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Re-Open Florida

Vacation rental ban continues in Phase One of Florida’s reopening

Under Phase Two, Florida residents would likely be free to book vacations.

The statewide ban on vacation rentals will continue in Phase One of Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ plan to reopen Florida.

For well over a month, guests have been unable to schedule vacation rentals through services like Airbnb or HomeAway. And with Phase One, expected to give way to Phase Two Monday, it’s unclear whether that will change.

Earlier this month, DeSantis extended the vacation rental ban until May 7. The Governor issued a carryover order (Executive Order 20-111) that extends the ban until Phase One begins on Monday, and another, 20-112, that carries the order through Phase One, which is expected to end Monday, May 18.

The original order, issued March 27, (Executive Order 20-87) suspended vacation rentals in homes and condominiums. It did not apply to hotels, inns and resorts, and it did not apply to long-term rentals.

Vacation rentals have become popular with tourists and spring breakers, who have drawn DeSantis’ ire throughout the pandemic.

According to the order, “many cases of COVID-19 in Florida have resulted from individuals coming into the state from international travel and other states, posing great risk to Florida residents.”

Additionally, “vacation rentals and third-party platforms advertising vacation rentals in Florida present attractive lodging destinations for individuals coming into Florida.”

However, with spring break long since come and gone, DeSantis can’t point to college kids crowding beaches and taking body shots for why to close the rentals, though summer vacation could present a new challenge.

One of the reopening’s tenets calls for preventing new infections from travelers.

The Governor’s Re-Open Florida Task Force report suggests vacation rentals could open in Phase Two, but only to Florida residents. Anyone traveling internationally or from domestic hot spots couldn’t rent, according to a subsequent suggestion.

President¬†Donald Trump‘s “Opening Up America Again” framework outlines at least two weeks between phases, and DeSantis seems set to follow a similar timeline. On Wednesday, he told reporters the second phase was hopefully weeks rather than months away. True to his word, DeSantis signaled on May 14 that he was ready to announce Phase Two Friday, May 15. It’s expected Phase Two will being May 18, exactly two weeks after Phase One took effect.

With the Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, vacation rentals will likely have limitations if they are not still closed.

As COVID-19 began spreading in the United States, the Governor ordered people traveling from New York City, New Orleans and the surrounding areas self-isolate for 14 days upon entering the state, which he says reduced the number of plane trips from the New York area. The state also set up highway checkpoints at the border on Interstate 10 and Interstate 95.

Restaurant dining rooms and retail storefronts are open to customers but limited to 25% capacity under Phase One. The first phase also permits outdoor seating at restaurants, as long as tables are spaced six-feet apart.

VISIT FLORIDA CEO¬†Dana Young, who led the task force’s working group involving tourism, said she hoped Florida residents, who would be more likely to immediately take an in-state trip, could put the industry on a path to recovery.

Earlier this month, Pensacola-area Republican Matt Gaetz weighed-in on the vacation rental ban during a press conference alongside the Governor. The Florida Panhandle is more reliant on vacation rentals for tourism than more populous parts of the state.

“In Northwest Florida, we don’t have a 500-key hotel room every 1,000 feet,” he said, but added that he was confident in DeSantis’ “evidence-based, measured approach.”

However Denis Hanks, executive director of the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association, has asked the Governor to make data behind his vacation rental ban public.

“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 at the time of the mid-April extension.

Gaetz, an ally of the Governor, appeared to balance his political relationship to the man standing approximately six feet apart from him and his constituents. He offered the following advice to the cities and counties of Congressional District 1:

“If there are particular areas of advice or concern that you have, I would strongly encourage you to meet about those, discuss them in public, even pass resolutions regarding the conduct that you think our community is ready for.”

Written By

Renzo Downey covers the Florida Legislature 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 renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

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