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FRLA’s Carol Dover talks short-term rentals

Tomorrow, members of the Senate Community Affairs Committee have an important decision to make regarding the future of short-term rentals in the State of Florida.

There are two introduced bills on the agenda that would impact the short-term rental industry, but only one that adequately addresses the need to establish a clear, sensible line between traditional and commercially operated short-term rentals.

That is Senate Bill 1640 by Sen. David Simmons.

But before I tell you why this piece of legislation is in the best interest of Florida residents, visitors and the lodging industry, I would like to make one thing clear: the fabricated wedge that seems to have been driven between vacation rentals and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) is simply not there.

Our past chair of the FRLA is one of the largest vacation rental operators, so why wouldn’t the FRLA embrace vacation rentals?  Contrary to the bad rumor circulating that we are opposed to property rights, I used to represent the billboard industry and understand how critical property rights are to Floridians.

I tell you all this because as it stands today, we are only trying to define reasonable boundaries between traditional home sharing, that we’ve long welcomed in Florida, and commercial rentals, which consist of a growing trend of real estate speculators acquiring and listing multiple units in the same residential neighborhood and/or listing these units in a revolving door fashion.

These “commercial operators” are running what amount to “illegal hotels” at an intensifying pace through their exploitation of online short-term rental platforms, like Airbnb and HomeAway.

For this very reason, we believe state law should be amended this session to address the commercial operators circumventing Florida’s public accommodations laws.

Accordingly, the Legislature should: get everyone licensed through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR); compel commercial operators — not traditional vacation rentals — to adhere to heightened, common-sense regulations that ensure the well-being of guests and Floridians alike; and make sure the DBPR license number is on all advertisements, so regulatory and tax compliance is adequately enforceable.

That is why the FRLA supports SB 1640.  It is the only legislation that soundly addresses commercial operators and offers smart solutions to curtail illegal hotels and keep Florida’s neighborhoods safe.  We encourage the Senate Community Affairs Committee to support SB 1640 and its core tenants as they debate a path forward on this critical issue.

There’s nothing wrong with home sharing, but commercially operated short-term rental properties — which resemble inns or hotels far more than their current classification under State law — need to be addressed properly under Florida law.

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