Controversial vacation rental proposal on the move

St. Augustine vacation rental
St. Augustine vacation rental (WJXT)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A long-running dispute over vacation rentals is heating up, as a Senate panel Tuesday approved a proposal that would give the state -- not local officials -- control over regulation of short-term rentals.

Ignoring the pleas of dozens of local officials from throughout the state, the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee approved the measure (SB 1128) in a 3-2 party-line vote.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, would “preempt” regulation of vacation rentals, including licensing and inspection, to the state.

Under current law, cities and counties cannot prohibit short-term rentals of residential properties.

The measure would negate local vacation-rental ordinances passed since June 1, 2011. But it would let cities and counties impose new regulations so long as the rules applied equally to all residential properties, including private homes as well as vacation rentals.

In an interview after the committee signed off on his bill, Diaz said local governments could still pass ordinances dealing with complaints such as noise, parking or the number of occupants in a house -- but the measures would have to apply to all residences.

“In fact, they can pass ordinances by neighborhood. The only thing is, does it apply to every property in that neighborhood. At the end of the day, we do live in America. Private property still matters,” Diaz said. “We’re not taking away that power. All we’re saying is, you have to treat them equally. You can’t say, ‘Hey, Neighbor X, you can have a party ‘til whenever you want and you can have 27 cars,’ but you’re an Airbnb, guess what, you can’t have cars. Same neighborhood, same problem, right?”

But a parade of homeowners and local officials told the Senate panel that county and city officials are best-suited to ensure that regulations governing short-term rentals reflect what communities need and want.

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