Florida House passes rental bill

Rep. Jim Boyd
Last week, Rep. Jim Boyd, from Bradenton, voted in favor of a bill that would eliminate the Island cities’ ability to regulate vacation rentals.

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida House has adopted HB 425 by a 63-56 vote.

The vacation rental bill championed by Mike La Rosa (R-St. Cloud) seeks to end the local regulation of vacation rentals by mandating that all local ordinances and regulations must apply equally to all residential properties, whether they are used as short-term rentals or permanent residences.

On Thursday, April 27, the House members rejected by a 37-78 vote an amendment filed by Rep. George Moraitis (R-Ft. Lauderdale) that would have allowed cities to continue regulating rentals.

Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton), the Island’s elected representative, voted against the amendment on Thursday and in favor of the un-amended bill on Friday. During Thursday’s session, Boyd described the local vacation rental ordinances he was aware of as “draconian.”

The question that remained at the beginning of this week was whether the Senate would adopt the now city-friendly, committee-amended version of the vacation rental bill, SB 188, originally filed by Greg Steube (R-Sarasota). As of Monday morning, SB 188 had not yet been scheduled for a second reading that could lead to an amendment or a third reading and final vote.

Many elected officials and Island residents expressed concerns that the amended Senate bill that passed through committee would be amended by the entire Senate in a manner that brought it back in line with the House’s intent to eliminate city’s home rule authorities to regulate vacation rentals.

If such an amendment was proposed and supported by the Senate majority, the three Island cities would essentially lose the ability to regulate vacation rentals. Enacting HB 425 as law would allow for rental registration programs, but no registration fees could be charged and the registration programs would be for informational purposes only, with no accompanying enforcement component.

If the Senate bill were to be adopted as it read Monday morning, the two bills would be drastically different and would need to be reconciled with via last-minute House/Senate compromise – or the contrasting bills would die and the regulatory balance struck in 2014 would be retained for at least one more year.

The legislative session is scheduled to end Friday. If so, Island residents, property owners and elected officials will know the fate of the two vacation rental bills on or before Cinco de Mayo.