Legislation advances that would weaken local government control over vacation rentals

Nick DiCeglie's bill attempts to quiet the outrage over online rentals in residential neighborhoods.

Another crack at solving the conundrum that has pitted long-term residents against the revolving vacation party next door produced some fireworks in the Senate.

The first committee stop for Sen. Nick DiCeglie’s legislation (SB 280) was before the Senate Regulated Industries Committee. DiCeglie faced rapid-fire questions from Sen. Jason Pizzo. The Sunny Isles Democrat wanted to know why DiCeglie’s bill has aspects of last year’s House version — weakening local governments’ ability to regulate rentals — that the Senate rejected as the last Session closed.

Ultimately, though, the latest attempt to strike the balance between the rights of property owners to rent their homes through online platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO and keeping the peace in residential neighborhoods advanced, earning a unanimous thumbs up.

But a certain weariness was apparent in the proceedings.

“You’re as sick of talking about vacation rentals as the rest of us are,” said Republican Sen. Ed Hooper, addressing the sponsor, an Indian Rocks Beach Republican. Hooper noted the state has made progress in collecting taxes from the online companies that serve as a broker between property owners and renters. Also, there are economic benefits to vacationers coming to Florida.

“Maybe there’s four restaurants that are open because there’s tourism, and if that were not so, maybe those full-time residents wouldn’t visit the restaurant so often or the retail shop or the gift shop,” he said.

None of the Democrats assigned to the committee were available, so Pizzo appeared in this committee for a cameo with a barrage of questions. He honed in on how local governments would have less control stopping these rentals’ violations of local rules on parking, trash and occupancy under this bill than last year’s bill (SB 714).

Those closest to the problem can spot these violations and should have the authority to address them, Pizzo argued.

“There is no indication whatsoever, either from the Senate, the House and especially from the Governor’s Office, that any additional resources are going to be given to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), and yet you want to take the lion’s share of responsibility (of regulating short-term rentals) and hand it over to an agency that is objectively, woefully ill-staffed and underfunded,” Pizzo said.

“And you think that your constituents in Indian Rocks Beach and mine in Sunny Isles Beach are going to be better served because of the level of uniformity coming out of Tallahassee for the governance of short-term rentals?”

DiCeglie emphasized that this was just the first committee stop and his bill is a work in progress. But Pizzo said he didn’t understand why his colleague was starting off in a weaker position.

“You’re a businessman,” Pizzo said, detailing how one side usually asks for more to get the other side to move. “And you’re starting at last year’s House position. Tell me I’m wrong.”

The conundrum was created with 2011 legislation — when the online rental business was not as prominent — that preempted local governments from regulating short-term rentals. That legislation said such rentals couldn’t be prohibited in local ordinances or be required to offer a minimum stay. Some local tools are now allowed, such as local registrations for these properties.

But those efforts have not entirely quelled the chaos that makes it difficult, in some places, for residents to find peace and quiet.

The bulk of public testimony was against the bill as proposed. Representatives from the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA) and numerous cities came to voice their opposition.

“We’ve been addressing this issue for 10 years now,” said Samantha Padgett of FRLA, which represents the much-more regulated hotel industry.

Jack Cory, representing Jacksonville Beach through Public Affairs Consultants, said DBPR hasn’t begun to get a handle on the scope of the problem. He quoted DiCeglie’s figure for how many of these rentals have registered through DBPR — 23,000 — compared to what someone looking for one of these rentals would find.

“If you Google up VRBO — just one of the out of state supporters of this bill — and then type in ‘Florida,’ they claim that they have 192,000 vacation rentals in Florida,” he said. “Therefore, they’re claiming that there are 165,000 unlicensed, unregulated, untaxed vacation rentals at this time. This bill will only make that situation worse.”

Companion legislation in the House has not yet emerged.

DiCeglie closed on his bill with the hope that ultimately this bill will be made into something the Senate will be proud to support.

“This is not an easy issue for all of the reasons that we know. But we have a growing industry here,” he said.

He emphasized how state-level regulation is better than locals’ because of the predictability factor, for all parties in the mix.

“I look forward to working with each and every one of you,” he said. “I look forward to continuing my lively debate with Sen. Pizzo. I do enjoy that even during the holiday season.”

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


  • SteveHC

    December 13, 2023 at 12:54 pm

    Republicans have been CONSISTENTLY unable to reach agreement on *any* consistently effective yet fair way of regulating private vacation rentals.

  • Linwood Wright

    December 13, 2023 at 1:37 pm

    Small Government, amiright?

  • Richard Russell

    December 13, 2023 at 5:18 pm

    WTH, are all our elected state politicians now investing in the short term rental business? That has to be the reason, because those places in decent neighborhoods are totally destroying some very nice neighborhoods while the rental owners are making a fortune. How’s that go: politicians go into office and come out much wealthier: how and why? That’s just one potential example. Gotta get in while the gettin is good.

Comments are closed.


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