical if the aim is to regulate short-term rentals.
In an interview after the committee signed off on his bill, Diaz said local governments could still pass ordinances dealing with complaints such as noise, parking or the number of occupants in a house — but the measures would have to apply to all residences.
“In fact, they can pass ordinances by neighborhood. The only thing is, does it apply to every property in that neighborhood. At the end of the day, we do live in America. Private property still matters,” Diaz said. “We’re not taking away that power. All we’re saying is, you have to treat them equally. You can’t say, ‘Hey, Neighbor X, you can have a party ‘til whenever you want and you can have 27 cars,’ but you’re an Airbnb, guess what, you can’t have cars. Same neighborhood, same problem, right?”
But a parade of homeowners and local officials told the Senate panel that county and city officials are best-suited to ensure that regulations governing short-term rentals reflect what communities need and want.
“This is a major quality-of-life issue,” Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch said, adding that the impact of vacation rentals “has been devastating on our communities.”
Ahearn-Koch and other critics contend that such rentals, in many cases, have turned into commercial operations in residential areas.
She pointed to the effect an Arizona law, similar to Diaz’s proposal, had on Sedona, Ariz., where 30 percent of housing stock “has become short-term rentals.”
The “great majority” of investors in short-term rental properties in the Miami Beach area “are conglomerates,” according to Michele Puldy Burger, chief of staff for Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.
The city is concerned with protecting residents who’ve been “subjected to all-night parties, drug-dealing and even human smuggling,” she said.
Sheila Duffy-Lehrman, a Miami Beach homeowner, said the issue is “very personal” for her and her neighbors.
“For over four years our neighborhood has been rocked by vacation rentals,” Duffy-Lehrman said, rattling off a list of woes, including a “lost guy trying to break into our home” and her daughter being “propositioned by leering strangers.”
“The final straw? A bonfire party on a balcony next door, with flying embers hitting our home,” she said.
But homeowners who offer properties on platforms such as Airbnb, including several from the St. Augustine area who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said they care about their communities and use the rent to supplement their incomes.
Eight-year-old Sarah Boselli Neves extolled the virtues of short-term rentals, telling the committee she was speaking “on behalf of the millions of children who visit Florida every year and love to stay in vacation rentals.”
The rental properties allow families “to spend quality time with their loved ones,” Neves said.
“Vacation rentals are awesome,” she said, adding that they offer “a nice kitchen where our moms can cook.”
The proposal, which is backed by Florida Realtors, also would preempt regulation of advertising platforms, such as Airbnb, to the state.
Under changes to the legislation approved by the Senate panel Tuesday, advertising platforms would be required to display the properties’ rental license numbers, as well as sales-tax registration and tourist-development tax account numbers. The platforms would also have to verify that the information provided by owners or operators is valid.
Platforms would have to provide a list of all vacation rentals — residential units which are rented to the public more than three times per year, for periods of less than a month — to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which also oversees hotels and motels.
Committee Chairman Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, supported the measure Tuesday but said he has “serious reservations about how this impacts my community,” saying he hoped Diaz’s plan would be “improved in a way that could bring more of the stakeholders on board.”
Diaz said his proposal isn’t really taking away local control, despite what the local officials said, “because of all the regulations we’re putting in.”
“I’ve spoken to several cities who can’t tell me where their vacation rentals are, who’s a vacation rental, are they paying their taxes, are they licensed. The bill assures us that all of this goes on. If not, they get kicked off the platform,” he said.
With an economy based on tourism, “this problem’s not going away,” Diaz told The News Service of Florida.
“We need to address it. We need to regulate it. It’s not so much that we want to take away the power from locals, like they’re trying to say. It’s that we are now recognizing this is a statewide issue and, at the end of the day, it’s our responsibility to address it because it is a statewide issue,” he said.
Diaz said he is well-suited to sponsor the proposal because, unlike other regions of the state, the majority of his district “does not suffer” from problems associated with vacation rentals.
