Legislature tries again to regulate vacation rental statewide

In an annual legislative rite, the Florida Senate is once again preparing to consider making the regulation of vacation rental homes and their marketing platforms a statewide process.

The most likely primary legislative vehicles this year is the Republican Senator. Danny burgessSenate Bill 512 and Republican Rep. Jason fischer‘s Bill 325. They look a lot like the final version of last year’s effort – which went further in the legislative process than most efforts of previous years – but it is still dead in the dying days of the session.

This year’s effort likely draws the same largely non-partisan political battle lines between supporters of the 21st century disruptive accommodation industry, best known on marketing platforms. Airbnb and VRBO, and those who see vacation homes, apartments, condos, and rental rooms as mini-hotels slipped into residential neighborhoods, which can be, at worst, party hubs for Spring Break.

“Vacation rentals have become a perennial problem that I hope to help solve,” said Burgess. “Last year, the Legislative Assembly brought all stakeholders to the table and made real progress. I look forward to building on the foundation they have laid and finding a solution that fixes this problem. “

The thousands of Floridians who make money with a spare bedroom, apartment or house want this to be seen as an entrepreneurial property rights issue. If they let a few guests stay in their private homes for a fee, who is it?

Florida’s traditional accommodation industry wants – for reasons of business fairness, public safety, and anti-discrimination – to see regulation similar to that of hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts.

Cities and counties want locally regulated vacation rentals – assuming homes that welcome new tour groups every weekend might be a good fit in Sanibel, but perhaps not as well in Winter Park.

Marketing platforms want uniform regulations, so that they don’t have to thread a complex law in Key West and another in Panama City Beach, for example.

Already, under city ordinances enacted before the legislature pre-empted future vacation rental laws in 2011, the business model faces near-banned regulations in some places like Miami Beach and next to nothing in others. . State sales and local resort taxes are collected from vacation rental tenants in an organized fashion in some counties and left to owners to collect elsewhere, a model that leaves some tenants under the model to skip tax collection. in the hope that they won’t get caught.

Then there is concern for the affordable housing crisis in Florida, as literally hundreds of homes in places like Four Corners are bought by real estate investors explicitly to be operated as vacation rentals, essentially creating rental communities. vacation at the gates of Florida’s major tourist meccaes like Walt Disney World.

The proposed bills do little to tighten vacation rental regulations beyond what cities or counties already require of all other homes. The measures continue to take precedence over almost all state laws and regulations, unless they are in place by 2011.

The bills, however, give local governments the power to require vacation rentals to be registered with local authorities with a processing fee of up to $ 50, to inform local authorities of what there is. a and create databases of local vacation rentals, their owners and who to call if there are problems – information that does not currently exist centrally in many places.

Vacation rental owners would be duly informed of local tourism development and ordinary zoning taxes, parking, garbage, noise, public safety and other ordinances that apply to all homes.

The state would allow the properties as “transitional public accommodation”.

The state would require marketing platforms to ensure that sales and tourist taxes are collected and paid to the government, and that basic laws such as anti-discrimination are followed. The Hotels and Restaurants Division would gain the power to suspend accommodation licenses, including for multiple violations of municipal ordinances on things like noise, parking and garbage.

As usual, the opposing interests are guarded.

“We are still reviewing and while the bill contains good compliance language, it also contains contradictions on preemption,” said Denis hanks, executive director of the Managing Florida Vacation Rentals Association. “As it is written, we could not support it. “

“We are looking at the bill and we will ask our members for guidance,” said Cragin Mostelle, spokesperson for Florida County Association. “However, while there is still work to be done, this first bill is a step in the right direction.”

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