Lawmakers pass state regulations on short-term vacation rentals; how will it play out?

The highly contentious bill prompted close votes in both chambers.

After coming up short for nearly a decade, the Legislature approved a contentious proposal to give the state more power to regulate short-term vacation rentals like Airbnb and Vrbo that have changed the vacation landscape, from the Panhandle to Orlando to South Florida.

The measure still needs to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, and opponents say they will push to persuade the Governor to veto the bill.

The measure (SB 280) has been a controversial one for years in Tallahassee, as residents and local government officials from coastal communities in particular have asserted that the cities and counties should be the officials to regulate the advertising platforms — and not the state.

It’s been carried over the past two years in the Senate by Pinellas County Republican Nick DiCeglie, who lives in Indian Rocks Beach, a city that has been dubbed “Ground Zero” in the yearslong battle to have the state take over more regulations of vacation rentals from local communities.

“The problem starts in Indian Rocks Beach, because that is where I live,” DiCeglie told his colleagues on the Senate floor on Thursday. “And it is a problem on multiple levels. It’s a problem for my neighbors who are being … bad actors who violate local ordinances, okay? I’m getting feedback from those who own these vacation rental properties, and they’re getting slapped with $75,000 fines because the city says they violated some FEMA flood code violation.”

The measure passed in the GOP-controlled Senate, 23-16, with four Republicans joining the 12 Democrats in opposing the measure.

The measure narrowly passed in the House on Wednesday, 60-51, one of the closest margins of any measure introduced this Session.

The vacation-rental saga

The saga goes back to 2011, when the Legislature passed a law prohibiting local governments from enacting any restrictions on vacation rentals. After significant pushback from local communities, the Legislature amended the law in 2014 to allow local governments the ability to handle issues like noise, trash and parking, but continued to prevent them from regulating the duration of the frequency of short-term rentals.

On the Senate floor Thursday, South Florida Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell filed an amendment that would allow any local ordinances that regulate vacation rentals that were adopted before June 1, 2024 to be “grandfathered” in, but the proposal was rejected.

In an amendment added on Wednesday in the House, the bill now says that counties can keep their own local vacation rental ordinances that were introduced before 2016 — which was stated to be a carve-out for Broward and Flagler counties only.

But during debate on the Senate floor on Thursday, it was revealed that Broward County does not have such an ordinance, and thus only Flagler was getting a break — which happens to be the home area of House Speaker Paul Renner.

“You want to know why the public doesn’t have confidence in state government?” asked South Florida Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo. “It’s because of that. … The House Speaker shouldn’t get a special exemption.”

So what’s in the new bill?

The measure allows local governments to charge a “reasonable fee” to a vacation rental owner to register the property. If there’s a problem with the registration, the owner could be fined up to $500.

A vacation rental registration can be suspended for violations of an ordinance that does not apply solely to vacation rentals — but only if there have been five or more violations on five separate days during a 60-day period. It can be suspended for up to 60 days for one or more violations on five separate days during a 30-day period, and up to 90 days for one or more violations after two prior suspensions.

Regarding occupancy levels, the bill requires the vacation rental owner or operator to state and comply with a maximum overnight occupancy that doesn’t exceed either two persons per bedroom, plus an additional two persons in one common area; or more than two persons per bedroom if there is at least 50 square feet per person, plus an additional two persons in one common area.

In addition, the bill says that a responsible party who is “capable” of responding to complaints or emergencies related to a vacation rental must be available by telephone 24 hours a day and seven days a week. But they don’t need to respond until 9 a.m. the following morning.

Huge issue for small towns

Local officials from around Florida traveled to Tallahassee during the Session to testify in opposition to the state taking away more of their powers to regulate vacation rentals. That included Alison Dennington, who was just elected last November as Mayor of Melbourne Beach, which is considered the oldest beach community in Brevard County.

She said that the controversy over the regulation of short-term vacation rentals is a huge issue for small towns like hers, and the voices of those communities aren’t respected in Tallahassee.

“It’s an assault on single-family zoning,” Dennington told the Phoenix while attending a committee meeting last month. “In my area we have Democrats and Republicans and no-party and independents, and I can tell you the only thing that they agree on and all of them are pissed off about is the fact that we can’t regulate short-term rentals.”

Pizzo, a former prosecutor with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, grilled DiCeglie on various aspects of the bill on Thursday. “Are you really happy enough with this product to ask your colleagues to preempt all of their cities from control?” he asked him.

DiCeglie said he absolutely was.

Pizzo also said that there was an issue with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), based out of Tallahassee, regulating all of the vacation rental units in the state. The bill provides funding for the agency to hire nine agents specifically to oversee such rentals.

Unlicensed vacation rentals?

According to a legislative bill analysis, the DBPR reported there were 26,733 vacation rental dwellings licensed with the state in 2022.

However, according to a Florida TaxWatch report issued earlier this year, those were just the vacation rentals licensed with the state. The Tallahassee-based government watchdog and taxpayer research group said that unlicensed vacation rentals are nearly double that amount, and the total loss of registration fees from unlicensed vacation rentals ranges from $1.8 million to $6.9 million.

But DiCeglie said that it’s inaccurate that the DBPR is solely responsible for overseeing vacation rentals in the state. “What we’re asking them to do is manage a database,” he said, adding that local governments also will be maintaining a registry of registrations in their jurisdiction.

While a handful of Republicans opposed the bill, the 23 of the 27 voting supported it. Indian and Brevard County Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield defended the proposal, saying that local governments still possess powers to regulate vacation rentals.

“The cities are getting more than what they had,” she said. “They can charge whatever registration fee they want to charge. They can charge whatever renewal fee they want to charge. They can charge whatever inspection fee they want to charge…it may not be as perfect as everybody wants the bill to be, but it’s still a good bill.”


Mitch Perry reporting. Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: [email protected]. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

Florida Phoenix

Florida Phoenix is a news and opinion outlet focused on government and political news coverage within the state of Florida.


  • Christians Are Cancer on Earth

    March 8, 2024 at 1:27 pm

    The Florida legislature passed a bill on Friday that prevents any city, county, or municipality in the state from adopting legislation aimed to protect outdoor workers from extreme heat, prompting many to call out lawmakers for being “cruel” to the “most vulnerable workers”.

    Efforts to ensure potentially life-saving water breaks, rest and shade for construction and agriculture workers have failed largely due to industry pressure, a growing trend across south-western states, where heat related deaths are on the rise.

    • Dont Say FLA

      March 9, 2024 at 9:47 am

      No shade for builders or pickers, but Rhonda got all the shade he wanted for his failed campaign.

  • Dont Say FLA

    March 9, 2024 at 9:50 am

    No more food delivery apps in Florida. Gotta use the web version now.

    No more VRBO AirBnB short term rentals in Florida. Gotta sign up for a VRBO AirBnB time-share plan now.

    Can someone with a brain and a non-athletic-scholarship law degree be located and then consulted by the brainless FLgOP before they enact laws like these?

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