Article Courtesy of The Palm
By Hannah Morse
Published January 29, 2020
WEST PALM BEACH — A vacation rental bill being shuttled through the legislature
has drawn opponents, many of whom want the state to keep its paws off of local
While the sponsor of a
vacation bill says it wouldn’t impact homeowner’s
associations, some Palm Beach County HOAs worry the language
to protect them isn’t strong enough.
The bill intends to preempt local government from regulating
vacation rentals, like those advertised on websites such as
Airbnb or HomeAway, and instead would put a state department
in charge of licensing and inspections.
Vacation rental platforms and the Florida Vacation Rental
Management Association support the bill. The main benefit
would be for a consistent rule book for the vacation rental
providers to abide by, said the association’s executive
director Denis Hanks. In some tourist hotspots, he said,
vacation rental owners face a “patchwork of regulations.”
“That’s how kind of crazy it’s been for people trying to
manage properties for tourists,” Hanks said. “We’re just
trying to consolidate it all now.”
An Airbnb in the Flamingo Park neighborhood in West
For different reasons, the Palm Beach County tax collector and some local
homeowner’s associations also disapprove of the bill.
bill sponsor told state legislators of a House subcommittee this week that the
bill would not impact an HOA’s ability to enforce rules that prohibit short-term
vacation rentals from being run inside their gates.
But for Beth Rappaport, president of the Coalition of Boynton West Residential
Associations (COBWRA), language is key.
In its current iteration, the bill says in part that property owners have
“constitutionally protected property rights” that gives them the “right to use
their residential property as a vacation rental.” Also, the bill says that
“vacation rentals are residential in nature.”
She said the organization objects to these specific portions of the bill, where
the wording could be interpreted to trounce a gated community’s ability to ban
“When you purchase a home in an HOA, it’s understood that you’re not purchasing
your home for business purposes,” Rappaport said. “And a vacation rental is a
business activity evidenced by the fact that it’s taxable.”
Bob Sklar, HOA president of Valencia Lakes in suburban Boynton Beach, isn’t
against vacation rentals, but felt that if the language wasn’t strengthened to
protect an HOA’s autonomy, it would open the door for vacation renters to
infiltrate their neighborhoods and “raise hell for a weekend.”
“When it’s all done and gone, the house is a mess, the neighborhood is a mess.
Our property values are shot,” Sklar said. “Basically, it’s an invasion of our
Saul Shenkman said he was concerned about how vacation rentals would impact his
neighborhood, whose residents are screened before moving in, because “we don’t
know about the people coming in.”
“It would completely damage the reason we moved here,” said Shenkman, who heads
the HOA of Villa Borghese in suburban Delray Beach. “Our main objective is our
quality of life.”
Palm Beach County passed a vacation rental ordinance
Since June, when Palm Beach County commissioners approved a vacation rental
ordinance, Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon said the county’s bed tax
collection has increased nearly 200 percent, and about 5,800 short-term vacation
rental owners have the now-required business tax receipt.
“It’s a real plus for us,” Gannon said of the ordinance.
Gannon asked state legislators this week to vote down the bill, saying that
paying for a state license might dissuade vacation rental owners.
“We do not want to discourage them. We like the business, we think it’s good for
Florida,” Gannon said. “But this bill is going to shut it down.”
She also questioned how the state Department of Business and Professional
Regulation, which oversees professions including hoteliers, barbers, interior
designers and yacht brokers, would be able to handle licensing and inspections
for all short-term vacation rentals statewide. The bill calls for the hiring of
six people to facilitate the bill’s new requirements.
“I think there are a lot of questions about it, and they haven’t been answered,”
Both Gannon and the HOA leaders hope legislators go back to the drawing board.
The bill passed its first House subcommittee Tuesday by a vote of 10 to 5. On
the affirming side was state Rep. Rick Roth, R-Palm Beach Gardens, who reasoned
that the only way the bill could be changed was if it had the chance to move
through the committees.
“The answer is very simple in my mind: I can either vote no on the bill and have
no chance to amend — and I believe it’s going to pass today — or I can vote yes
on the bill with the assurances (that it will improve),” Roth said.