Vacation Rental Pre-emption Bill Authorizes Another Senate Committee

The Senate’s latest attempt to create a statewide vacation home licensing system and anticipate local controls authorized its second committee on Wednesday.

republican senator Danny Burgess Invoice (SB 512) cringed before the Senate Community Affairs Committee, in part over the belief expressed by committee members that he would improve the bill before it could reach the floor.

There have been many previous attempts over more than a decade to bring Florida’s vacation rental industry under a statewide regulatory umbrella. Like those earlier efforts, SB 512 remains highly contested. Some want uniform statewide vacation rental regulation while preserving individual property rights, while others prefer local controls that can respond to local situations, especially when vacation rentals become neighborhood issues.

“Vacation rentals are here to stay,” Burgess reminded the committee. “And that’s also a pretty neat thing. I think a lot of people take advantage of that. Lots of people like it. It’s a choice. It is an alternative to a hotel. You can organize larger family gatherings here. There are lots of interesting, cool and innovative lenses for them.

He added, “We need to find a way to manage both the local opportunity to address the real issues and the state’s need to ensure that you are able to manage your property the way you think you should.” .

The latest iteration of Burgess would require vacation rental homes to be licensed by the Department of Business and Occupational Regulation and vacation rental home marketing platforms like VRBO and Airbnb to confirm licenses and collect and remit taxes in order to to list these properties for rent.

With the exception of local communities that have pre-2011 ordinances, cities and counties would be limited to performing essentially unenforceable registration of vacation rental homes.

During Wednesday’s discussion, there were concerns that vacation rentals are rapidly proliferating in some areas, a trend spurred by investors buying homes and converting them to short-term rentals.

Resident of Clearwater Beach Samuel Hutkins took center stage with this concern, voicing the frustrations of Clearwater Beach Association face countless vacation rentals, many of which are illegal.

“As a father, I worry about my children. I worry about my neighborhood,” said association president Hutkin. “I fought for this country for more than 20 years. This is the first time I feel helpless. … I believe this bill lacks the necessary protection that local government can provide.

“If Detroit or any other city wants vacation rentals, let them have it. But if 90% of the people don’t, then obviously the local government has to protect that,” Hutkin said.

SB 512 got some tweaks with an amendment late Wednesday that allows local governments to charge vacation rental registration fees of up to $50, or $100 for chains of up to 75 units; and allows the state to suspend a license for up to 30 days for multiple code violations.

Samantha Padget, vice president and general counsel for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, requested some additional adjustments. Among them, she called on Burgess to consider requiring the state to share address information of licensed vacation rentals with local governments; require regular reporting and possibly audits; to reconsider the provisions which, according to it, provide for “inadequate fines”; to include a 15-day period for houses to correct compliance violations before they can be fined; and to authorize a temporary license that allows vacation rentals to be rented before an application for a state license is processed or approved.

On January 11, the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries approved HB 512 by an 8-0 vote. Its next step is the Senate Rules Committee.

The Chamber’s counterpart is HB 325of the Republican representative. Jason Fischer.

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