“I’m shepherding the bill because I can be as objective as possible because I don’t have the heartstrings being pulled,” he said.
“This is a gut-wrenching bill. This is a difficult subject,” Sen. Tom Wright, the Volusia County Republican, said, before voting for the bill. “It’s been going on for years. I am a local control type of fellow. I like to see our local people do what they need to do. But that said, we need to help them. This has been going on long enough. I don’t think we want to continue to have this debate for another 10 years.”
–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida, and FlaglerLive
Just a heads up. I lived in a very affluent area where there were an abundance of short-term rentals. Be prepared, the vast majority of people renting their homes short-term do not allow smoking inside their residence. Therefore, people congregate outside to smoke. Trust me, the quiet enjoyment of your personal pool areas, terraces and screened areas will at times be rendered unusable from the smoke emulating from the short-term rental. The noise and parking problems are an easy fix via the police. But, there is absolutely nothing the police can do about the cloud of second hand smoke coming your way.
CB from PC says
I seem to recall that one reason the American Civil War was fought was due to a distant central government body exerting absolute and superseding authority over local jurisdictions policies.
This is Legislation passed by corrupt Legislators whose pockets have been fattened by the likes of AirBNB.
Shame on them for using kids.
Ask the people of Anna Maria Island how they feel about the McMansions.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Hopefully Governor De Santis has morals and is aware that the bill falsely defines commercial use on residential is illegal and will veto SB2811/HB 1011. Every legislator who votes for such criminal legislation can be removed from the legislature due to mental illness and incapacity to serve the taxpayers whom they represent.
I will raise alpacas and Amazon birds in our 39,000 sq,foot lot.size. and also become a rabbi and hold weekly Shabbat services and file for a property tax exemption. I assure the mental morons in Tallahassee will have to pass laws prohibiting alpacas if AIRBAndB does not agree
We must vote out these incompetents from public office
I pray the Governor will veto such blatant corruption
Senator Hutson does not get it. This argument is not only about trash, noise and parking. It is much more then that. The bill will effectively re classify these dwellings. They will no longer be public lodging establishment. They will be considered single family homes and will be treated as such. What that means if DBPR, State Fire Marshals office or your local fire service received a complaint for over crowding or lack of a secondary means of egress they would not be able to gain entry to conduct inspections without applying for a warrant.
This is a real life hazard. Prior to 2014 vacation rentals where not inspected for compliance with the Florida Fire code unless a local municipality enacted an ordinance prior to July 2011 when the legislature passed Senate Bill 883. When Flagler County adopted their ordinance after 2014 these Fire/life safety inspections revealed that over 90 percent of the Vacation rentals operating where in non compliance with the Florida Fire Code 69 A. This is a danger to the public and our first responders. The DPBR can not inspect every vacation rental annually without the help of our local governments. This was a fact in 2014 and it’s a fact today. More people are injured or die in single family homes durning a Fire then any other dwelling.
These vacation rental dwellings are no different then a bed and breakfast. At least a bed and breakfast has management on property 24/7. A single family home license by the DBPR is unregulated with no supervision. In addition an owner licensing their single family dwelling as a bed and breakfast must change their certificate of occupancy, be inspected twice a year for fire/ life safety, comply with ADA laws, install a sprinkler system when their secondary means of egress is not grade level and are prohibited from operating in single family neighborhoods.
Another piece in this vacation rental bill is the lack of protection of neighborhoods not protected by HOA or Condo documents and local governments right to regulate if they did not have ordinances in place prior to July 1, 2011. Senator Hutson believes in property rights as long as it relates to investors. But what about all the Florida residents who purchase property or have been living in their homes prior to 2011? Well Senator Hutson operating a transient public lodging establishment for transient purposes is a business and it was never a property right. This type of activity is not compatible in single family neighborhoods. Each single family dwelling owner was issue a certificate of occupancy stating the type of use allowed in this dwelling. That use is stated in the Florida Building code under occupancy classification. That occupancy classification is R3 which means that the occupancy is permanent in nature. These vacation rental dwellings are transient in nature. Why are local governments that had ordinance prohibiting such use prior to 2011 exempt from these bills? Are their property rights different then Flagler County residents?
