Florida lawmakers push vacation rental bill forward

Vacation rentals (Capitol News Service)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Local governments could lose what little control they have over short-term vacation rentals such as Airbnb under a bill that passed Thursday through its final House committee.

Homeowners who have had bad experiences living next to the rentals worry the state won’t be able to address their individual concerns.

Jean Hulse said an Airbnb in Tallahassee has turned her once-quiet neighborhood into a nightmare.

“She’s renting the entire house for bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, weddings, legislative events. It’s an event planning business,” Hulse said.

Hulse brought her story to lawmakers, as they considered legislation that would strip away the last tool that local governments have to regulate short-term rentals: the authority to license and inspect the properties.

The authority to license and inspect short-term rentals would be placed under the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation if the bill becomes law.

Local governments could also still regulate short-term rentals to some degree, as long as any ordinance they pass applies to all homes the same, short-term rental or not.

“They still have the ability to pass ‘good neighbor’ ordinances, and so if there’s an issue with noise or there’s an issue with parking or things like that, local governments are still able to address those issues,” said bill sponsor Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville. "What we did do was preempt the regulation of the platforms and the vacation rentals themselves, the licensing of it, that was preempted to the state level, and that way it’s clear and consistent for everybody anywhere that they go in the state of Florida.”

But Hulse argued further that preempting local control over short-term rentals evaporates any remaining hope for a resolution in her situation.

“Nobody wants to live next to an Airbnb, so my option to sell my home, I don’t even think is there anymore,” said Hulse. “We’re kind of stuck.”

Any ordinances regulating short-term rentals passed before 2011 would not be affected by the legislation.