Florida lawmakers’ plan to regulate short-term rentals is a problem
A controversial vacation rental proposal underwent a major overhaul Thursday, after the bill’s sponsor removed a provision that would have blocked the ability of local governments to authorize and inspect properties.
The fight for oversight of short-term rentals has intensified in the Legislature as the popularity of vacation properties advertised on platforms such as Airbnb has increased.
At the heart of the legislative wrangling is an effort to “anticipate” the regulation of short-term rental properties to the state, a move that has met vehement opposition from city and county officials because it would remove the government. local authority.
Senator Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, filed a proposal (SB 522) in January that included requiring online platforms to collect and remit taxes on vacation rental properties, which the platforms were not required to do so in the past. The measure also included an obligation for platforms to ensure that only properly authorized rentals are advertised and to provide the state with specific rental information.
In return, the regulations would have been pre-empted by the state, largely preventing local governments from authorizing or inspecting rentals. Local governments could only have regulated rentals in the same way as other neighborhood properties, a restriction that cities and counties vigorously opposed.
But an amendment proposed by Diaz and accepted by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday removed the regulatory pre-emptive parts of the bill, while leaving requirements making platforms responsible for tasks such as collecting and remitting taxes to the bill. Condition and warranty that rental properties are licensed.
The latest version of the bill also says nothing about regulating rentals like neighboring properties.
Senators were divided on the bill, but Diaz’s efforts to maintain the status quo on the oversight authority for local governments won support on Thursday from Sen. Ed Hooper, a Republican from Clearwater who voted against a version earlier.
Hooper said he was “almost universally” opposed to pre-emption laws, but the bill gives the state the ability to “register, regulate and ensure that the appropriate revenues” from rentals of vacations go into the state coffers.
Diaz’s amendment, which received support from the Florida League of Cities, “improves the bill and the fact that it no longer harms my communities gives me comfort,” Hooper said.
“Sen. Diaz, you turned a firm no into a pleasant yes and I appreciate your efforts,” Hooper said before the committee voted 13-5 in favor of the revised bill.
State law already prohibits local governments from passing ordinances to ban vacation rentals, which has angered residents who complain about investor-owned “party houses” in the neighborhoods. Other critics argue that owners of some rental properties do not submit state and local taxes properly.
But supporters of Diaz’s earlier version argue that short-term rental properties are used to supplement the incomes of retirees and families.
The previous version would have removed ordinances regulating short-term rentals adopted after June 1, 2011. Opponents said such a provision would be problematic for areas that have worked in recent years to develop local regulations.
But Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer said even with the changes passed on Thursday, he couldn’t support the proposal. Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, said his district includes two towns that are among the top 10 most popular vacation rental sites in the state. Diaz’s plan does not give local authorities enough control, Farmer argued.
“When you buy a home in a single-family residential neighborhood, you expect seclusion, peace and quiet,” he said. “I still think there should be no restrictions.”
In a telephone interview after the committee meeting, Diaz said vacation rental legislation “is clearly a work in progress.”
He said he deleted some of the wording from the proposal because “there are a lot of concerns and misconceptions about what was in the local room modifications bill.”
“Now that it’s removed, it’s easier to have the conversation without confusing what locals can and can’t do,” he added.
The bill would require platforms to pre-verify that properties advertised on their sites are licensed, which would be difficult if local governments cannot perform inspections, Diaz told the News Service of Florida.
“It could be very tricky without any pieces that at least create some sort of framework for the locals,” he said.
Diaz and supporters of his previous version of the bill argue that vacation rental owners have the same rights as their neighbors and should not be regulated differently.
The Republican of Hialeah told the press service “a conversation has yet to take place on property rights” and ensure that the ordinances apply “at all levels”.
“Where it ends, I don’t know, but I think it’s a conversation we need to have,” he said.
Prior to assuming the presidency of the Senate last year, Republican Trilby Wilton Simpson worked behind the scenes to forge a proposal that garnered support from advertising platforms, Florida Realtors and even the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, which in the past has vigorously resisted similar measures.
But Gov. Ron DeSantis put the kibosh on the proposal, saying in February 2020 he had reservations about it.
“We have 22 million people, almost. We are a very diverse state. For us to micromanage vacation rentals, I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do, ”DeSantis said at the time.
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