Florida Lawmakers Seeking to Ban Local Regulations of Airbnbs

State of Florida Capitol Building and the entrance for legislators in Tallahassee, Florida, United States on February 21, 2018. Photo: KMH Photovideo/Shutterstock.com

Vacation rental companies like Airbnb support prohibiting local rental regulations. There are communities with large numbers of rentals, however, that oppose the bill. Florida cities and counties have fought state legislation from imposing local regulations on them. Many property owners in parts of the state where short-term home rentals in single-family neighborhoods can be a noisy, disruptive nuisance oppose this.

Florida’s top lawmakers are sympathetic to arguments made by the industry that such rentals are vital for Florida’s tourism-driven economy and that the rights of property owners should be protected. The move comes after Airbnb alone has given more than half a million dollars to Florida political committees and campaigns since 2017, either directly or through its own political committee.

But efforts to limit local rental regulations have faced fierce opposition, particularly from beach towns that have seen a proliferation of large rental homes in recent years. Residents complain that living next to the rental homes is equivalent to living next to a hotel.

Rolled-up towels and clean sheets used for Airbnb advertising. Photo: Leong Khang Wei/ Shutterstock.com

Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican who is line to become Senate president next year, said in January of this year that he hopes to finally resolve one of the thornier issues the Legislature has grappled with in recent years.

The Legislature banned cities and counties from adopting new vacation rental rules in 2011. Lawmakers revised the preemption statute in 2014 and allowed communities to regulate rentals, so long as they did not ban them outright or limit their frequency or duration.

The 2011 standard is one that lawmakers want to go back to now. Lawmakers also want to outlaw all local vacation rental regulations while continuing to grandfather in rental rules adopted before then.

Rental legislation (State Bill 1128) sponsored by the Republican senator from Hialeah Manny Diaz cleared its first Senate committee on January 13 by a vote of 8-2, with one Democrat and one Republican voting against it.

The bill was supported by Airbnb and other rental companies. Communities such as Longboat Key, Holmes Beach, Jacksonville Beach and others expressed opposition in January.

A representative for Jacksonville Beach said community residents “are pretty upset” about the proliferation of rentals in residential neighborhoods, which he said is eroding the “culture” of the community.

Kathleen Passidomo, a Republican senator from Naples, said she shares many of the concerns about rentals impacting the character of communities. She also understands the tone of driving out full-time residents this legislation has, noting that older communities without homeowner’s associations are particularly at risk of becoming “one vacation rental after another.” Senator Passidomo notes “the residents will leave” if this continues.

But Passidomo said state-wide rules are better than a patchwork of local regulations. She supports the preemption effort, but would like to see a more robust set of state-wide rental regulations.