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Vacation rentals now allowed in 26 Florida counties

Citrus, Clay, Collier, Dixie, Flagler, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Manatee, Sarasota and Sumter are the latest additions.

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.

On Wednesday, DBPR approved eight counties across the state. The first round of approvals came Tuesday, when the department cleared eight coastal Panhandle counties from Escambia to Wakulla.

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.

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 the Texas House of Representatives for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Jan

    May 21, 2020 at 5:11 pm

    Dear Mr. Downey,

    Can you provide the specific contact person and his/her phone number for each approved county that we should call when we know that an investor/owner is not adhering to the rules for his/her renters? Please do not say the DPBR. I have contacted them and they do not respond, as have many others.

    You would be providing a huge service for people – and it would make a wildly popular post that could be updated and would be shared by many. Thank you.

    • Mark A Gosine

      May 21, 2020 at 5:30 pm

      Jan. Yes, yes, by all means. Snitch on your neighbor. Report them for not goose stepping to unconstitutional and illegal orders. Just because those in authority have been wrong on almost every instruction and prediction to date on this pandemic; in addition to media censoring highly qualified dissenting opinions while stoking fear for ratings. You must be compelled to rat people out for living their ordinary mundane lives.

      • Jennifer McCuistion

        May 23, 2020 at 10:43 am

        Maybe just maybe he’s talking about getting a refund for purposes out of his control, due to all those you listed above.
        Believe it or not they’re are ugly people out there, not just the politicians. Lol

  2. Frank S.

    May 26, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    often times the restrictions or instructions for allowing a vacation rental is vague and or confusing. Take Collier County they are allowing short term rentals. Their first qualification is:
    A. To residents in the state of Florida only.
    B. To residents that are not international or from a state with substantial Covid 19 spread.

    that is what the restriction is, and this creates a problem in that these two allowances somewhat contradict each other. Also nowhere is there any definition of what defines substantial spread? Is it substantial from the onset of testing or from testing within the past 14 days? Also does a location have to have administered a threshold of tests? To be a true sampling the number of tests administered should equal some threshold of the population for that county. Most counties have administered less than 5% of the population is this a true sampling or is there 95% that have no symptoms.

    The bottom line is they do not know, and rather than sheltering healthy people, those at risk should shelter in. There is enough information out there to determine if you are at risk, and if you are then you should shelter in or support those whom you know are at risk and help them to shelter in.

  3. Keri Mayfield

    May 26, 2020 at 8:59 pm

    I have a wondering… We live in Springfield, Il and it seems that some counties restrict Illinois from renting short term rentals. Obviously, they lump us in with Chicago ( who has 3 million people). Is there a way to find out if we will be able to rent in Lee County (Ft. Myers Beach) the beginning of July?

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