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According to Ron DeSantis, vacation rentals that were ordered to close down due to the coronavirus pandemic may be able to open up again soon, pending they submit requests to the governor before reopening the vacation rentals. The Florida governor made the announcement on Friday, May 15 via The News Service of Florida. Counties wishing to reopen vacation rentals can submit their plan to do so to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation for approval, Governor DeSantis says. Rental property owners will face longer wait times to reopen, however.
Since late March, Florida hotels have been allowed to operate without state restrictions, while rental properties across the street or even in the same building have gathered dust. DeSantis banned vacation rentals on March 27 in an executive order aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. The decision made property owners, management companies and some local government officials worried about how bills and expenses were going to be paid for when renters were allowed flexibility to pay their rent. The decision caused a stir, especially for property owners in the Panhandle.
The coronavirus pandemic, “stay-at-home” and “safer-at-home” orders have hurt the tourism-dependent Sunshine State significantly. Florida hotel revenue, for example, declined by $2.9 billion between March 1 and May 9, compared to the same time last year, according to the tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida.
The Re-Open Florida Task Force’s report suggests vacation rentals could open to Florida residents in Phase Two, but doesn’t recommend a full reopening until Phase Three. However, the Governor has deviated from his task force on some items, like when to reopen bars. Vacation rentals have become a popular getaway alternative for tourists and spring breakers, who have drawn DeSantis’ ire throughout the pandemic. Through Phase One and onward, one of the tenets of the state’s response is preventing out-of-state travelers from reseeding the disease in the Sunshine State.
Vacation rental owners, advocates and Northwest Florida officials have pointed out that hotels, motels, inns, resorts and timeshares remained open throughout the pandemic. The vacation rental industry generates an estimated $27 billion annually in the state, according to a report by the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. The vacation rental ban includes a carveout for those performing military or government duties and emergency, health or infrastructure responses. Additionally, those on business trips or staying more than 30 days may rent.
*Update Friday, May 21, 2020*
On May 20, The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) lifted the ban on vacation rentals in the counties of Charlotte, Duval, Lee, Levy, Nassau, Osceola, Pinellas and St. Johns. This brings the total up to 16 total counties that have gotten the green light to resume regular vacation rental business. There may be more approvals coming by the end of the day, according to an article by floridapolitics.com.
The lifting of the ban is effective immediately and will reverse a two-month ban placed statewide by Governor DeSantis. On Thursday, May 21, the department followed up the 16 approvals with an additional 10. On Friday, May 22, the Governor announced individual counties could submit their plans to reopen the vacation rental industry for approval. Not every county has submitted plans, according to a DBPR spokeswoman.
The vacation rental decision comes while there are concerns about spring breakers and opening business back up to out-of-state travelers. At the time of the ban, out-of-state travelers and spring breakers, especially those coming from New York, New Jersey and other states up North were the driving force of COVID-19 infections.
Chris began his writing as a hobby while attending Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. Today he and his wife live in the Orlando area with their three children and dog.