Vacation rental plan ‘clearly a work in progress’

The amendment would grandfather in existing local laws.

An amendment added to a vacation rental bill may be the change needed to get the legislation passed this year.

The Sen. Manny Diaz-sponsored bill (SB 522) preempting local regulation of vacation rentals is winding its way through Senate committees.

The bill passed its third of four committee stops Wednesday with a 13-5 vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The crux of the bill shifts licensing, tax collection and inspection of vacation rentals from local control to state control under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, protecting vacation rentals on internet platforms like Airbnb and Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) from the hodgepodge of local laws currently regulating Florida’s vacation communities.

Diaz said the bill will bring much-needed consistency to the industry.

But the preemption legislation is doing what preemption legislation normally does, riling up home rule advocates, who are already asking people to contact Gov. Ron DeSantis and committee members to express opposition to the bill.

Diaz sponsored similar legislation last year, but it died in the Senate Rules Committee, the same committee this year’s bill faces next. Diaz said the bill is more palatable this Session because it includes changes provided in an amendment added Thursday.

The amendment would allow current local laws governing vacation rentals to stay as they are, with the option to change them to be less restrictive in the future if a locality chooses to do so. The latest version of the bill also says nothing about regulating rentals in the same way as neighboring properties.

“We do maintain the local control as it is right now,” Diaz said. “I do think that [the bill] will continue to go through the process — it goes to Rules next — and there are some nuances that need to be worked out,” Diaz said, signaling his willingness to continue to make changes to the legislation.

State law already bans local governments from passing ordinances to outlaw vacation rentals, which have raised the ire of residents who complain of investor-owned “party houses” in neighborhoods. Other critics maintain that owners of some rental properties are failing to properly submit state and local taxes.

But proponents of Diaz’s earlier version contend that the short-term rental properties are used to supplement the incomes of retirees and families.

The earlier version would have done away with ordinances regulating short-term rentals adopted after June 1, 2011. Opponents said such a provision would be problematic for areas that have worked in recent years to develop local regulations.

The amendment was enough to get a “neutral” from the Florida League of Cities.

Sen. Ed Hooper came around to vote for the bill after he had voted against it in the Regulated Industries Committee.

“I think it makes the bill better. And the fact that it does no further harm to my communities gives me great comfort,” Hooper said.

But the amendment was not enough to get support from Minority Leader Gary Farmer, though other members of his party did vote in favor of the bill.

“I think when you purchase a home in a single-family residential neighborhood you have an expectation of solitude and peace and tranquility. I don’t care when a regulation was put in place at the local level, I just don’t think we overturn what local communities are wanting to do. They should have full control over this issue,” Farmer said.

Miami Sen. Jason Pizzo also did not come around during the committee meeting.

“I have some good faith logistical issues with this bill,” Pizzo said, adding that he would talk to Diaz about some changes that could be made to the bill.

Pizzo has offered an alternative vacation rental bill (SB 1988), which has yet to be heard in a committee.

The Senate Rules Committee is Diaz’s bill’s final stop before the Senate floor.

Companion House legislation (HB 219) is in the Ways and Means Committee.


Content from The News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Haley Brown

Haley Brown covers state government for Previously, Haley covered the West Virginia Legislature and anchored weekend newscasts for WVVA in Bluefield, W.Va. Haley is a Florida native and a graduate of the University of Florida. You can reach her at [email protected]


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