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House moves forward on vacation rental bill

The state moves to take over VRBO, Airbnb regs.

Proposed regulatory uniformity for short-term rental platforms is ready for the House floor after Thursday’s Commerce Committee.

Despite robust protest from local officials and others at committee stops for Rep. Jason Fischer‘s bill (HB 1011), the consensus was in favor of state preemption over the patchwork quilt of local regulations.

The Senate version (SB 1128), filed by Sen. Manny Diaz, awaits its final Senate committee.

Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican, introduced a strike all amendment to the legislation.

Changes included an anti-discrimination clause, checks against sexual predators, requirements of platforms to collect taxes and check licensure, as well as assurances that homeowners’ associations’ rights and grandfathered regulations would not be impeded.

The strike all got support from some previous critics, including a representative of management companies.

CEOMC Executive Director and Lobbyist Mark Anderson lauded the removal of “conflicting language that would have allowed short term rentals in our neighborhoods and states clearly that this bill ‘shall not’ supersede a neighborhood’s rules and deed restrictions.”

However, cities such as Jacksonville Beach still asserted that state regulation would offer insufficient consumer protections.

The industry backs it, however, and the amendment is part of the bill.

Familiar concerns were rehearsed by the Florida Association of Counties, Florida League of Cities, and the Mayor of Jacksonville Beach, the latter of whom suggested the “public service” thing to do would be to vote it down.

Democrats, despite the changes, weren’t all comfortable with the legislation, expressing concerns about localities being limited in terms of how they can control this sector and the rights of adjacent property owners.

The bill would change how short-term rentals, such as Airbnb, VRBO, and others are regulated, with platforms required to verify state licensure.

DBPR would hire 19 people to run the program, with more money possible for state coffers from license fees, sales taxes, and fines. Local jurisdictions, meanwhile, could expect a “negative fiscal impact.”

The legislation would take effect when and if the Governor signed. Sponsor Fischer has coordinated with DBPR to ensure the agency is ready to take over the tasks from dozens of localities, many of which have robust portfolios of short-term rentals.

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.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association representative expressed concerns about a “sufficient base of state regulation,” though worries were somewhat quelled by the strike all.

Platforms will have to have mechanisms for taxation and require licensure for listing, but concerns still remain about the state’s ability to enforce its guidelines.

Just as the state regulates public lodging (hotels and motels) and food service establishments, so too would it regulate Airbnb, VRBO, and the like via Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).

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. However, laws from the intervening nine years would be limited, with local zoning not just “singling out” short-term rentals.

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.

Written By

A.G. 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 AG@FloridaPolitics.com

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