Gov. DeSantis extends ban on vacation rentals during COVID-19 pandemic

Vacation Rental House
No Airbnb vacation till at least May.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has extended a statewide ban on new vacation rental reservations through April.

The previous executive order was set to expire Friday before the Governor issued the evening order to carry it through April 30.

DeSantis issued the order to help prevent people from out of state fleeing local lockdowns from vacationing in the state. Since then, he has ordered a statewide stay-at-home order.

The March 27 order said “many cases of COVID-19 in Florida have resulted from individuals coming into the state of Florida from international travel and other states, posing great risk to Florida residents” and added that “vacation rentals and third-party platforms advertising vacation rentals in Florida present attractive lodging destinations for individuals coming into Florida.”

The order required suspension of vacation rentals of homes and condominiums. It did not apply to such lodging establishments as hotels, inns and resorts. It also did not apply to long-term rentals.

Some local jurisdictions have closed hotels to tourists, but statewide, they can remain open if they follow federal social distancing guidelines. Florida Vacation Rental Management Association Executive Director Denis Hanks implored DeSantis to reverse his decision or to share the data backing the ban.

“While we understand the public safety approach to this emergency order and extension, we do have some serious concerns as the only hospitality sector singled out and restricted by its implementation,” Hanks said in a statement. “In the meantime, hotels, cruise ships, airports and other lodging and transportation providers continue to operate without restrictions of this nature despite them posing a higher risk of spreading the virus.”

Vacation rentals are a safer alternative to hotels, he continued, and run by small businesses rather than corporations.

“Hotels, cruise ships and other public lodging with numerous shared spaces, handrails, elevators, amenities, etc. are a breeding ground for the spread of this virus which the CDC clearly tells the public to avoid,” Hanks said. “Hotel guests are forced to leave rooms and forage for food, yet another cause for concern. Stand-alone vacation rental homes for this fact alone are the best public safety option in lodging.”

The Governor has also ordered that people traveling from New York City, New Orleans and the surrounding areas to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering the state, which he says had reduced the number of plane trips from the New York area. The state also opened highway checkpoints at the border on Interstate 10 and Interstate 95 after an order issued the same day as the initial vacation rental ban.

Vacation rentals — available through Airbnb, VRBO and other short-term rental providers — have become a popular lodging alternative for tourists and Spring Breakers, who have drawn the ire of DeSantis throughout the pandemic.

Industry expert Wendy Shultz, founder of The Simple Life Hospitality, said vacation rentals could have been a solution for those looking to self-isolate because it requires less face-to-face interaction than a hotel.

“How do they quarantine themselves for 14 days if they can’t be with family?” she said when DeSantis issued the initial vacation rental order. “It almost seems like a vacation rental would be the perfect place for someone to self-quarantine.”

Also last month, the Governor said officials were considering the possibility of housing patients who test positive for the virus in hotels. Keeping patients in central locations could protect people who live with someone forced to self-isolate.

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The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


8 comments

  • Lisa Martell

    April 11, 2020 at 8:21 pm

    I am a harsh critic of DeSantis and his mis-management of this horrific health crisis.
    On the eve of open churches on Easter, I can’t disagree this time regarding vacation rentals.

  • lori Santoro

    April 12, 2020 at 8:08 pm

    I live in Georgia. My 10 year old son is begging me to be with his father during this trying time. We were going to self isolate in a beautiful Air BNB by the water and all be together inside. Just because someone is visiting a loved one for support, doesn’t mean they have coronavirus. Not fair to the industry either. It’s discriminatory.

  • H S

    April 15, 2020 at 5:39 am

    Just another case of the people who don’t think laws don’t apply to them, call them all TRUMPETTS, Trump Puppets
    my neighbor in a small HOA of 20 and 14 homes is renting her house as Air BNB and the people are not staying isolated from where they drive here from

  • John Rodden

    April 18, 2020 at 11:59 am

    I am a vacation rental owner who has literally lost approx 30K in refunded cancellations let alone those reservations that I tossed due to the ban until April 30th. The singling out of vacation rental owners is an over reach of government and is naive. Short term rentals are actually the ideal place for guests to rent. Why allow hotels to remain open? They are a much more conducive
    environment for spreading the virus. Guests have closer interaction with other guests, share elevators, hand rails, and other common area facilities.

