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Legislators move to strip cities of ability to regulate Airbnb, VRBO

Cities would be restricted from regulating short-term rentals.

A bill that would mostly strip localities of the ability to regulate short-term rental platforms now has a House companion.

HB 1011, filed Thursday by Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fischer, would preempt the regulation of vacation rentals to the state.

The Senate version (SB 1128), filed by Sen. Manny Diaz, was presented earlier this month.

The proposed legislation protects from local regulation rentals offered via an “advertising platform,” which provides software and online access to listings for “transient public lodging establishment[s]” in the state.

Just as the state regulates public lodging (hotels and motels) and food service establishments, so too would Airbnb, VRBO, and the like.

The bill lays forth some justifications for preempting local regulations.

“Property owners who choose to use their property as a vacation rental have constitutionally protected property rights,” the legislation contends.

The role of short-term rentals, meanwhile, is “significant, unique, and critical” to the state’s tourism industry.

Regulations of such are only permitted if they apply to all properties, including long-term rentals and owner-occupied homes.

Laws passed before June 2011 will be grandfathered.

In turn, owners of rented properties have certain obligations.

Primary among them: A display of their Vacation Rental Dwelling License.

The bill also has provisions that tighten regulations on the short-term rental services themselves.

Among them: requirements for display of license, sales tax, and tourist development tax information.

Quarterly verification is required, along with a stipulation that noncompliant properties are removed from platforms within 15 days.

The Legislature often aims so-called “home rule” provisions, and this bill falls within a recent tradition of trying to dismantle onerous ordinances.

In the 2019 Session, one of the most talked-about bills was a preemption on local bans on front-yard vegetable gardens.

Fischer, seeking his third term in 2020, has already drawn a Democratic opponent.

Ben Marcus has many complaints with Fischer, but one of them is the incumbent’s perceived opposition to the so-called “home rule.”

Fischer said the bill was about private property rights; in a statement, that “some local governments have forgotten this foundational principle of our country and are infringing on citizens’ rights.”

“Today’s patchwork system, where every city or county regulates vacation rentals differently, is unworkable and broken. As a top destination for both in-state and out-of-state travelers, Florida must establish a fair and consistent approach for vacation rentals,” Fischer said. “This legislation strikes the balance of protecting the property rights of vacation property renters and the privacy rights of their neighbors.”

In Jacksonville, where the City Council has botched the short-term rental issue for years, it will be interesting to see if this bill gets any traction in the local media.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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