You can stay at a hotel, but not a short-term vacation rental and that’s absolutely ridiculous

Empty interior english pub or bar closed due to coronavirus
Shared space at hotels is inevitable, but short-term rentals are ideal for social distancing.

Gov. Ron DeSantis should reopen short-term vacation rentals, like, yesterday.

Hear me out.

This is not a question about whether the state should ease its restrictions on outside travel, particularly from hotbeds where the novel coronavirus is prevalent.

Those restrictions are prudent and smart, but they can be implemented and enforced without closing a major industry in the Florida economy.

Throughout the economic closures and restrictions, hotels have been allowed to remain open despite the fact that they present a greater risk of spreading the virus than much smaller vacation rentals. Potentially hundreds of people pass through shared space at hotels, but vacation rentals like Airbnb and HomeAway, are most often single occupancy where social distancing is easier and cross contamination of germs less likely.

Consider also that the need for room stays, whether in hotels or short-term rentals, has reduced exponentially due to the virus. People simply aren’t traveling because, where would they go?

Theme parks are closed. The cruise industry is shut down. Up until recently, most Florida beaches were shuttered and even now are open for limited use. Many of the amenities that make up the appeal for booking a room have been unavailable like pools, gyms, spa services and room service.

Largely, none of that applies to vacation rentals. If they have amenities that would be shared and, thus, unavailable at a multiple-occupancy hotel, they’re for single use and can easily be sterilized in between stays, ensuring safe operating and adherence to CDC recommendations.

Not to mention, one of the biggest sectors at this time for Florida room nights remains health care workers and first responders who are traveling to offer care in areas with high-demand. These workers are either looking for accommodations to work outside their home area or are looking for a place to stay to shelter away from their families in the interest of keeping them safe.

A vacation rental is far safer for these individuals, and the overall public, than a hotel where shared space is inevitable.

The case for opening vacation rentals is not only obvious — if hotels can remain open, why not vacation rentals? — it’s economically prudent.

Take areas like the Panhandle. Thanks to Hurricane Michael and its devastating wrath, few hotels are available. The industry relies heavily on vacation rentals, which is still reeling from the hurricane and is made only worse by the pandemic. Rep. Jayer Williamson, who represents the Pensacola area, and Congressman Matt Gaetz, whose district includes most of the Panhandle, have both called for vacation rentals to reopen.

Airbnb is obviously calling for reopening, but so too are Florida Realtors, Expedia (which owns HomeAway and VRBO) and the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association (FVRMA.)

“This affects property owners, property managers, support staff, and maintenance personnel whose small businesses often make up the backbone of their local communities and provide employment to a large percentage of Florida’s population,” FVRMA wrote in a petition calling for reopening, which has garnered more than 20,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning.

Vacation rental owners and managers aren’t interested in bunking social distancing standards in the interest of their bottom line. They, like other businesses clamoring to reopen, are ready to do so under increased scrutiny and regulation.

However, it makes little sense to keep them shuttered when hotels, many of which remain closed because they can’t attract the numbers they need to viably stay open, are allowed to continue booking rooms.

Maintaining the executive order closing vacation rentals is not only shortsighted, it picks winners and losers in the hospitality industry with no rhyme or reason.

I appreciate Gov. Desantis’ prudence and caution in his progressive approach to reopening the economy and his careful balance of economy and public health, but continuing to close vacation rentals when the same standard does not apply to high-occupancy hotels is just silly.

Lift the ban, Governor. An entire industry is waiting.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


  • laura puckett

    May 5, 2020 at 3:16 pm


    Thanks so much for this article. Our industry has been devastated across the state. Here is a link to the petition. We hope to have over 25,000 signatures by tomorrow.

    Laura Puckett
    President, FVRMA

  • Nigel Worrall - Past President CFVRMA

    May 5, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    Thanks for the article outlining the fact DeSantis announced the ban on vacation rentals.

    In doing so, he doesn’t explain his reasons why and he most certainly doesn’t give any logic for why hotels, although licensed the same, can be open.

    There is no data, no facts and no reasoning why the Governor has made this decision despite recently talking about making decisions based on data and facts.

