A years-long effort to block local governments from regulating vacation rentals is on the move again, as House and Senate leaders revive a proposal to prevent cities and counties from inspecting and licensing properties offered on platforms such as Airbnb.
In a 10-7 vote on Wednesday, the House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee gave an initial nod to the latest iteration of the proposal (HB 219).
While the legislation has morphed over the past few years, the controversy over the issue has remained consistent.
“It’s always been a fun bill to present in committees,” Rep. Jason Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican who has shepherded the proposal in recent years, joked as he introduced the bill to the panel on Wednesday.
The measure would, for the first time, 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, regulation would be “preempted” to the state, largely preventing local governments from regulating the rentals. Local governments could only regulate the rentals in the same way as other properties in neighborhoods, a restriction that cities and counties strenuously oppose.
Florida already bans local governments from passing ordinances to outlaw vacation rentals.
[Thanks in large part to Flagler County, on whose ordinance many other communities subsequently modeled their local vacation-rental ordinances, the Legislature changed the law in 2014 to give communities regulatory authority. Short-term vacation rental advocates and industry have been trying to scrap the legislation since. Just as long, the Flagler County Commission has made opposing a rollback one of its legislative priorities.]
While acknowledging that his bill faces opposition, Fischer argued that the changes are necessary.
“The current way vacation rentals are handled isn’t working. Nobody’s, I think, really happy about the current state of things,” he said, adding that his proposal would “fix the dysfunction of the regulatory scheme across the state of Florida.”
Vacation-rental preemption has become a perennial fight for local officials and property owners in some high-end neighborhoods who complain about noise, parking and trash issues stemming from “party houses” owned by non-resident investors or unidentifiable businesses.
“It’s like déjà vu all over again. I’m sure you all are just as tired of us coming up here as we are,” Indian River County Commissioner Peter O’Bryan told the House panel.
The proposal would do away with ordinances regulating short-term rentals adopted after June 1, 2011, which opponents said would be problematic for areas that worked to develop local regulations since then.
“The problem with vacation rentals is, it’s not the activity. It’s the frequency and duration of it,” O’Bryan said. “If you preempt us back to 2011, you’re going to wipe out all of these communities where we have sat down with the industry, we have done the right thing, and we have an ordinance that’s working.”
Democratic lawmakers also said the proposal would worsen the state’s dearth of affordable housing.
But Fischer said “a fundamental principle in America is private-property rights” and that people who want to use properties as affordable housing can do so if they choose.
“They have by right the ability to go and purchase those properties and develop them in a way that they think will meet their policy objective,” he said.
Fischer’s bill was amended Wednesday to include a provision that would limit sex offenders from staying in vacation rentals for more than 24 hours. Florida law restricts sex offenders from staying at hotels for more than three days. The amended proposal also included a carve-out for the Florida Keys.
Arguing against the proposal, Rep. Mike Grieco called short-term rentals a “commercial operation” that should be regulated differently than residences.
“You’re essentially turning, a lot of times, a single-family home into a perpetual kind of mini-hotel,” Grieco, a Miami Beach Democrat who is an attorney, said.
The hotel industry, which for years sought to have vacation rentals governed in the same manner as other lodging establishments, is split on the proposal.
Lisa Lombardi, chief people and culture officer of HDG Hotels, told House members Wednesday that the bill “has a lot of potential to make sure that we can all recognize who is in our state providing lodging of any form.”
But Lombardi said her group, which operates 19 hotels in Florida, wants fines for non-compliance and auditing requirements added to the measure.
“As it currently stands, there’s room for improvement,” said Lombardi, who serves on the board of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association.
Carol Dover, president and CEO of the association, told The News Service of Florida that her organization supports the plan.
But Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, said his group isn’t behind the proposal.
“Florida is unique in how it regulates hotels, and we’re appreciative of that and in no way are we suggesting that that should be changed,” Rogers said in a recent phone interview. “The dividing issue that we have … is the preemption of what really amounts to zoning. No other business gets this type of preemption. It’s unheard of anywhere else in the country where a local city can’t enforce its own zoning on properties.”
Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, made the vacation-rentals issue a priority before he took over as the Senate’s leader in November.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, however, put the kibosh on a similar plan during last year’s legislative session.
