Vacation rental and homeowner interests clashed Tuesday before a House panel gave its thumbs-up to a bill rewriting state vacation rental regulations.
That measure (HB 1011) by Republican Reps. Jason Fischer and Mike La Rosa is one in a series of preemptions the Legislature has pursued in recent years. The bill would prevent local governments from writing rental permits and rules and delegate advertising regulations to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).
But city and county officials came out in full force to argue the bill removes their jurisdictions’ abilities to limit the impact of Airbnb and other rental properties. They say spring breakers, loud music, trash and parking issues necessitate local ordinances to keep the homey quality of the state’s coastal communities.
“I would ask you to look to the left and look to the right and ask yourself, which one of your neighbors would you want to have 15 college students at 3 o’clock in the morning?” argued Jack Cory, representing Tequesta.
The 8-5 vote to advance the bill split the Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee and both political parties. The panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. John Cortes, gave voice to the Republicans and Democrats in opposition.
“Why would we put the state involved if we have the cities and the counties to take care of this?” he said. “And now you’re going to pay, what, a million and change? I just don’t see the correlation of using the state when the cities and counties were taking care of the problem.”
That vote was buoyed by Republican Rep. Nick DiCeglie and Democratic Rep. Kim Daniels, who gave tentative support after saying they weighed the bill’s impacts on their communities. DiCeglie, of Indian Rocks Beach, said his vote was to keep the bill alive in hopes of a better final bill.
Other lawmakers have pushed for various forms of the bill over the years, including Republican Sen. Manny Diaz, who leads the companion version (SB 1128). Dennis Hanks, executive director of the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association, is a consistent voice in support of the legislation.
“Vacation rentals will now become, with this bill passage, the most regulated lodging sector in the state of Florida,” he said. “And we’re accepting of that and we’re moving forward because we feel it’s time that we can put this thing to bed and have some really clear, concise regulations statewide.”
An amendment added Tuesday would give $1.4 million for 19 DBPR positions to enforce state inspection efforts. But some questioned whether 19 employees could cover the entire state when local governments already blanket the state.
Less controversial language in the bill would require people to present their rental licenses and tax ID with advertisers before posting their properties. Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a co-sponsor of the bill, highlighted the need.
“It has an enormously powerful and positive fiscal impact for Floridians,” he said. “I don’t believe any bill filed this year empowers and helps the average working class, middle-class property-owning Floridian more than this one.”
The bill next heads to the House Commerce Committee before going to the floor for a full vote.