House votes to strip away local regulations of vacation rental homes - Florida Politics

House votes to strip away local regulations of vacation rental homes

Local governments that went too far in trying to crack down on or drive out vacation rental homes now face the prospect that they may not be able to do anything to specifically regulate such properties.

The Florida House of Representatives approved House Bill 425 Friday 63-56, essentially re-instituting a 2011 ban on cities or counties imposing any ordinances that would treat vacation rental homes any differently from any other house, condominium unit, or apartment in their communities.

The vote came after more than an hour of passionate debate between those who, like the bill’s sponsor Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud, believe that the heart of the matter is property rights, a person’s freedom to make money off his property; and those who, like Republican state Rep. Sam Killebrew of Winter Haven, believe it’s a matter of home rule, for cities and counties to decide what is best for their communities.

“I think we’ve heard enough of hypothetical circumstances, of ridiculous ordinances. I just want to close with a very simple question, a very simple thought: Is it possible to have too much freedom?” La Rosa inquired in closing. “Is this a referendum on that freedom? If it is, then I’m OK with that.”

The companion measure, Senate Bill 188, has cleared all its committees.

Friday’s debate, as had happened in several committee meetings, brought up horror stories faced by local cities, towns and counties where the vacation rental home market is exploding, often leading out-of-state and foreign investors to buy up houses, remodel them for 10 or 12 bedrooms, and turn them into mini hotels, rented out by the night, in the middle of residential neighborhoods.

And those horror stories included the anecdotes of out-of-control there for a few nights, turning the block into party central.

“That person is not a neighbor,” said Democratic state Rep. Patrick Henry of Daytona Beach.

But the debate also focused, as La Rosa sought, on the average home owner renting out a bedroom, or the whole house, a couple or a few times a year, to generate some income in what otherwise might be difficult economic times.

And it focused on the track record of several cities and counties that, in the eyes of La Rosa and many other lawmakers, even those opposing HB 425, had gone too far, imposing draconian ordinances and fines relating to vacation rental homes.

“This allows people to use their properties to sustain them,” said Republican state Rep. Frank White of Pensacola.

Throughout Florida, the vacation rental property business has been booming. In 2011 the Florida Legislature passed a law first cracking down on local ordinances. But in 2014 the Legislature concluded it had gone to far, and rolled back some of that 2011 ban on local control. The balance seesawed again, with complaints that cities and counties were going too far. This bill reverts back to 2011.

Meanwhile, companies like Airbnb and Home Away, as well as numerous vacation rental property chains, have dramatically increased their numbers of host homes, and of visitors using them instead of hotels.

That includes lawmakers.

Earlier Friday, state Rep. Rene Plasencia was featured in a promotional video released by Airbnb in which he and his wife extolled the virtues of vacation rental homes, including the one they rent in Tallahassee during Legislative Sessions.

Republican state Rep. Michael Grant of Charlotte alluded to the fact that many lawmakers, like Plasencia, rely on vacation rental homes, to have homes-away-from-home when they’re in Tallahassee for days, weeks, or months at a time.

“I don’t want to stay in a hotel during session, members,” Grant said. “I don’t know how many of you own a home up here. I don’t know how many of you rent a home up here. But I would suggest we could get a quorum of members who are, by definition, under many local statutes, a short-term rental.

“And so members all I can say is if it is about property rights, there is only one conclusion, and that conclusion is to protect the person who owns the asset,” Grant concluded.

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

8 Comments

  1. Protection of the money class versus people living in a community. This bill is a disaster.

    1. People who pay to stay in a vacation rental allow YOUR property taxes to be lower. If you did away with all snow birds and tourism you would not be able to afford to live in your “community” – so you better check your hatred of the “money class” there Skippy

  2. Thank you to all the legislators who fought for our property rights we are forever grateful counties were going to far with their fines and restrictions we have the right to do with our homes as we please as long as we don’t break the law

    1. Agree 100% – the biggest problem we have is that local noise and occupancy ordinances are NOT BEING ENFORCED. If you call the local law enforcement about a noisy neighbor or file a complaint with code enforcement – nothing happens. I thank Greg Steube for protecting our right to use our properties for investment and short term rentals. Next step is to overhaul how local ordinances are enforced (or not enforced)

  3. Short term rentals have been going on for over 100 years. Florida is a short term rental state. The difference now is that AirBB has established a better advertising platform than the old classified newspapers or Realtor office. Whats happening now is that hotels have competition. They don’t like it. The cost to build a hotel room is 1/2 the price to build a typical residential home and yet the hotels charge twice per sq foot what a single family house would charge. Hotels are over built and now they want to get protected from competition by using police powers.

  4. As a VR owner in Florida, Kudos to Florida House lawmakers. The overwhelming majority of VR property owners are responsible stewards of their properties and the communities around them.

  5. All of these people feeling victimized by bad vacation rental owners need to be able to use EXISTING noise and occupancy ordinances to reign in the problem owners instead of punishing the entire group of good vacation rental owners. Being a good neighbor is our priority as a vacation rental owner. The bad owners will advertise 12 people can stay in a 2 bedroom house – that is where you can spot the bad actors and enforce occupancy limits. Bad owners who let their guests violate noise ordinances need to pay fines for violating those noise ordinances. Hit them in the pocket to reign them in – either they will shape up or get out of the vacation rental business because the fines are costing them too much.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons