Vacation rentals bill approved by Senate Regulated Industries Committee - Florida Politics

Vacation rentals bill approved by Senate Regulated Industries Committee

A bill to once again roll back local regulation of vacation rental homes got approval Thursday from the Florida Senate Committee on Regulated Industries, its second committee success.

The bill, a committee substitute that combined Senate Bills 1400 and 1640 introduced by Republican state Sens. Greg Steube and David Simmons, drew a long list of opponents Thursday among representatives of cities, counties and hotel interests, who do not want to see the state pre-empting local laws and regulations. But it also drew strong statements of support from proponents of vacation rental homes who want them open for business anywhere, including the big vacation rental marketing firms Airbnb and HomeAway, and also a bipartisan cross-section of senators.

At issue is whether the cities and counties that have tried to regulate vacation rental homes in the past six or seven years will be able to enforce anything, a concern that centered most on local governments’ desire to conduct safety and building-code inspections prior to state licensure.

The bill would allow local regulations on vacation rental homes that apply to all other homes, a position Steube and other proponents have argued should take care of the most significant concerns many opponents raised, about houses converted into a vacation rental that turn into party houses, in the middle of otherwise residential neighborhoods.

“We’re pre-empting back to 2011, so if you had an ordinance in place prior to 2011, this bill is not going to affect you,” Steube said. “This bill allows counties and cities to do anything they want to do to regulate noise, to regulate traffic, to regulate parking, to regulate trash, to regulate how many people you want in a home. So if you want to limit occupancy, if you want to limit how big the houses are in a certain community, you can do that. You just have to pass the law so it applies uniformly to the entire jurisdiction.”

That led Steube, the Republican from Sarasota, to recount how when he was growing up, his family couldn’t afford the expensive hotels along the beach, but could afford to rent out a portion of someone’s house for a vacation.

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“There are a lot of families out there that are blue-collar families, families that live in Florida, that look forward to being able to take advantages of places like Airbnb,” Steube said.

Sen. Audrey Gibson, the Democrat from Jacksonville, said something similar before committing her vote for the bill. “I look at … the opportunity of families to be able to go to places where they may not ever have an opportunity to go, and at a cost they could actually afford,” she said.

There was opposition. Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Republican from Port Orange, expressed concern that cities and counties, trying to bring order to what some said were chaotic situations with vacation rental homes, have been pushed back and forth in recent years, as the Florida Legislature has pre-empted local control before, and then partially restored it, and now is pre-empting it again.

Gibson and two other Democrats, Sens. Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale and Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens, were particularly interested in seeing that the bill addressed potential discrimination by vacation rental home operators. Thurston offered an amendment that would require vacation rental home operators to maintain a log of potential guests who’d been turned away for whatever reasons, as hotels do. However, after opposition to that amendment, and contentions that federal and state law already strongly prohibit discrimination, he withdrew it, saying he would pursue the concerns later.

The bill still must go through the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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.

4 Comments

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  2. This is wrong. Short-term rental property regulations should remain under the jurisdiction of local laws . If not, why do we have towns, cities and counties? Why bother having local school districts or local police and sheriff offices? For goodness sake, why stop there, just make it all federal. Stop this silliness and leave local citizens to manage local business.

  3. And, read this one – a counterfeiting operation set up in a short-term rental unit based on a stolen credit (no owner there, of course – these are the ones – no owner present – that cause 99% of the problems); then the person who worked for the booking site (Vacation Rental Pros) was arrested on grand theft for stealing from Kohls. The employee had a number of previous crimes/arrests as well.

    Here’s the link: https://flaglerlive.com/117619/vacation-rental-mischief/ and here is the Vacation Rental Pro employee: https://flaglerlive.com/117677/employee-vacation-rental-thefts/

    Yet, Steube La Rosa, and our representatives Hutson and Renner just keep approving these bills. Why? Well, La Rosa is in real estate and lists “investments in short-term rentals” as one of his specialties, and Steube and La Rosa both speak on behalf of the Vacation Rental Management Association. Our own Travis Hutson (I live in Flagler) voted against local control last week at the committee meeting. Renner just ignores it – says he will do something when he meets with his constituents, but does NOTHING.

    People on the committee couldn’t calculate how many people could stay in a home based on the bill – it was ludicrous and embarrassing, and the politicians (except Senator Hulkill who voted against it), all congratulated themselves on the 9 – 1 passage of Steube’s bill. Guess they will be celebrating with Airbnb, Homeaway, and VRPs!

    How do I know all this? I listen to the committee meetings. It’s VERY INSTRUCTIVE. You will be appalled that these are our elected reps!

    La Rosa’s bill will be heard by the Appropriations Committee on Thursday. It’s really worth watching for the incredible spectacle of what is happening in the legislature, and how their constituents are the last people on our representatives’ minds.

    By the way, I live close to where this happened. Very scary. I thought I was buying into a community where I would know my neighbors. Instead, getting criminals from rental companies run by criminals!

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