    The public may not know it but guests pay the same lodging and occupancy taxes when they book with a vacation rental owner as they would a hotel. Guess who is not getting the local, county and state tax revenue those guests generate. Also, when guests rent our homes they stimulate the local economy, create jobs, particularly in the hard hit service industries. This also contributes to local tax revenue.

    Now those vacation rental owners are eligible and forced to compete with other small business for government SBA loans. Through this ban, the governor has singled out and devastated an entire lodging industry of short term vacation rentals that will extend well beyond the month of April.
    Guests are not willing to commit to vacations any time soon in fear of losing their deposits. Who wants to make vacation plans when you don’t know whether the ban will continue to be in place?

    So the domino effect of loss revenue extends several months beyond the expiration date of
    the executive order concerning the ban. BTW – Those same guests who make up the target market for the overwhelming most part don’t simply serve hotels as an alternative. It’s an entirely different market and vacation experience. Those guests simply don’t visit or choose to spend their vacation dollars elsewhere.

    If you think your keeping the unwanted guests out, those college age Spring Break party goers who don’t adhere to social distancing, etc. Think again. Those guests simply book hotels, motels and inns that are exempt and allowed to remain open. Most vacation rental owners have minimum age requirements to book there reservations. The overwhelming majority of guests are professional adults over 30 with family and kids. They are looking for a family or private group experience that you just don’t get in a hotel setting.

    Hope the Governor lifts the ban on short term vacation properties before he destroys the market place as the intended consequences will have devastating affect on local tax revenue, employment, local businesses and the recovering local economies.

  • Marousa Rodriguez

    April 19, 2020 at 12:02 am

    The HOTELS and LARGE RESORTS are the places people will spread COVID! NOT THE single vacation rentals like my place in weeki wachee. Totally isolated. great place to ride out the quarantine. SHUT DOWN hotels, and let small airbnb places continue!!! JUST another way it’s for BIG business and not the mom and pop shops. PTIFUL and UNJUST.

  • Mary Duncan

    April 22, 2020 at 7:40 pm

    Bravo Disantis! I don’t go to a vacationers’ town and use up all their resources while coughing all over their residents! As, I would not want the same done to my town. I just happen to live in Florida by a beautiful beach!

    • Candis Akin

      April 26, 2020 at 8:34 am

      I wish the grocery stores and gas stations and medical clinics would ban you from coming to them, spreading your germs and smug attitude. You’re the worst.

  • MS

    April 23, 2020 at 1:43 pm

    Is it legal to expect vacation rental owners and renters to abide by a vacation rental ban that is not officially posted on the Government website? Were vacation rentals that commenced in good faith before EO 20-103 was posted on FLGOV.COM actually in violation of EO 20-103? The lack of proper posting on FLGOV.COM and effective communication to government employees has caused major issues and stress for us and our renters, and probably many other owners and renters. EO 20-103 was signed after the close of business on April 10 at 5:05 pm, but not posted on the FLGOV.COM website until 3 days later. (I have pictures to support this). In good faith, unaware Governor DeSantis signed EO 20-103, we granted tenancy on April 11 to renters per a binding lease signed in January. The North Carolina family drove through the border checkpoint with their car loaded with beach gear, with Government employees apparently unaware the ban was being extended telling them “Welcome. After the family’s arrival, our condo association texted us a picture of a Facebook posting of what looked like an EO extending the ban but included no official Government source. Our condo association told the family they were breaking the law and had to leave immediately. We tried but were unable to find confirmation through a government office that the EO was official. The Florida DBPR that enforces the order confirmed that,”like me, they know of no other efficient means to locate posted Executive Orders other than the Governor’s website or hotline.” The EO was not posted on the website for the entire weekend. The Governor’s hotline employee we called on April 11 was not aware that the rental ban was extended either. The Collier Sheriff was not aware that the rental ban was extended. I’m sure there are others who did their due diligence in checking FLGOV.COM to make sure the ban was not extended before granting, in good faith, a renter tenancy of a vacation rental condo on April 11 or April 12 only to be told that Governor DeSantis expects them to leave or be in violation of an order that no one knew about.

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