Short-term rental owners struggling during stay-at-home order

Up until the coronavirus pandemic, short-term rentals were a big business opportunity in St. Augustine

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The short-term rental market has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Short-term rentals are a big driver of tourism in St. Augustine, where a large number of homes have been converted to short-term rentals, but Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stay-at-home order includes no new rentals until the order is lifted.

The “for rent” signs are becoming “for sale” signs as more and more short-term rental owners are looking to sell their rental homes because no one is staying in them right now.

“These vacation rentals are not being occupied, and the owners, they’re hurting for money,” said short-term rental owner David Breezing. “I live upstairs and I have two vacation rentals downstairs, and it is about half of my income. That is gone."

Breezing is keeping his but is now only living on Social Security and a little savings. He told News4Jax that he’s not certain whether people will still look to short-term rentals after the state reopens.

“I think people will come eventually, unfortunately, it’s going to take twice as long as it might if we had this being coordinated at a national level instead of being operated at an economic level and political ideologies,” Breezing said.

Pam Knudsen, who’s with a company called Avalara MyLodgeTax that is a tax collection and remittance software for short-term rental owners, told News4Jax the ones in large urban areas really don’t have any renters.

“Within the urban areas, the drop is much higher than it is in the rural areas. People are actually trying to get out of the urban areas and go to the rural areas to get away from the large groups of people,” Knudsen said.

The nation’s oldest city was also a popular tourist destination before the pandemic, but very few tourists were seen Tuesday.

DeSantis’ Re-Open Florida Task Force, the panel charged with recommending how to restart businesses shuttered by the stay-at-home order, will be considering every type of commerce -- from recreation to retail to tourism to real estate to construction -- every day this week.

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