The vacation rental dilemma
The word vacation conjours up different images to different people. Your image could be sitting peacefully on the beach reading a book listening to the birds grateful for the absence of other noise, or your image may be pina coladas, tequila shots and rock bands into the wee hours. And that, my friend, is the problem we have with vacation rentals in a nutshell.
I have intentionally stayed away from voicing my opinion on the on-going vacation rental controversy on Anna Maria Island, and indeed the entire state of Florida since I am totally conflicted on the topic. On the one hand I am a very strong advocate for the rights of property owners and on the other I have enormous empathy for those homeowners and visitors whose rights are being infringed upon.
Just to catch everyone up on what exactly the debate is about, it started with legislation that was passed in 2011 by the Florida Legislature called HB 883 that forbade local governments from regulating, restricting or prohibiting vacation rentals. This law, which was passed by an overwhelming majority in both the Florida House and Senate, left the door open for vacation property owners to rent their property for any length of time they would like, potentially turning residential properties into hotels.
Now as we all know, this created many party houses on and even off the Island, with an overabundance of parked cars, trash and noise. Many residents, especially those who were older and lived on the Island for decades, decided to move, and many others are certainly considering it.
Naturally, the Florida Legislature heard from so many of their constituents on both sides they were obligated to take another look at the law they passed three years ago. Another law of which lawmakers appeared not to consider the consequences. I think we’re starting to see a pattern.
Currently there are two bills that have been presented for discussion – HB 356 and the Senate’s companion bill SB 356. Since the Florida Legislature convened yesterday, you can expect to hear a lot more discussion regarding the content of these bills.
The bills under consideration would essentially reverse the 2011 law by removing the restriction that prevents local governments from regulating vacation rentals based on their classification or occupancy. Local municipalities of course want the bill reversed so they can regain control of regulations in their own communities. Vacation property owners fear that their property values will be impacted if their local government starts putting on damaging restrictions like 30 day minimum stays.
The outcome of this has much more riding on it than just vacation owners' real estate values. It also involves the local economies of small cities like Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Anna Maria, their restaurants and shops and the entire economy of Florida. The obvious solution is some type of compromise that both local governments and state lawmakers can live with.
Don’t think I’m going to end this with my opinion. I’m as conflicted as I ever was. I just hope that all parties can come up with a solution that will benefit all property owners in the state and keep Anna Maria Island the way it’s always been – a place where everyone can