Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post
Published February 13, 2018
TALLAHASSEE -- The score is now vacation rentals – 2,
local government – 0 after a bill giving the state the power to regulate the
former on Thursday cruised through another Senate committee.
A wave of opposition
from local elected officials and lodging groups couldn’t
stop the Regulated Industries Committee from voting 9-1 on
SB 1400 by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota. The bill – which
has the support of online vacation rental companies,
including Airbnb and HomeAway – has one more stop before it
goes to the Senate floor.
Should it become law, vacation rental properties would be
regulated largely like hotels and motels, with owners who
hold five or more properties being subjected to twice-a-year
inspections by state regulators.
Local governments would be prohibited from passing
ordinances regarding the leasing of homes or parts of homes
for short-term rentals but they could set policies that
address traffic, parking, and limit occupancy of vacation
Vacation rental laws on the books prior to 2011 would be
“There’s still a lot
of flexibility for local government to do what they want to
do,” Steube said.
Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill, of Port Orange, who cast the
lone nay vote, disagreed.
Airbnb is among the online vacation rental services
that supports a Florida bill that would give the state rather than
local governments the authority to regulate short-term vacation
“I really have concerns about how this affects city codes and county codes
also and what the powers (are) that they retain if this bill were to pass,”
she said. “There’s still so many issues for me.”
But vesting oversight with the state “is the right approach,” said committee
chairman Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast.
“I think some of it’s kind of “gotcha politics” because I’ve not heard from
anybody being severely hurt in a vacation rental because of structural
code-type issues,” he said.
Earlier in the meeting, the committee approved an amendment proposed by
Hutson to the bill that ensures it would not supercede rules set by HOAs or
condominiums regarding vacation rentals.
Casey Cook, senior legislative advocate for the Florida League of Cities,
said the bill is missing language requiring vacation rental owners to list
the maximum occupancy of their dwellings on their licenses and also disclose
the number of nights their properties are rented annually.
But a major problem with the bill is that it strips inspection oversight
from local governments – a move that could create a safety risk because
owners would not be required to have their vacation rentals inspected prior
obtaining a license, he said.
Many local governments adopted vacation rental ordinances – 30 since 2014 –
to conduct those inspections, Cook said.
“We think we want those properties to be safe before folks are staying in
them,” Cook said.
Democratic Sen. Perry Thurston, Jr., of Fort Lauderdale, said protecting
customers against discrimination was the motive behind an amendment he
proposed but later withdrew.
The amendment would have required vacation rentals to be included in the
bill’s definition of public accommodation and require hosts to maintain a
registry of guests they denied lodging and make that list available to the
state for review.
Thurston said his recommendation was based on complaints from guests who’ve
had their bookings canceled and shortly thereafter see the property
But AirBnb spokesman Brian Batista said the amendment is unnecessary thanks
to federal, state, and company anti-discrimination protections already in
For example, AirBnb assist guests with finding new lodgings if they arrive
to a property but are denied accommodations, he said.
“While we recognize there’s always work to be done fighting discrimination,”
he said. “AirBnB and its peers have some of the most progressive and
comprehensive anti- discrimination policies in the world.”