    I understand there may be concerns about New Yorkers heading to Florida and renting homes but what’s to stop them staying in hotels or timeshares?

    So, now an industry that generates over $31 Billion per year to the Florida economy is shut down without any rhyme or reason. Over 300,000 employees are unable to work and the respective counties lose out because they cannot collect their bed taxes and… this is vital to them as vacation rentals often provide the lions share compared to hotels.

    The logic behind this decision is simply flawed as hotels and motels are more at risk of spreading the virus due to shared spaces and close quarters.

    It’s beyond ridiculous that vacation rentals now have an indefinite ban while competitors can open. It simply smacks of corruption at the highest level and someone really does need to examine those campaign contributions in detail.

    I can see some aggressive lawsuits on the way before long and every single owner should send DeSantis their mortgage statement and hold him responsible for paying it.

    Adding insult to injury is news that Osceola County is now about to get $940,000 in federal funding from a housing assistance grant… meanwhile, thousands of vacation rental homes in the county are closed on Gov. DeSantis orders.

    And they wonder why America is screwed up? The housing is already there if they’ll simply use it.

    Lots of these homeowners would love to house people and be able to pay their mortgages. Instead, we’ll no doubt have more mortgage foreclosures and owners in trouble. And, the people who need homes will still struggle to find one.

    Obviously DeSantis has some kind of agenda against the vacation rental industry and one wonders whether it stems from his spat with AirBNB in recent times?

    This is not the way to govern. It’s a complete and utter farce that unfortunately has dire consequences for those that invested in the vacation rental business.

  • Theresa

    May 5, 2020 at 3:45 pm

    13 Bedroom Vacation Home $819 min / night
    10 Bathrooms
    Sleeps 20

    Here’s a Florida rental house – want this next to you in a pandemic where people are trying to shelter in place? At the store, on the streets, on the beach and potentially spreading viruses among themselves and to you, too?

    The governor already allows those who qualify to stay in short-term rentals. People who are health care workers, etc. can stay. Just not hordes who come to party and not respect those who wish to live!

    There’s a place for short-term rentals, but it’s not in communities zoned single-family. Until they are located where are other businesses are located – in commercial areas – where they should be! – they should not be allowed.

    • Nigel

      May 5, 2020 at 6:06 pm

      Theresa… you may have a point re: larger homes but the vast majority of vacation rentals are not 13 homes. And, there is no reason why the Governor couldn’t put an occupancy limit in place if he was that worried.

      That said, hotels can cater for hundreds of people as do timeshare units. So, the basic principle of letting hotels and timeshares operate while owners of vacation rental homes can’t if flawed.

      As Steve says, follow the money.

      • Pat

        May 15, 2020 at 11:30 am

        I own an 8-bedroom vacation home that I rent out mostly to families getting together to do the Disney thing. My home is not a party home and I have never had anyone rent it to be a party home. Further more, this house is in a vacation rental resort community, and is one of 850 homes in this resort, all vacation rentals. Not one single house in this resort community has a mailbox, for example. It is gated, with 24-hour security and like my house, most visitors are families and maybe small church groups. In the immediate neighborhood and for miles around, are just other communities with vacation homes, and this makes it possible for families that have scattered to come together with grandma and grandpa and the spouses of the children and the grandchildren, all under one roof, with their own private swimming pool. Even before the pandemic, our homes, as most vacation homes were sanitized and professionally cleaned between guests. Linens and towels are changed between guests. Cleaning standards have always been super high because we rely on word of mouth and excellent reviews to bring people back to our properties or to rent them in the first place. So cleanliness has always been a priority. What risk does a family group, staying in my 8-bedroom, with its own games room, cable tv, private swimming pool, post to anyone else? And maybe you don’t realize this, but under the present rules, groups from anywhere – NY, CT, NJ, MI, wherever, can come rent our homes, right now, as long as they will be staying for 30 days or more. So if they can come for 30 days, why can’t we reopen all together – if even only to local guests?

