Ileana Garcia refiles bill to add transparency to vacation rental regulation, upkeep

vacation_rentals
The bill is modest in scope, compared to other measures lawmakers have filed in recent years.

It’s been years since Florida lawmakers largely won the battle with local governments over regulation and oversight of vacation rental properties and the platforms that advertise them.

But a proposal by Miami Republican Sen. Ileana Garcia would at least ensure those responsible for the properties’ upkeep are locally answerable.

Florida law currently bars cities and counties from prohibiting vacation rentals or capping how long people can stay at them, among other things. Further measures to squeeze local restrictions on the industry have failed to make it across the finish line.

Garcia’s bill, SB 92, is comparatively modest. It aims only to clarify that localities can pass and enforce ordinances requiring vacation rental operators to provide local governments with contact lists for people who handle complaints about the properties “and other immediate problems.”

The measure, which Garcia filed Friday, is identical to a bill she sponsored in the 2021 Legislative Session. That bill died without receiving a single hearing.

Vacation rentals represent a lucrative and growing market nationally, and Florida is no exception. A University of Central Florida study of 25 counties across the state found the industry’s impact exceeded $27 billion in 2018 — $16.6 billion in direct spending and $10.8 billion in indirect spending.

More than 14.2 million tourists stayed in vacation rental homes, equal to 11.2% of the 127 million tourists visiting Florida that year. That’s a money-generating rate of $32,000 per minute.

For more than a decade, local governments overseeing vacationing hotspots like Miami-Dade County have been at odds with state lawmakers over control of vacation rental properties and associated companies like Airbnb, HomeAway, TripAdvisor and Booking.com.

In 2020 and 2021, Republican Education Secretary Manny Díaz Jr. of Hialeah Gardens — then a state Senator — filed legislation to give the state more power over vacation rental regulations and prevent local restrictions, including inspection and licensing requirements.

Had the bill reached the Governor’s desk, it would have allowed localities to only regulate rentals as they would other properties in the neighborhood, a check on local powers cities and counties have long fought.

Miami-Dade Commissioners passed a resolution opposing Díaz’s bill, SB 522, which died one committee short of reaching a floor vote in the Senate.

This year, Republican Sen. Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills carried the measure during the regular Legislative Session. Former Republican Rep. Jason Fischer, who supported Díaz’s prior efforts, filed a companion bill in the House. Both died before reaching the floor.

In Miami-Dade and other Florida counties, regulatory efforts in recent years have focused on streamlining how the vacation rental platforms upgrade their list of host houses, purge repeat violators of local standards from their rolls and pay “bed taxes” to support tourism development.

In October 2020, the platforms were freed of having to collect and remit tourism taxes when the Florida Supreme Court passed on hearing an appeal of a prior ruling in the companies’ favor, which said that while the platforms facilitate rentals, they are not themselves “dealers” like hotels under state law and, as such, do not have to adhere to the same rules.

Former Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman, who developed the county’s local ordinance in 2017 establishing a taxing and regulatory framework for the peer-to-peer platforms, told Miami Today the first payment Airbnb alone made to the county was about $522,000.

Florida Politics contacted Garcia’s office for comment but received no response by press time.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.



#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704




Sign up for Sunburn


Categories