Courtesy of Florida Politics
Published April 8, 2019
The sponsor of a bill to pre-empt local government
regulation of vacation rental homes was approved by a House appropriations
subcommittee April 1 after its sponsor state Rep. James Grant promised there
would be some significant changes before the next stop.
Grant, a Republican from Oldsmar, assured the House Appropriations
Subcommittee on Government Operations and Technology that he intends to make
major changes to the bill to give the Florida Department of Business and
Professional Regulation authority to oversee vacation rentals, particularly
to enforce rules against “bad actors.”
With that, despite much of the opposition that had helped kill similar
vacation rental bills in recent years, from local governments, hotel
interests, and others, the panel voted with a split vote to move the bill
along to the Commerce Committee. House Bill 987, as written, would eliminate
existing city and county ordinances that would specifically regulate, limit
or prohibit people from renting out homes as short-term vacation rentals.
(Orange Park Town Council acknowledge the lack of state guidelines during
its March 5 meeting, saying it essentially was powerless to create any
“There will be significant policy work done on this package,” Grant told the
committee, pointing out that such changes will have to be brought to a
policy committee. “It is a complex and complicated issue … There are things
that I do not like in the bill. There are things that other stakeholders do
not like in the bill.”
Particularly, Grant said he wants to see the provisions in HB 987
that would eliminate grandfathered local ordinances and regulations
revisited, and that he is talking with DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears about
ways that department could address “bad actors” in the vacation rental
business, and that he would have the resources to do so.
Grant expressed frustration that opponents have talked about all the
grandfathered ordinances that would be invalidated, yet that no one has
offered them to him or anyone else to review, and he urged stakeholders to
bring them forth and come to the table to talk about them.
Yet Grant remained emphatic about the goals of the bill: deregulating
vacation rentals at the local level, supporting property rights of vacation
rental homeowners, and supporting the rising economy of individual rentals
being marketed worldwide through such platforms as Airbnb and HomeAway.
The platforms have enabled individual houses or condominium units to become
competitors with hotels, motels, and traditional bed-and-breakfasts, which
have been pushing for regulation that could at least hold them accountable
for safety and sanitation rules the traditional lodging establishments face.
Similar arguments had emerged from taxicab companies in the face of
platform-driven Uber and Lyft businesses, and now also from rental car
companies in the rise of individual car rental platforms like Turo.
“The notion of tech-enabled services is an issue that we as legislators
cannot hide from. And so there have been attempts to try to define what a
platform is … and start regulating inside all of these different industries,
rather than simply understanding that tech-enabled services are not only a
massive portion of the economy of tomorrow, they are an increasing portion
of the economy of today,” Grant said. “We can protect the entrenched
stakeholder, or we can allow for innovation.”
That nonetheless still brings the complaints and concerns of local
governments that houses or condos here or there becoming vacation rentals
have at least occasionally led to profound disruptions in neighborhoods and
municipalities, with horror stories ranging from out-of-control parties to
Grant argued that if the same complaints keep coming up since the Florida
Legislature first began restricting and trying to eliminate local
regulations in 2012, it suggests to him that the local governments are
failing at controlling them anyway. And he argued that most, if not all, of
the complaints should and could be addressed through normal local laws about
such problems as noise, drinking, drugs, parking or other troublesome
On Monday, lobbyists for homeowners associations and condo associations
groups added the concern that, contrary to Grant’s assurances, they are
convinced that the bill also could bring challenges to HOA and condo
association restrictions against vacation rentals.