    • K Laws

      May 5, 2020 at 6:08 pm

      I respect your opinion about allowing vacation rentals in certain areas. But, the article isn’t focused on adjusting the restrictions to welcome out-of-state guests at this time, or whether vacation rentals should be allowed in residential neighborhoods. The article highlights all other types of lodging in Florida are currently allowed to operate while vacation rentals have been singled out under the current order (without evidence to support it). Hotels can play a part in spreading respiratory diseases due to shared spaces. Legionnaires’ disease in 1976 is just one very popular example. I have yet to see a report of anyone coming down with a disease from a short term rental? Regardless, we are now depriving Florida residents the safety and privacy of these homes for short term stays due to this open ended order. Medical staff cannot book a short stay for their family members so they have affordable use of a house (with a kitchen and private entrance) as a way of self distancing. In addition, Florida residents may need temporary housing for home displacement issues such as: termite tenting, floods, fires, or mold. After a month of being “safer at home”, many Florida residents may also want a change in space to battle depression, drug abuse, or have a need to distance themselves from family members to avoid domestic abuse. There are endless reasons (that are currently restricted under the current order) why Floridians would book stays for personal use. Restrictions could be modified in a safe and deliberate way so short term rentals are allowed again, not only for our own residents, but for economic recovery purposes. Your opinion over zoning restrictions should not be mingled with the current issue of COVID19. It is another topic, in all fairness, and deserves it’s own time for debate.

    • Richard Laine

      May 5, 2020 at 6:20 pm

      Theresa a time of crisis is not the time to be spiteful. You obviously have issues with one of your neighbors, but that should not be dragged up as a reason for devastating small family businesses throughout the state because you have grudge. The vast majority of vacation rentals in the state comprise of 1, 2, or 3 bedroom condos or homes which are considerably safer than hotels and motels regarding the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Vacation rentals have less shared areas in comparison making them much safer. Vacation rentals allow guests to self isolate from other groups far easier than at other lodging options. If decreasing the spread of the virus is the goal allowing hotels and motels to be open while banning vacation rentals makes no sense. Now is a time to come together and help one another. Not a time to go after small family businesses throughout the state like my own who are suffering under this illogical an unfair ban because you have a grievance with one of your neighbors.

    • Gw

      May 6, 2020 at 10:44 am

      It sucks when you live in an area with a lot of vacation rentals. The customers can be incredibly obnoxious.

  • Steve

    May 5, 2020 at 4:08 pm

    A cynical person might almost think this as a “Thank you” to the Hotel Motel industry that has so generously support Gov. DeSantis through their various PACs. A cynical person might also wonder why the Governor’s reopening panel is so heavily packed with the hotel motel industry but not a single representative from the short term vacation industry. A cynical person might say “Follow the money”.

    • Lori Muir

      May 7, 2020 at 9:26 am

      Bingo! We were forced to leave, with a month contract on a private home with our own pool. It was just me, my husband, and two adult children. They came to our door, twice, harassing, threatening, not believing our contract, saying it was not enough information, accusing us and owner of lying about having a month contract, calling our phones multiple times a day, wanting our bank records and receipts, saying “do you want to be a suspect or a witness?” So, we just packed up and LEFT after three days of it. We wore masks when out to the grocery, and was only on the beach for several hours, everyone distancing. Yet we were made to feel like criminals. We are from AL, not NYC.

      • Lori Muir

        May 7, 2020 at 9:32 am

        PS, we were staying in a gated community more than a half-mile off the beach in Miramar, Walton County. The owner called the sheriff and asked what he needed to do to leave his guests alone and stop knocking on our door daily. The sheriff’s office said even though they have a copy of our contract, that every time a homeowner calls reporting out of state tags they will come by and investigate… so, with promised more harassment, we left, and will never darken the doorstep of Walton County again, as long as we live.

  • Richard Laine

    May 5, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    Thank you so much for covering this. Families with vacation rental businesses throughout the state have been severely impacted by this unjustified ban singling out just vacation rentals.

    I would like to ask everyone to please help me, my family, and thousands of other family owned vacation rental businesses throughout the state of Florida out by signing and sharing this petition with others?

    We need to let Governor DeSantis know that it’s not right to continue to ban vacation rentals while he’s allowed hotels and motels to operate throughout the COVID-19 epidemic without any restrictions. This ban on just vacation rentals makes no sense as vacation rentals are much safer than hotels and motels. If the goal is to reduce the spread of the virus vacation rentals have fewer shared spaces then hotels and motels. There is no reason to single out vacation rentals while allowing all other forms of lodging to continue to operate. This ban is hurting family owned small businesses throughout the state of Florida for no reason.

