Ron DeSantis opens door to return of vacation rentals

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Counties must outline their approach and safety precautions to let rentals reopen.

Counties wishing to reopen vacation rentals can submit their plan to do so to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation for approval, Gov. Ron DeSantis says.

In late March, the Governor suspended most vacation rental reservations and advertising. But as the state continues to ease its COVID-19 lockdown, mounting calls have asked DeSantis to restore rentals, or at least do so regionally.

“What we’re doing is telling counties, if you want short-term rentals, you request it to be authorized through the state and provide your safety plan,” he said in Jacksonville Friday as he announced the “Full Phase One.”

Although the Governor has expressed his desire to reopen the industry, he extended the ban indefinitely under the initial first phase of the state’s reopening process.

But counties can now submit their strategies to be considered on a case-by-case basis. The report must include the county’s approach and safety precautions to maintain public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Re-Open Florida Task Force’s report suggests vacation rentals could open to Florida residents in Phase Two, but doesn’t recommend a full reopening until Phase Three. However, the Governor has deviated from his task force on some items, like when to reopen bars.

Vacation rentals have become a popular getaway alternative for tourists and spring breakers, who have drawn DeSantis’ ire throughout the pandemic. Through Phase One and onward, one of the tenets of the state’s response is preventing out-of-state travelers from reseeding the disease in the Sunshine State.

According to the original executive 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.”

DeSantis again Friday outlined keeping those from hot spot communities out of the state.

“If you tell me you’re going to rent them out to people from New York City, I’m probably not going to approve that, OK?” he said. “If you’re saying that, you know, you’re going to rent it out to people in other parts of Florida or something that would be manageable or if there’s ways in there that clearly you have an eye to safety, then I’m fine.”

Last week, Panhandle state representatives and Panama City Beach Mayor Mark Sheldon authored letters to the Governor asking for permission to reopen, but not with specific plans. On Friday, DeSantis acknowledged those calls.

“I’m also mindful of the fact that this epidemic — and I said this from the beginning — was not something that was affecting the state in an even way,” he said. “You had different parts that were more-significantly affected. You have had other parts, parts of the Panhandle have been incredibly lightly affected, and so they want to be able to do some of these things.”

Vacation rental owners and advocates and Northwest Florida officials have pointed out that hotels, motels, inns, resorts and timeshares remained open throughout the pandemic. The vacation rental industry generates an estimated $27 billion annually in the state, according to a report by the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

But requiring county and state officials to bless the vacation rental reopening plans could take weeks, said Denis Hanks, executive director of the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association.

“The relief for places like the Panhandle and others that are contingent upon the Memorial Day weekend and being open, it could really take them out of the whole picture,” Hanks said in a telephone interview.

The Governor offered an explanation Friday for the continued ban beyond now-stale spring breaker concerns.

“Part of the thing is I have National Guard — I’ve got all these National Guard I’ve got to put up,” DeSantis said. “I’ve got other people I’ve got to put up, so we needed to have an ability to have hotels, so it’s a little bit different situation.”

The vacation rental ban includes a carveout for those performing military or government duties and emergency, health or infrastructure responses. Additionally, those on business trips or staying more than 30 days may rent.

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Material from the News Service of Florida was used in 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.


14 comments

  • Susan Smith

    May 15, 2020 at 5:24 pm

    Has anyone in the government discussed the fact that there are plenty of short term rentals happening right now? All a potential renter has to do his supply a form letter from his or her employer stating that they need to rent “ for business” reasons. They just say that they have business in the area, and there is no limit As to how geographically close their “business” meetings have to be. A police officer told me that he spoke to one man who was staying in Seagrove, but his business here was in Pensacola, two and a half hours away! He also happened to have have his wife and children with him. There is a house here in Watersound that is rented for business reasons, and the driveway his full of toys and children’s floaty vests. I’m sure there are many more like this. I just know about this particular house from the owners that their rental was because of business. I know of a family that has been in Rosemary for the last week. I know them from our hometown and I know they do not own a place down here. I’m hearing that this is everywhere. So I guess my point is that they should get rid of that loophole. Maybe they should have the hotels that are open, only be available to people on business and military?

    • liz

      May 18, 2020 at 10:27 pm

      If they rent for 30 days there is no restriction. There is also no restriction at all for hotels.

  • Vickey Adkins

    May 15, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    First, I am not only a Florida resident, I am a native. My family had the first week of June on Marco Island paid for in February. We try to go every summer. To stay the week, we always take down plenty of cleaning supplies, and Lysol. It seems the ride on the elevator down to the walkway to the beach will be the tightest, spot, surely with just Florida residents it will not be so busy that we can’t wait for the next one.

