Going into the Memorial Day Weekend, vacation-rental properties can operate in 26 counties across the state after being shut down for weeks as part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s website.
State officials approved vacation rental safety plans for 10 more counties Thursday.
Those plans, going into effect immediately, will reverse DeSantis’ ban placed statewide in late March. Last week, the Governor announced individual counties could submit their plans to reopen the vacation rental industry through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) for approval.
The latest approved plans came from Citrus, Clay, Collier, Dixie, Flagler, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Manatee, Sarasota and Sumter counties Thursday before a Friday evening update added a dozen more counties. As of Saturday, 38 counties have been cleared to reopen their short-term vacation rentals.
DeSantis has made clear that the plans should not allow guests from COVID-19 hot spot regions to rent.
“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. “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.”
All counties’ plans will discourage renting to travelers from hot spot regions identified by the Governor, namely New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Louisiana. Some counties go further, banning guests from states with 700 cases per 100,000 residents, adding Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C. to their restrictions.
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 panel did not recommend restrictions for hotels, motels, resorts and time-share developments.