  • Steve vogel

    May 5, 2020 at 8:59 pm

    The governor is committing political suicide with his vacation rental ban. Most VR owners are no doubt Republican and will have a hard time voting for Ronny. He won by a slim margin. Can he really afford to alienate his base? Somebody needs to primary this loser.

  • Gw

    May 6, 2020 at 10:49 am

    Allowing tourists to stay in vacation rentals seems okay. But the guests don’t always respect the neighborhood. Not great in a health crisis.

  • Beaches

    May 6, 2020 at 9:37 pm

    Vote him out of office. The ballot box listens. And, yes the Gov despises Airbnb. Good Luck with reelection Ronald and Donald!!!

  • Theresa

    May 7, 2020 at 8:34 am

    If short-term rentals were only in commercial areas, where they belong, there would probably be no issue opening them up. They are businesses, just like hotels, but they claim they can be in residential areas, and, unfortunately, they operate in residential areas. Until that changes, they should not be allowed to hold groups of people from other areas in single-family communities zoned residential. It puts the residents at risk, especially considering the high density that many of these mini-hotels allow.

    • la

      May 7, 2020 at 9:40 am

      Theresa, As previously pointed out to you, the majority of Vacation Homes do not have 13 bedrooms. I suggest you lobby your local government to limit the zoning restrictions as to size of a home or move to a community that has such restrictions that you require. Owners of private property are allowed to rent long or short term. Shutting down an entire industry that supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across the state because of a few bad actors is unreasonable and is not the topic here.

    • Chris

      May 9, 2020 at 7:25 pm

      Theresa no one is forcing you to go and have contact with your neighbors. I’m fairly sure if you left them along they would leave you alone. As someone who rents condos at PC Beach, often. The quickest thing to ruin my vacation, is a nosy neighbor. Most people might wave or say, hello, but would never just invite themselves with in your “magic 6ft circle”.

      So the why are you afraid? It doesnt matter if its 1 person or 100, unless they are breathing, coughing, sneezing, in your face, or with in a few feet. You will not be infected by them or at risk. Any more so than any other day you walk outside.

      I have a feeling it wouldnt matter if this virus never happened…you would still be complaining about something.

      • Jax

        May 11, 2020 at 1:02 am

        Yes. People do complain too much. I have found vacation rental owners to be greedy and grumpy and they like to keep deposits though you do nothing wrong. There is always an oversupply of these “vacation homes, » and I predicted their demise a year ago because owners have have been lied to about how much money they can make from this so called « business ». I have been scammed three times by vacation rental properties and I am a native Floridian. Qwners get scammed. Scams go up If you are lin an epidemic or crisis. Whether living in Florida, or just renting vacation rentals from your out-of state home, everyone takes a big gamble here in Fl on keeping any job money or business alive. There are no guarantees here. No one guarantees that you will not have natural disasters, sit downs power grids off lightning strikes, people’ ruined and you make them pay anyway. Cut your losses, grow up, and move on with innovation. This is only a very short term ban to protect our retired elderly and full time residents. I agree with the Governor because my parents are 75 yr. old Floridians with health issues but could have 20 more good years here. They have lived in Florida for 30 years. Many of the vacation landlords are out of state owners who contribute little to the economy. If you do business in Florida, expect to flop. Just be thankful your paces are not destroyed by hurricanes. Our whole country is out of work, My husband’s law firm crumbled overnight due to state restrictions. He was an honest hardworking man and his business was set back so much, we cannot afford to restart the.busuness. We have to sell our only home just to get by with the equity we had. I lost my consulting business overnight. And property owners complain they are losing tens of thousands per month? On several pieces of real estate they own? The greedy always complain the most. How do you know people would want to leave home to come here now, anyway?

        Any rental at any given time has a 50/50 chance of being occupied. You pricks are disgruntled wit me your business to begin with and you take it out on one man. Diversify your assets. Change up your life and quit whining. Short term property renting was in the decline anyway.

