TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The state would take over regulation of vacation rental properties while local regulations passed since 2011 would be nullified, under a bill approved Tuesday by a Senate committee.
In a 4-2 vote, the Senate Community Affairs Committee merged legislation (SB 1400) filed by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, with a bill (SB 1640), sponsored by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, although the combined bill largely favored Steube’s effort to pre-empt local regulation of the growing vacation rental industry.
“It was my intent to pre-empt regulation up to the state so that there was some continuity across the state,” said Steube, who has argued that the property rights of people who rent out properties are being undermined by local regulations.
Steube said 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.
Simmons fell short on his effort to let cities and counties conduct fire and building-code inspections at the vacation rentals.
He warned that a move toward “zero regulation” could lead to consumers being hurt or killed at rental properties. He said allowing local governments to conduct safety inspections offered “a reasonable amount of protection,” while balancing the interests of property owners, consumers and local governments.
Under Steube’s bill, the state would have the right to inspect any property, although only larger rental-property owners would be subject to regular inspections. The bill also would require the property owners to provide emergency numbers to the state that would be shared with local governments.
Simmons was also unsuccessful in arguing that local governments should oversee the rental of single-family homes in residential neighborhoods when owners are not staying at the homes. He said some of those vacation rentals, where neighbors complain about parking, noise and parties, are destroying the “quality” of single-family neighborhoods.
“These are the ones in which there is the greatest amount of abuse that can occur,” Simmons said.
Steube said although the state would regulate vacation rentals, the properties would be subject to other local government restrictions.
“Local governments will still be left with the ability to preserve the integrity of their neighborhoods by passing ordinances to address noise, trash, parking or any other behavior that would tend to disturb their neighborhoods,” Steube said.
Steube’s bill would have originally wiped out all local government regulation of the vacation rentals. But Community Affairs Chairman Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, amended the bill to allow vacation rental ordinances passed before June 1, 2011 to remain in effect.
Local government leaders opposed Steube’s bill, while supporting Simmons’ efforts.
Gary Bruhn, mayor of Windermere, said local governments should play a role in the regulation of vacation rentals in single-family neighborhoods.
“Yes, people who rent these homes have property rights,” Bruhn said. “But, so do the people who live next door to them. I see that constantly throughout our area.”
Lori Killinger, representing the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, supported Steube’s bill and said a proliferation of local ordinances regulating vacation rentals is thwarting their development.
“This all started because of the morass of local ordinances adopted since 2014 that have caused significant unpredictability around the state,” Killinger said.
She said Steube’s bill “clears the deck a bit” and “puts back clear, appropriate regulations.”
The vacation rental bill now heads to the Senate Regulated Industries Committee. A House bill (HB 773), sponsored by Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud, would also pre-empt local regulation of vacation rentals and is awaiting its first hearing.