Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel
Published March 5, 2020
Ferdi Brits is not the kind of guy who looks for trouble.
He moved to Orlando almost 20 years ago to become the pastor at Presbyterian
Church on the Lakes. He bought a house in a nearby subdivision and became
the president of the homeowners association.
That's where trouble has found him.
A homeowner began renting a house through Airbnb. If you're not up on Airbnb,
it's an online platform that connects people who want to rent their houses
with potential customers.
Plenty of similar services are around, like Vrbo and HomeAway. They’ve
formed a booming industry that has a lot of upside, like putting money in
But occasionally there's a downside, like loud parties, cars parking in
yards and overflowing trash cans.
"It's been horrific," Brits said.
And thanks to the Florida Legislature, it might get worse.
A bill has zipped through committees that would pre-empt municipalities from
regulating short-term rentals and give that authority to the state.
It’s like last year’s tug-of-war over plastic straws, where the state seized
regulatory control from cities. Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed that bill, and he
seems inclined to do the same if the Airbnb bill passes.
"These are things where you’ll have kind of a quiet neighborhood,” he said.
“Then you will have someone doing this and there are parties going on and
some of the residents get upset. My view would be, probably, that should be
Pre-empting local rule isn’t the only timeless issue here. The other is
property rights, and what people should be allowed to do with their homes.
Ideally, they'd all be like Brits. With his pastorly demeanor, he could pass
for Mr. Rogers with a South African accent.
"I'm not one to throw anybody under the bus," he said.
But now he’s preaching against anything that exacerbates a growing problem.
Services like Airbnb began as a way for homeowners to make a few bucks on
the side. Now investors are buying homes and turning them into perpetual
Would you want a Holiday Inn in your neighborhood?
The bill's backers say the Department of Business & Professional Regulation
should oversee things. Cities would still be allowed to pass nuisance
ordinances as long as they apply to all homes.
"Nothing in this bill encourages the situation of a party house,” said Jason
Fischer, R-Jacksonville. “Nothing in here would stop local governments from
passing a noise ordinance and enforcing those noise ordinances. Those
good-neighbor ordinances are still allowed, they just can’t target vacation
But why not?
The short-term rental market in Crestview isn't the short-term rental market
in Key West. One city might want to impose a $100 fine for violations.
Another might think that's not nearly enough to keep renters from partying
at 100 decibels until dawn.
The state always says one-size-fits-all regulations are best. But in this
case, the bill would allow homeowners and condo associations to make their
own rules. Other neighborhoods would have to abide by state regulations.
So much for uniformity.
A recent poll showed 75% of Floridians want local authorities in charge of
regulating short-term rentals. It would be closer to 100% if respondents got
the phone call Brits did last week.
"My son was almost killed last night," one of Brits' congregants gasped.
His son had come home late from work and plopped down to watch TV. He got
up, and few minutes later a bullet came through a window and flew into a
The man said there is a short-term rental property across the street. The
occupants had been having a wild time every night. The man thinks they were
fooling around with a gun and a stray bullet got away.
"It was exactly where my son sat in a chair," he told Brits. "The bullet
would have hit him in the mouth."
Police came and found more shell casings in the street. They haven’t solved
the crime, so all have is deep suspicion.
Obviously, most short-term renters aren’t dangerous. It’s also obvious local
authorities are in the best position to confront the nuisances and dangers
Or at least it should be obvious.
That leaves Brits with one question for lawmakers in Tallahassee.
"Would you want to live next to one of those short-term rentals?" he said.
If they do, legislators should spend a day in Brits' shoes.
They’d throw that bill under the nearest bus.