An attempt to give cities and counties some tools to help control short-term rentals won House approval, but an amendment is going to send the measure back for the Senate to consider.
The House bill was swapped out for Republican Sen. Nick DiCeglie’s bill (SB 714) and carried in the House by Republican Rep. Wyman Duggan. It means cities could require vacation rentals to register and pay a fee to do business. It would also require Airbnb and VRBO to collect and remit sales taxes to the state.
“There’s a lot in this bill that improves the situation for local governments by removing all ambiguity about what they can do in terms of regulating vacation rentals,” Duggan said, asking for support and trust that ongoing negotiations will land the bill in the right place.
The bill passed via a 73-39 vote. But critics say it doesn’t go far enough and actually hinders cities’ efforts to control unruly vacationers who have invaded residential neighborhoods.
“They are ripping our residential communities apart,” said Democratic Rep. Dan Daley of Sunrise. “So while I respect and love the sponsor, I’m going to be so far down on this bill, I may hit the button twice.”
For one, enforcement is severely lacking, critics said. The bill leaves enforcing compliance — including suspending the right for bad actors to continue renting — to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The bill adds six people to handle the new workload, Duggan acknowledged.
Far fewer supporters spoke than critics. Duggan was praised for taking on a tough issue that has dogged the proceedings year after year in a way that truly does give cities new tools to control the problem.
“This … doesn’t prohibit a local law ordinance or regulation from restricting the maximum occupancy for residential properties,” said Republican Rep. Will Robinson Jr. of Bradenton. “That is so critical that you put that into this bill. … I have had several of my jurisdictions put in ordinances (restricting occupancy) in place, and they’ve been sued.”
In 2011, the Legislature preempted any local governments from regulating these rental agreements that have proliferated with Airbnb and similar platforms. This bill represents an effort to try to rein in the loud music, outdoor cookouts and partying that have disturbed neighborhoods of single-family homes until the wee hours of the morning.
But Democrats say there’s no way one set of rules can answer the needs represented in 412 municipalities, which have varying concerns regarding regulating the problem. The City of Hollywood, for example, has 1,300 licensed short-term rentals, yet an estimated 2,000 unlicensed ones, Democratic Rep. Hillary Cassel said.
Lawmakers approved an amendment allowing local ordinances that restrict occupancy. But Democrats asked for more — like giving locals the authority to shut down the bad actors. And they also protested how the bill would separate current cities’ short-term registration procedures from health and fire inspections.
“We keep coming back to address this issue because we shouldn’t be handling it — 412 municipalities in this state should have the ability to keep their communities in the manner that the communities see fit,” Cassel said.
“I agree with property rights. But when your entire communities are being bought up by corporations (to rent out for short-term vacationers) … it’s a problem and we should be giving this back to the local communities.”