A controversial bill proposing to all but end local regulation of vacation rentals was scheduled to be heard in a House committee Monday, only to be postponed without explanation. The postponement may signal that the proposal will once again fail to go forward, as it has despite annual attempts since 2014. Alternately, the postponement signals that House members are negotiating with Senate counterparts, where a similar bill was watered down considerably last week in favor of preserving key elements of local control.
Flagler County government has been at the vanguard–first of instigating what became the 2014 law granting counties and cities the authority to regulate their vacation rentals, which have been booming since, second of writing a regulatory ordinance that became a template for many like it across the state. The county has kept preservation of regulatory authority among its legislative priorities year after year, as the vacation rental industry has–year after year–attempted to scrap the 2014 law and “pre-empt” local control to the state. The industry has been within sight of its goal several times, only to fail at the tail end of the legislative process.
Currently, local governments may inspect vacation rentals for compliance with the Florida Building Code and fire regulations, and oversee compliance with local noise, parking and trash rules. Licensing of vacation rentals takes place locally.
There are 4,688 hotels and motels licensed in Florida, and an other 269 bed and breakfast inns, but 26,992 licenses for vacation rentals (9,031 for vacation rental condominiums, 17,934 for dwellings, and 27 for timeshares), according to a legislative analysis.
In Flagler County, based on numbers compiled by the Flagler County Tax Collecter and relayed by Tourism Director Amy Lukasik, there are currently 1,176 active short-term rental accounts that generate the tourist tax, which reflect either a property or a taxpayer.
This year’s session began with a pair of bills in the Senate and House that looked similar. The bills would have reverted regulatory control to the state’s Division of Hotels and Restaurants within the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, allowing local regulations only to the extent that the same regulations would apply to all residential homes. That clause would have the effect of nullifying any possible inspections, since its application would be realistically impossible–if not untenable, from the perspective of homeowners.
DBPR may inspect vacation rentals, but it does not do so systematically. Rather, it does so only in response to consumer complaints. (In 2019-20, the division received 1,391 such complaints and found 38 violations, according to a legislative analysis of the senate bill.)
The bills advanced through committees in the House and Senate. But on March 11 the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 13-5 to strip the Senate version of the bill (SB 522) from some of its pre-emption clauses. The version of the bill that emerged from the committee would preempt the regulation of advertising platforms of vacation rentals to the state, but it does not alter other existing local regulatory authority.
The House Ways and Means Committee was to consider the more pre-emptive bill–prohibiting local regulatory ordinances–at its meeting Monday. Committee Chairman Bobby Payne, the Palatka Republican, said the committee would “TP House Bill 219 at this time,” meaning temporarily postpone it. There were no objections. It has not been rescheduled.
It’s not just a Florida issue. The Arizona legislature is exploring vacation-rental regulations, but in reverse: the Legislature there is looking to give local governments some added powers. A bill was introduced this month in the Vermont Legislature that would combine state and local oversight. In Santa Barbara, Calif., a court case ended with a ruling asserting the city’s authority to enforce its short-term rental ordinance.
Arizona passed a law similar to the one our Florida legislature proposed about removing local control over short-term rentals. They now have buyer’s remorse.
Read about Sedona, Arizona. They have had to close a school because of short-term rentals, with more than 70% of short-term rentals owned by LLCs or non-resident investors. These are businesses destroying communities. Sedona residents are leaving the area – they thought they were going to be living in a neighborhood.
And, keep in mind it is special interests who write these laws for state legislators – the organization is called ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) that writes pre-packaged bills for legislators all over the country. They did a huge expose in the Atlantic titled “Exposing ALEC: How Conservative State Laws all Are Connected.” Truly worth a read. I used to be naive enough to think our legislators were writing the bills. This info should be widely disseminated among voters.
And, please look up this article in the Atlantic:
Jane GentileYoud says
Thank you for staying on top of one of my biggest peeves, both as a Real Estate Broker for 40 years and as a Florida home owner and property tax payer for 44 years. We buy single family homes for our privacy, peace, enjoyment and condos for a lesser level of expectations but we all purchase our properties designed R E S I D E N T I A L not COMMERCIAL. Yes, you can legally move out and rent your home for a period of 6 months or more in most communities which is kind of wishy washy but yet there is a semblance of ‘ private property rights’.
The legislators pushing this should all be removed from public office for incompetency as well as malfeasance. They are paid by we the homestead property owners. full time residents, voters to PROTECT our precious investments in our homes; they are responsible to us, ‘we the people’, not to their licking chops property investors!
I have many issues with our County Attorney, Al Hadeed, so many that I need to stop sometimes and think but what is fair is fair. He was voted County Attorney of the Year I believe in 2017 by some State Agency for his incredible , passionate and dedicated efforts to stop the state from taking local control away from local governments. Apparently his hard work on this issue has managed to echo in the ears of those in Tallahassee who are being wined and dined to terminate (from now until the end of time in perpetuity) any current local control of enforcing illegal commercial uses of residentially zoned residences This .
I gotta thank Al Hadeed . He does deserve credit for his efforts on this one, stand alone , issue.
Why did the legislature get involved in local property zoning? In 2011 they adopted Florida Senate Bill 883 and took away regulatory powers from local governments. Our legislature then declared that vacation rentals are no different then Single Family Homes used for permanent occupancy. But what single family home is required to pay bed taxes, license as a transient public lodging establishment business by the State of Florida, required to follow additional fire safety codes according to the Florida fire code 69A , required to carry commercial property insurance and are advertised for use as a short term rental? The answer is none!
2011 Senate Bill was written by Lori Killinger for the Florida Vacation Management Association. This bill violated our local property zoning laws. A vacation rental was never listed as a permitted use in Flagler County until 7/1/2011. This was a breach of all property owners in Flagler County. In addition this law change the classification name of these vacation dwellings from a Resort Dwelling to a Vacation Rental. You may ask why was this done?
All residents in Florida should be proactive. Go to HomeRuleFL.com! We have to protect our neighborhoods.
Jan is 100 percent correct. Arizona made a bad decision and now they are regretting it. These vacation rentals are own by investors not individuals looking to subsidize their vacation homes.