  • Laurel

    May 8, 2020 at 7:57 pm

    We made our reservation in February for April. We rescheduled twice when the ban was unstated. Who is helping the tourists who have been denied refunds? Someone needs to make us whole.

  • Jax

    May 11, 2020 at 1:13 am

    I am sorry if it feels like no one cares. Heavily touristic places eventually become less caring. I vote with my feet now and prefer a nice hotel. I don’t like the accommodations, I can leave and not be charged 500-1,000 deposits from me plus the rest of my stay. I can book a hotel in Orlando the night before for as many nights as I want and if I want to leave, they do not charge for the rest of my stay. And the hotels are nicer with customer service 24/7 and neatly always uncrowded. I became so fed up with the pitfalls of vacation rentals. You plan on things to go well. They just plan on keeping your money. I read a lot of bad stories on trip advisor. Short term rentals have no real accountability to anyone.

    • Ann

      May 12, 2020 at 11:04 pm

      That’s a lie.. we have accountability to ourselves and our guests. We try to keep 5 star ratings at all costs to keep our business coming in. We have more accountability than some workers who just don’t care at some Hotel.
      You don’t know what you’re talkin about!

  • Diane

    May 11, 2020 at 6:40 am

    I’d like to know what we can do about this other than signing an online petition. I’ve turned down two rentals in May. From what I”m hearing, travelers prefer to stay in short-term rentals vs. hotels. I know I do! I’ve know that one step suggested is Florida-only residents,but if hotels, etc., can accept out-of-staters, everyone should be able to. I totally agree with the “follow the money” line of thinking. So what can we do about it? Other than suing, which I was happy to see one group has done!

  • david winestone

    May 11, 2020 at 4:53 pm

    in walton county what is considered a resort or inn that is allowed to be open?

  • Shannon M Kohl

    May 12, 2020 at 7:51 pm

    What is wrong with this picture?? What is the reason for closing of short term rentals in Daytona Beach. FL this is absurd. Has anyone heard a reason, I haven’t. Big hotels,motels and I believe timeshares can stay open makes NO SENSE AT ALL!! Where social distancing is at it’s worse. More people everywhere means less safety..Smaller venues such as condos and homes that can be rented are far more safe. Why are we (owners) being booted out of renting our short term rentals. Its NOT FAIR at all. We have cleaning company’s that follow all needed criteria to keep our guest safe. I feel we are safer than big hotels that constantly have guest coming and going. I’m also in constant contact with my cleaning company, she is fantastic. Is it to keep these big corporate Hotels from going bankrupt?? Leaving us small time owners in the dust so to speak. This virus is going to be around for awhile and we can’t stay closed forever. We as owners will do whatever we need to be able to keep our guests safe and happy. All of us owners need our lively hoods back. We cant wait for this to go away..It takes all of us together to beat this terrible time we are dealing with. Our rental businesses need opened NOW so we can get our wonderful guest back. Make it right, it’s not fair!!

  • jean m quisenberry

    May 12, 2020 at 8:21 pm

    Airbnb restrictions: I questions why your order is restricting Airbnb rentals when you are allowing Hotels to operate that have a higher risk of Covid infection. Unlike the close quarters of Hotels, LTC and assisted living facilities, airbnb rentels are generally in a share home space or individual homes. with less contact with others. Where is the common sense here of limiting these venues unless to is purely political or money driven. Are you aware that we pay state taxes as well? Many of us depend on this income to survive. Please reconsider your current order and allow us to continue to accept bookings

  • Angel

    May 12, 2020 at 10:59 pm

    Look at the people who have donated to desantis past campaigns and look who has been able to open / Disney / Hotel industry look it up.

  • Dan Osborn

    May 17, 2020 at 6:29 pm

    It is quite obvious the restaurant and lodging Association lobbyists have paid him off to damage their competition. It is no secret they have been trying to figure out a way to damage vacation rentals for a long time. It is their main legislative agenda. It needs to be called out and stopped it is clearly an American and anti-competitive probably anti-trust.

    • Amiee

      May 20, 2020 at 1:51 am

      Vacation rentals have destroyed the rental economy of Florida…

Comments are closed.


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