Florida’s 2018 state legislative session has already become fertile ground for changes to the vacation rental industry. Four bills VRMA is watching closely could have both positive and negative effects on the industry. The Senate Community Affairs Committee’s hearing on SB 1400 and SB 1640 is on January 30 at 10:00 A.M., and we expect many changes to be made to both bills.
The Vacation Rental Act, SB 1400, introduced by Senator Greg Steube, in its current form would have a profound effect on the industry. This act creates a new section of Florida Statutes that takes short-term vacation rentals out of the definition of “public lodging establishments” and regulates them separate from hotels and motels.
The bill recognizes the constitutionally protected rights of property owners to rent their property and reaffirms that vacation rentals are residential in nature and belong in residential neighborhoods. Furthermore, the bill would transfer all regulation of the vacation rental industry to the state, preempting local regulation of the industry.
This bill would prevent some of the outlandish activities local governments have tried to do to regulate the industry such as Miami Beach’s $20,000 fines, which the city has leveraged to issue more than $6.5 million in fines.
Senator Steube’s “Florida Vacation Rental Act” will create a uniform set of rules for vacation rentals to operate in the state, by maintaining most existing state law relating to vacation rentals. The bill consolidates all inspections to a state agency and preempts communities from creating local regulations of vacation rentals.
However, Senator David Simmons bill SB 1640 would coin the term, “commercial vacation rental” and creates rules that apply only to non-owner occupied units. This new definition would have a notable impact on vacation rentals at the local level. Local governments would gain the ability to regulate vacation rentals, essentially eliminating the 2011 and 2014 state pre-emption of local regulations on short-term rentals. Additionally, a violation of local ordinance potentially could allow localities to revoke, deny renewal, or refuse an application for a vacation rental-operating license.
There is an expectation that there will be an effort to find some “common” ground between these very different bills. The Florida legislature has had an interest in “doing something” regarding the vacation rental industry for several years. Florida communities are also trying to loosen the 2014 preemption law any way they can. These competing bills have the potential for legislators to create new regulations on the industry to appease local governments and have the appearance of “doing something”.