‘A significant step forward’: Destinations Florida urges Gov. DeSantis to sign vacation rental bill

The group says the bill ‘offers an opportunity to level the playing field and promote further growth and prosperity for our state.’

A statewide association that acts as a collective voice and resource for tourism marketing organizations is urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to sign a controversial bill that would rewire Florida’s oversight of vacation rentals.

Destinations Florida sent a letter to the Governor this week imploring him to ratify the measure (SB 280), which would largely preempt local governance of the vacation rental industry.

It’s a necessary move to address “several key issues that have long plagued the industry,” Destinations Florida Executive Director Robert Skrob said. According to VISIT FLORIDA, Destinations Florida today represents more than 99% of the state’s tourism marketing organizations.

“While we acknowledge that implementing this legislation may require adjustment from stakeholders, it is crucial to recognize the benefits of establishing a consistent regulatory framework statewide,” Skrob wrote in the Monday letter.

“The current patchwork of regulations and enforcement mechanisms across different localities has led to inconsistencies and gaps in compliance and transparency. Senate Bill 280 offers an opportunity to level the playing field and promote further growth and prosperity for our state.”

SB 280 passed last month by votes of 23-16 in the Senate and 60-51 in the House — among the closest approval margins this past Session — with both Democrats and Republicans voting “no.”

The bill was a priority of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Nick DiCeglie and Panama City Republican Rep. Griff Griffitts sponsored the measure in their respective chambers.

“Quite simply, small beach communities like mine have to accept that vacation rentals are here to stay,” DiCeglie said in a Florida Politics guest editorial. We don’t have to accept irresponsible and inappropriate conduct, which would never be tolerated by long-term tenants, destroying our communities and quality of life. The middle ground is elusive, but it is possible.”

Leaders in the Legislature haven’t yet sent the bill to DeSantis. Once they do, he’ll have seven days to sign or veto the bill. He can also allow it to become law without his signature.

Beginning July 1, unless he vetoes the measure, SB 280 would:

— Preempt local occupancy restrictions with new statewide requirements capping overnight occupancy on vacation rentals at two people per bedroom, plus two in a common area. More people can stay in a bedroom if there is at least 50 square feet per person.

— Task the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to create and maintain a vacation rental database for all such businesses across Florida.

— Restrict local governments from inspecting properties only upon the issuance of a registration number.

— Prohibit local governments from enforcing compliance with the Florida Building or Florida Fire Prevention codes as a precondition to registration.

— Require advertising platforms like Airbnb, HomeAway and Vrbo (formerly HomeAway) to collect taxes for counties.

— Require owners or representatives of a vacation rental to be available for complaints and emergency response all day every day. They must respond to any such communication by 9 a.m.

— Cap fines for rental violations at $500.

— Provide that a vacation rental’s registration can be suspended if it violates a local ordinance unspecific to vacation rentals, but only when the property has racked up five or more violations in five separate days within a 60-day period.

— Clear funding for DBPR to hire nine agents to oversee vacation rentals.

Lawmakers approved a last-minute House amendment to the bill allowing counties to keep their existing vacation rental ordinances if the regulations were introduced before 2016. That carve-out benefited just one county: Flagler, the home of House Speaker Paul Renner.

Nick DiCeglie said the changes in SB 280 will bring sensible and consistent regulation to the vacation rental industry while still allowing local governments to enforce local rules. Opponents argue it’s too much preemption. Image via Colin Hackley/Florida Politics.

As of 2022, there were 26,733 licensed vacation rentals in Florida, House staff said in an analysis of similar legislation that lawmakers nearly passed last year. But researchers and tourism industry experts say the true number is far greater.

According to Florida TaxWatch, whose research was cited in public discussions of SB 280 during its committee stops this year, there are at least 49,280 unlicensed vacation rentals in Florida depriving state and local coffers of millions yearly.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey found that Florida 830,000 housing units in the state — roughly 8% of the total inventory — are designated for “seasonal, recreational or occasional” use.

Vrbo’s website claims there are more than 12,300 vacation rentals available today.

Proponents of SB 280, including Melbourne Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield, say that while it “may not be as perfect as everyone wants,” it would still provide localities with more guaranteed revenue while providing uniform regulation across county lines.

The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, which supported the measure, has also pushed back against claims it will kill local regulatory oversight by noting that local governments can register properties, collect fees and set occupancy limits — albeit within the parameters of state strictures.

Critics like Hollywood Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo argued during a floor discussion of the bill last month that it will kick most grievance airings to the state level, requiring residents to trek to Tallahassee rather than City Hall.

“They don’t want you to take away their ability to yell at their Mayor or see their Commissioner at a little league game and talk about what’s going on in their neighborhood,” he said.

The Florida Association of Realtors urged DeSantis to veto the bill, saying it “fails to strike a fair balance” between property rights and local governance. Among other things, the group said, the bill allows localities to charge unlimited fees for registration, renewals and inspections; force rental owners to appeal disciplinary actions through the court system; “arbitrarily limits” occupancy levels; and does not sufficiently protect consumers.

Alison Denning, the Mayor of Melbourne Beach, called SB 280 “an assault on single-family zoning” that will further enable commercial enterprises to buy up and rent out properties in residential areas already fed up with so-called party houses.

State legislators first tried tackling the issue in 2011 through a law that banned local governments from enacting restrictions on vacation rentals. Community complaints prompted an amendment in 2014 to allow cities and counties to enforce noise, trash and parking ordinances while still prohibiting them from regulating how long or how frequently short-term rentals could be used.

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.


  • LexT

    April 25, 2024 at 8:23 am

    The logic for preemption is flawed. There is absolutely zero need for a uniform system of regulation for vacation. Each vacation rental is a private residence located in a particular County and/or city within the state. Zoning is a power delegated to the Counties and cities. Localities should be able to make specific rules for their residents. A vacation rental is closer to a hotel than a home. Hotels are generally very commercial. I would not want a neighbor constantly on vacation, which is what it is like to have a vacation rental next door.

  • Dont Say FLA

    April 25, 2024 at 11:41 am

    Is this supposed to counteract everything else Rhonda says and does that alienates most vacationers from consideration of Florida as a destination vacation?

    It doesn’t, might it might made Rudy Guiliani’s VRABOBNB condo neighbors feel better.

  • DM McCormack

    May 6, 2024 at 8:22 am

    Seriously, do the folks that did the research on this issue even live near any of these vacation rentals that are taking houses in the communities from families and making them into party houses for the out of the country investors? For heavens sake we have Youtubers making videos of strippers and little people wrestling on the front lawn in the STVR’s in our neighborhood. This bill is so flawed it is stupid, just look at the fact that the biggest supporter of this bill has preempted his own county. Duh!

Comments are closed.


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, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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