The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) has lifted the vacation rental ban in eight more counties Wednesday, raising the total number of cleared counties to 16.
The department approved reopening plans submitted by Charlotte, Duval, Lee, Levy, Nassau, Osceola, Pinellas and St. Johns counties with possibly more to come before the end of the day. That’s on top of eight Panhandle county plans approved Tuesday along the Gulf coast from Escambia County to Wakulla County.
Those plans, going into effect immediately, will reverse a two-month ban placed statewide by Gov. Ron DeSantis. On Thursday, the department followed up the 16 approvals with an additional 10.
On Friday, the Governor announced individual counties could submit their plans to reopen the vacation rental industry for approval. Not every county has submitted plans, according to a DBPR spokeswoman.
“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?” DeSantis said in Jacksonville. “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’re ways in there that clearly you have an eye to safety, then I’m fine.”
Signed amid concerns about spring breakers, the original executive order noted that vacation rentals are attractive destinations for out-of-state visitors, then the driving source of COVID-19 infections. During his Friday press conference, DeSantis elaborated on why he let hotels stay open for business.
“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.
DeSantis’ Re-Open Florida Task Force, which included representatives from the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Walt Disney World Resort and the Fontainebleau luxury hotel in Miami Beach, last month recommended including restrictions on vacation rentals for most of the state’s reopening process. The panel did not include voices from the vacation rental industry.
The task force recommended that hosts only be allowed to rent to Florida residents and be banned from accepting reservations from international travelers or from visitors who live in cities that are known hot spots for COVID-19. The task force did not recommend restrictions for hotels, motels, resorts and time-share developments.