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Will James Grant bill bring checkout time for vacation rental debate?

The fight books time each year in Tallahassee.

Vacation rental debates booked an annual trip to the halls of the Florida Capitol for the last few legislative sessions. But can legislation by state Rep. James Grant send this longtime visitor on its way?

The Oldsmar Republican this year carries the most recent iteration of legislation (HB 987) pre-empting local regulations on rentals. The bill goes before the Government Operations and Technology Appropriations subcommittee today.

Grant said the legislation might be primed for passage this year. How’s he know? There’s plenty in there that nobody likes, including himself.

“Everybody has got fatigue over this issue,” he said.

But like rideshare laws before, this fight evolved, and changes as markets shift and more people take advantage of new services, he said.

Grant recalls when then-state Sen. Greg Steube, Grant’s old Tallahassee roommate, fought the property rights battle. If there’s hope for a resolution this time, Grant said he’s willing to include provisions addressing concerns of communities.

From Grant’s perspective, it’s not right for local government to tell individuals not to rent their own homes. In the age of Airbnb, it’s easier than ever for someone to lease out property.

“Why take the ability for other law-abiding and well-behaved private property owners to help pay down a mortgage, or send a kid to college, or get some disposable income,” he said.

The answer from municipalities that want to regulate rentals? Widespread abuse. Some coastal communities see whole streets rented out at peak season to vacationers partying into the evening in residential neighborhoods.

Plus, there’s the constant fight over home rule and who gets to make calls on local commerce, state or local government.

Grant says his bill addresses that concern by still allowing municipalities to apply occupancy limits and local codes, so long as the rules get applied uniformly. Every instance of bad players in the rental game, Grant said, can also get dinged for violating noise ordinances, residency restrictions and other laws.

The longtime licensing foe also conceded in his legislation to require vacation rental licenses, and for the state to have a contact person available to administer complaints.

“I spent a career trying to deregulate,” Grant said. But he said there’s a need in this case to ensure compliance with local laws.

The ultimate goal, Grant said, will be legislation that offers freedom to good actors exercising property rights while leaving tools to stop bad actors hurting communities.

The bill already advanced through the Business and Regulation Subcommittee on a 10-5 vote.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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