Florida bill would prevent local restrictions on vacation rentals
As Orange County and Orlando look into allowing short-term home rentals under some conditions, a bill filed in Tallahassee might take that choice away from them entirely.
Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, introduced a bill last week that would strip local governments of the right to regulate short-term vacation rentals such as Airbnb and give all such power to the state.
Stuebe’s bill, which did not have a companion bill in the House as of Tuesday, states property owners have “constitutionally protected” rights to use their residential properties as vacation rentals.
“Vacation rentals play a significant, unique, and critical role in Florida’s tourism industry, and that role is different from that of public lodging establishments,” it states.
If the bill passes during the upcoming state legislative session that begins next week, it would have a major impact on Central Florida cities and counties.
Current law prevents any new restrictions on short-term rentals but allows older laws from before 2011 to be grandfathered in. Under that law, both Orlando and Orange County currently ban short-term rentals of less than 30 days.
Both are looking into allowing “hosted” rentals, in which the owners stay on property. The Orlando city planning board approved such a change in November, with staff drafting an ordinance to be voted on by the City Council.
Orange County is looking into how other places have dealt with short-term rentals before the commission decides to make a decision on hosted rentals.
Under Steube’s bill, such local discussions would be for naught. All regulation and control of such rentals would be “preempted to the state,” with owners needing to obtain a license every year. A license would not be able to be transferred from one place or owner to another.
The state could refuse to issue or renew a license if an owner has been found guilty of crimes ranging from soliciting prostitution to dealing drugs.
While local governments couldn’t create any additional restrictions, local law enforcement would be required to help the state go after any illegally operated rentals.
A spokesman for the Travel Technology Association, an industry trade group that includes Airbnb on its board, said they were aware of Steube’s bill and were taking a look at it.
TTA vice president Matt Kiessling said last month he thinks vacation rentals should be allowed with no conditions. Any restrictions are due to “antiquated laws,” he said, and limiting it to hosted rentals would be difficult to enforce.
“Whether it’s a primary or secondary residence, it’s irrelevant,” Kiessling said. “Owners should be able to do as they wish with their properties.”
The bill is just one of several controversial bills Steube has filed in the past few months, including one that would prevent local governments from enforcing protections on trees and one that would eliminate Daylight Saving Time.