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Bill preempting local vacation rental regulations gets first House hearing

Airbnb, VRBO rules could change.

The latest battlefield in the endless war between “home rule” advocates and preemption proponents: short-term rentals.

HB 1011, filed by Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fischer, will be heard Tuesday afternoon in its first committee, the Workforce Development and Tourism Subcommittee.

The Senate version (SB 1128), filed by Sen. Manny Diaz, has already cleared its first committee.

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 it regulate Airbnb, VRBO, and the like.

Fischer said the bill was about private property rights; adding 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.”

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 are 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.

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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