These bills must fail. If not buyer beware. If you are not protected by your HOA or Condo documents your fare game. But do HOA’s really have that protection in these bills? If they remove these vacation rentals from the public lodging definition can we stop them from being built in every community in Florida?
all the opponents to short term rentals are deep state hotel/motel operatives. It’s a conspiracy to take away homeowners rights. I hope the state GOP stands strong and deters these big gubmint advocates from taking away my right to turn my home into a cash machine. SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!!!!!!!!! If my neighbors have a problem with it they can sell and leave the country.
@Preemption of local government is an absolute for the NRA, and its ilk
Which makes it an absolute for the Republican politicians it (the NRA, and its ilk) own. The fact that it (preemption) benefits monopolists, polluters, and all manner of other profiteers is no coincidence. Do as we (Republicans) say – not as we do.
CB from PC says
The Second Amendment guaranteeing the right to bear arms is in The Bill of Rights. This is a Federal Document.
People like Gov. Northam are trying to futilely trying to undermine this at the local level.
What do you think of sanctuary cities at the local level violating Federal law with respect to harboring people here illegally, and who also commit violent crimes?
Something for your brain to think about.
Jim O says
Senator Hutson sells us out time and time again. He is so out of touch with his base. He will never get my vote again and the best thing we could do is not him out of the primary.
Great news for homeowners!! No one can tell us what to do with our own homes.
Vacation rentals bring vivrance and life to these otherwise lifeless communties.
If you ride around Palm Coast alot of these neighborhoods are dead by 7 o’clock. We need more spanish music playing loud and people hanging out in the streets at night having fun and living life. Its a shame people in bed at 9 pm on a Tuesday. There is no life in these neighborhoods and that has the chance to change by bringing in new people!
CB from PC says
Be more than happy to test the decibel level from my motorcycle pipes at 6 am in front of your house.
Where do you live?
If it is so dead here, maybe you should move to Orlando, Broward or Dade Counties where the nightlife more suits you.
Fed Up says
Again it comes right down to your federal government dictating to our state ELECTED officials. Look where this bill originated from. South Florida, Manny Diaz, and others working against We Homeowners, capitalizing on illegal short term rentals. I bet he is in with the good ole boys that have no regard for the glue of our country. This is their way to take away our Constitutional Right of ALL the Legal Americans working hard to keep what they own. This all has to do with votes. The illegals will be infiltrating our elections in November, thanks to all our representatives that are protecting ALL ILLEGALS entering the United States. 🇺🇸
I contacted our local leaders in Flagler County on this subject. I was told Senator Hutson and Representative Renner are not backing our local governments. They are siding with the investors. Maybe they should start wearing NASCAR jackets with there sponsors prominently displayed on it. Florida Vacation Management Association, Florida Relators Association, AIRBNB, VRBO and other internet providers. It is time for our representatives to represent their local municipalities and their constituents and vote down these destructive vacation rental bills.
I am also asking our Flagler County Republican Party to endorse a candidate against Senator Hutson in this years primary that will uphold our residential neighborhoods and back a bill to repeal 2011 Senate bill 883 which was written by the Vacation Rental Management Association Lobbyist Lori Killinger. Senator Hutson may have a big war chest but it is the residents that will choose our next Representative not the investors. Let’s send a message to Representative Renner and the rest of the legislature.
CB from PC says
Good job researching this. Thank you for taking the time to publish this.
Time to do some housecleaning…as in House of Representatives.
And get our local Party in the loop to derail this BS legislation.
5th Amendment says
So Florida is protecting property rights for homeowners unless those rights were taken away in 2011 or before???
The ability to use your property to its highest and best use and not have it limited without due process is either a constitutional right (see the 5th Amendment) or it’s not.