Here comes the latest attempt to regulate short term vacation rentals in Florida

Major stakeholders say the proposal needs more work to get their ultimate support

By: - March 15, 2023 11:33 am

Home in Boca Grande, Florida (photo credit: Wikipedia).

Pinellas County Republican Senator Nick DiCeglie lives in Indian Rocks Beach, which he calls “Ground Zero” in the sometimes contentious issue of short-term vacation rentals in Florida.

DiCeglie came before the Senate Regulated Industries Committee late Tuesday afternoon to unveil this year’s version of a proposal (SB 714) that would revise the local regulations of vacation rental platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo.

Similar legislation has been introduced virtually every year over the past decade, but none have crossed the finish line and become law.

That’s in part because of opposition that has come from local governments, the vacation rental platforms and the hotel and lodging industry.

“The spirit of this bill is to give local governments some more tools in their toolbox in managing vacation rentals,” DiCeglie said when introducing the measure.

The bill would limit local governments to charging no more than $50 for an individual to register a vacation rental, and $100 for a collective vacation rental. It would also require local governments to accept or deny a registration application within 15 days of receipt of an application.

In 2011, the state passed a law that prohibited local governments from enacting any new law that restricted the use of vacation rentals, prohibited vacation rentals or regulated vacation rentals, giving that power to the state government.

At the same time, about 75 local ordinances previously on the books were “grandfathered.” After pushback from cities, the Legislature reversed itself in 2014, allowing local governments to handle issues such as noise, parking and trash, but still preventing them from prohibiting or regulating the duration or frequency of short-vacation rentals.

Before members of the public weighed in, DiCeglie told Jacksonville Democrat Tracie Davis that all of the major stakeholders “are not happy with the bill,” which he said that based on his past history serving in the Legislature (he represented a portion of Pinellas County in the House for four years before being elected to the Senate last fall) means that “we might have a pretty good piece of public policy here.”

He was accurate that many of the major stakeholders aren’t happy with his proposal as it’s currently written.

“Please do not think that this is a coastal issue,” said Jack Cory, a lobbyist representing Jacksonville Beach. “If this bill is approved, California big tech will be putting vacation rentals in every county in the state.”

Cory objected to the provision in the law giving local governments just 15 days to process a vacation rental license. “When does any state agency approve license in 15 days?” he asked.

Jason Steele is a lobbyist representing Cape Canaveral and Satellite Beach in Brevard County. He said that when Cape Canaveral hosts space launches “millions of people” come to the Space Coast to attend. With that influx in the population, he said that the $50 vacation rental “just isn’t going to work.”

“We’ve got trash to pick up, we’ve got law enforcement, we’ve got huge amounts of things that are really detrimental, and a lot of those people are staying at Airbnb’s,” he said.

DiCeglie said later that he could be amenable to changing that $50 registration fee.

Samantha Padgett with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association described her organization’s take on the proposal as “soft opposition,” saying that the measure still needed more data transparency, compliance parity and accountability.

The proposal passed 5-2, with the two Democrats on the committee, Davis and Broward County’s Rosalind Osgood voting no. It has two more committees to move through to get to the floor. A companion bill (HB 833) sponsored by Jacksonville Republican Wyman Duggan has yet to be scheduled in the first of its four committees that it has been assigned to.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.

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