Florida legislators seek to regulate vacation home rentals

Article Courtesy of TC Palm

By David Call   

Published November 27, 2017


Lori Killinger wielded about 600 pages of rules and regulations when she stood before a panel of state senators recently.

The Florida Vacation Rental Management Association lobbyist brought the stack of documents — 38 separate ordinances passed by cities and counties since 2014 — to a Senate committee meeting.

Killinger got her turn to speak after listening to two hours of testimony from local government and lodging lobbyists, as well as academics and local government officials.

“You can blame the Internet for where we are,” Killinger said as she sought to rebut the locals' testimony.

Florida lawmakers plan to step into the middle of the feud between local governments and property owners over short-term rentals when they gather in Tallahassee in January for the 2018 legislative session.

Florida, along with several other states, including Massachusetts, New York, Georgia, Indiana and Hawaii, is wrestling with how to regulate homeowners who rent a room or the entire house for a couple of days or months, say for a football weekend, an escape to the beach or spring training.

State Sen. David Simmons asked industry members for more information during a workshop on vacation rentals.


When online companies merged a Florida tradition — inviting friends down for a Sunshine vacation — with digital technology, they opened a door for mom-and-pop operations to engage in the short-term vacation rental industry, industry officials say.


The number of vacation rental units in Florida has increased from 117,000 in 2012 to 131,000 in 2016. Lawmakers will try to figure out if the increase is from homeowners using apps and services like Airbnb to rent extra space or if some elements are exploiting loopholes in state law.

State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte, dissected witnesses' testimony with those numbers in mind. The dispute simmering among hotel operators, short-term booking companies, homeowners associations and local governments is one of the issues that spills over into the January session from 2017.

Simmons noted that just 18,000 licenses are attached to the 131,000 units. Short-term rentals face different regulations than hotels and motels. Simmons wondered if some property managers, some of whom have assembled up to 75 units under one license, had found a loophole to exploit at the expense of Florida’s number one industry – tourism.

“There’s nothing to ensure the integrity of what’s being done. We’re talking about fire safety or just the safety of the location,” said Simmons. “What assurances do we have for the safety and quality for the person, customer of a vacation rental?”

In Tallahassee, there can be as many as 800 rental units available at any given time through online applications like Airbnb, Home Away and Gameday Housing.