  • david

    May 15, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    I am not a Florida resident but have been coming to Destin every year for over 40 years. I understand concerns, however the virus is everywhere and just keeping people out will not totally stop the spread. If I am not allowed to rent the property that I have already booked for the last week of June, I will sadly understand. I do wonder if people realize that the tax dollars that I spend for my rental, eating at restaurants, shopping at the Commons and Silver Sands as well as my golfing and offshore fishing pays for Fire Protection and Law enforcement, as well as other essential services. It also helps fund many jobs. The emerald coast relies heavily on the influx of money that streams in during the Summer months. Just food for thought.

    • Alicia Gillespie

      May 15, 2020 at 10:38 pm

      David, i totally agree with you on this. Our reservations for destin are for june 21 – 26 this year and i hope were able to go. We are a family of 4 and we are very respectful and responsible citizens and we go to destin every summer during June. Good luck everyone! 🙂

    • Steve Tahmosh

      May 16, 2020 at 5:47 am

      Don’t worry, our Senator Scott is flush with cash, it’ll tide him thru.
      And Marco Rubles got his income stream direct from Russia.
      Desantis is Donnie Dotard Mini Me, so he’s good too.
      Thanks for caring

      • Thomas R Armbruster Sr

        May 16, 2020 at 8:07 am

        Governor Desantis what is the difference from someone being able to stay in a hotel or in a short term rental. There is no difference, the individual can come from out of state. Your excuse to say that you have all these National Guard and Health Officials to house, is very weak. As I look at the various hotels and watch families coming out to enjoy some time on the beach. What management tool do you have in place to monitor the people staying at hotels, to show they are here for business or pleasure. Short term rentals can also house these people you are talking about. You have discriminated against the small buisness/family owner in favor of the large corporations

    • KEITH J INGALLS

      May 18, 2020 at 1:17 pm

      I agree I’m in Port Saint Joe and the people who own the rental property are letting all their friends and family members stay here so we are packed with tourists anyway

  • Barb Pieters

    May 16, 2020 at 7:53 am

    I live in Georgia. Almost every year in May my husband and I come down to Blue Mountain Beach and rent a 1 bedroom condo on the beach. Because we could not do that this year, we are going to Sandestin which will be more crowded, have to get on elevators instead and spend more money for less. We’ll be more compromised than if we had rented our own condo.

  • Jim Lied

    May 16, 2020 at 9:38 am

    When will people from north louisiana be allowed to enter Florida again? Why should I be punished because of the mardigras parties in new Orleans ?

  • Stephen Veralli

    May 16, 2020 at 4:40 pm

    Here in Sarasota County we have several homeowners still renting their vacation properties thru Airbnb. I have a Vacation Rental business, managing 30+ properties in one community. I am not renting my units, instead waiting for the prohibition to be lifted, but other owners in the same community are defying the law. How can they be reported, and what is the penalty?

  • LMorrison

    May 17, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    While I do agree that De Santis banned travelers from New York in the early days of the pandemic, I disagree that he will probably not allow travelers from New York to reserve short term vacation rentals. In the beginning of the pandemic, it was a nightmare in New York. I know because I live here in NY. Since then, our governor took extreme precautions to stop the spread of the virus and it has been successful in New York. New York still has not fully reopened and will not until all the guidelines are met. Florida was the last state to shut down and the first to reopen. Palm Beach is now a hotspot and Miami is still seeing increases. As a New Yorker, I would not want to see travelers from these regions in Florida visit New York. DeSantis needs to look at the numbers in all of the states, and take the necessary precautions to limit the cases in Florida transmitted within the state. It is a hard call and I understand that, but we all have to be vigilant and work together to eliminate this virus and not be divided.

  • Dave

    May 18, 2020 at 10:55 am

    Thank You Governor DeSantis for that “clear” explanation of how our livelihoods as short term renters will be affected going forward. Your statement makes us feel so much more at ease. You “will not approve rentals from NYC, but approve rentals from other residents of Florida”
    WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, MAN????

  • Mac

    May 18, 2020 at 3:32 pm

    This short term rental ban should be lifted and soon. It has to really be hurting the coastal communities, and the property owners. The reaction to the virus is overblown. If people are sick, they should stay at home and not travel. Some of us have booked our summer rentals way in advance and should still be able to travel.

Comments are closed.


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