Committee rules favorably on vacation rental bill

vacation rental
This photograph illustrates the current trend in residential construction and how it compares to the smaller homes built many years ago. - Cindy Lane | Sun

TALLAHASSEE – The vacation rental bill filed by Florida Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) cleared its first obstacle Tuesday afternoon when the Florida Senate’s Regulated Industries Committee ruled favorably on the bill.

Steube said that Senate Bill 188 is intended to protect private property rights and ensure that all residential properties are treated equally whether used as short-term rentals, long-term rentals or permanent residences.

Before the committee vote, legislators amended the bill to allow cities to continue to regulate activities of a property used as a vacation rental, but those regulations must apply to all residential properties, including permanent residences.

If the Legislature adopts the bill as law, cities could still impose occupancy limits and require annual registration and owner/agent contact information, but those requirements would also apply to permanent residences.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy traveled to Tallahassee to express opposition to the bill and the proposed amendment.

“The bill strips away our ability to solve problems locally,” he told the committee, noting that the vacation rental ordinance his city adopted in 2015 includes no noise or parking provisions, fines or building requirements specific to vacation rentals.

“All the rules apply equally across the board except we have two problem solving tools: One is registration and the other one is occupancy limits. Senate Bill 188 would strip away these important problem solving tools,” Murphy said.

Senate Bill 188
State Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) discusses his vacation rental bill Tuesday afternoon.

He was also among the speakers who said applying existing rental regulations to all residential properties would place inordinate burdens on city resources. Holmes Beach lobbyist Cari Roth expressed similar concerns.

Watching the meeting online left Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen feeling frustrated.

“I tried watching, but the arrogance and misinformation were overwhelming,” she said.

Bradenton Beach Vice Mayor John Chappie said, “I was of course disappointed. I thought Mayor Murphy did an excellent job in representing all of us on Anna Maria and I appreciate the fact that he made the trip and fought for the Island cities.”

Regarding the adopted amendment, Chappie said, “This uniformity absolutely does not work in residential neighborhoods.”

SB 188 must also pass through the Community Affairs Committee and the Rules Committee before being voted on by the Senate as a whole.