In a vehement display, busloads of homeowners from across Florida traveled to Tallahassee last year to decry the proposal, pointing to a Pandora’s box of woes arising from party houses.
But other property owners told lawmakers they rely on earnings from short-term rentals to supplement their retirement income, allow them to work from home or as an investment for their golden years.
DeSantis told reporters last February that he hadn’t made up his mind but that he was “leaning against” the legislative efforts.
“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 said at the time.
–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida
Lance Carroll says
Every short term rental, in my narrow view, should be regulated exactly as any and all hotels and motels. I have witnessed the absolute lack of proper management and malfeasance of privately owned short term rentals.
This bill does not address Fire/ Life safety inspections. The State can not inspect every vacation rental annually. These dwellings have been operating for years in non compliance with the minimum Florida Fire Codes. When Flagler County adopted their ordinance over 98 percent where in noncompliance. No Fire extinguishers, No Emergency Lighting, No secondary means of egress, illegal alterations, No pool safety requirements, Smoke detectors missing or not operating, owners illegally homesteading their property, owners not paying the required bed taxes and No requirements for people that are disabled. This problem is more then noise or trash. The State did not regulate this industry. They only provided lines to operate. These dwellings are not supervised. These dwellings have occupancies exceeding two occupants per each legal sleeping area. In Ocean Hammock there where four bedroom dwellings with occupancy exceeding 25. Every public lodging establishment has occupancy limits.
If an owner of a single family dwelling license their unit as a bed and breakfast they would be prevented from operating their business in areas zoned for single family homes. A bed and breakfast occupancy is two occupants per each legal bedroom. A bed and breakfast is a transient public lodging establishment. A vacation rental is also a public lodging establishment. Why are these dwellings excluded from local property zoning and occupancy limits? A single family dwelling license as a bed and breakfast are also required to change their certificate of occupancy and are required to be inspected semi annually. But a vacation rental prior to 2015 when Flagler County ordinance was adopted was not inspected by the State. Florida needs to keep local regulations in place.
Just goes to show ya that the members of the House Regulatory Reform Subcommitte do not live at the beach as full time residents and they don’t have to deal with the issues with the weekly or even daily stream of renters that just don’t seem to care about the property or the area they are staying in. ex. when the home is only designed , septic wise for 6 people. These renters don’t care about putting 10 -12 people in the home.
@run deathsantis splains what up
It just biddness
Charles F. Ericksen, Jr says
A few years back, Flagler County successfully challenged , Tallahassee, on Vacation rentals, only to find out that many of the elected officials, who proposed , the new rules , and who would vote YES/NO on these new rules , individually owned affected properties.. I would imagine that this continues today..
Just how honest can someone who owns these property , VOTE.. …..
Representatives should be required to declare such , and NOT vote..
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Attempts by the sponsor(s) of this insane Senate Bill 522 should be prohibited once and for all in perpetuity. Any attempt any legislator to take away government ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’ is an attempt towards destroying our democracy and an open invitation to totalitarianism – period!
SINGLE Family residential zoning and land use means SINGLE family and needs to be protected from Mafia style AIR B&B and their buddies once and for all. Single Family Sale and Purchase contracts specifically state use of property is residential and NOT ‘Commercial’. These bumbling idiots who even entertain such corrupt misuse of our legal rights for peaceful enjoyment should be removed from office and require to read and memorize the definitions of Single Family land use as defined in’Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary’ and not by their cash cow sneaky contributors.
Should this corrupt legislation pass we must make sure to vote out every Senator ( and House member) who votes yes and immediately insure it will be vetoed by the governor or vote him out also.
Not only is this abuse of the legislators sole responsibility i.e. protect the taxpayers and voters’ is is an insult to the very fiber of our Federal and State Constitution obligations. Now I’ve said my piece -how you do you who live in single family homes feel?
Lance Carroll says
From the comments within this thread, it seems like citizens are adversely effected by the lack of regulations and inspections of the multitude of short term rentals within the residential zoned neighborhoods within the zip codes of flaglerlive.com…
I’m just guessing….
I live across the street from a short term rental. Currently some girls working the races are here (working in Daytona staying here). We have been lucky as the groups who have stayed here are pleasant but we are in just a regular neighborhood. The price is cheap, but it’s just a house. It is empty most of the time.