Compromise sought on competing rental bills

Vacation Rental bills
The Florida Legislature is debating who should regulate vacation rental homes. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

TALLAHASSEE – An amended version of a vacation rental bill filed by Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) passed through its first Senate committee minus the amendments that Sen. David Simmons (R-Longwood) proposed to retain some regulatory control for local governments.

On Tuesday, Jan. 30, the Community Affairs Committee ruled favorable by 4-2 margin a committee substitute bill, CS/SB 1400. The bill amends Steube’s original bill, SB 1400. The substitute bill does not yet incorporate the city-friendly legislative elements contained in Simmons’ SB 1640.

Steube wants the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to license and regulate vacation rentals.

Sen. Greg Steube

Simmons’ bill also seeks to preempt vacation rental regulation to the state, but it would preserve local governments’ ability to regulate non-owner-occupied, detached single-family homes. Simmons also proposes that local governments retain the right to inspect vacation rentals for compliance with building, fire and life safety codes. He does not believe DBPR has the resources to do this.

Last week’s committee substitute bill was the Senate’s attempt to create a single vacation rental bill that can be forwarded to the Regulated Industries and Appropriations committees. If supported there, the legislation could advance to the Senate floor for a final vote.

Competing bills

Steube’s and Simmons’ bills contain many similarities and some significant differences. Both would require that all vacation rental advertisements include the owner or agent’s state-issued license number. This would apply to print advertising and online advertising conducted by individuals, rental companies and home sharing platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway. Failure to include licensing information could result in the suspension or revocation of a state-issued rental license.

Steube said his legislation is an attempt to ensure regulatory continuity across the state, and the committee adopted an amendment he proposed that would require twice-yearly state inspections for those who own more than five short-term rentals.

Steube said local governments could still preserve the integrity of neighborhoods by passing ordinances that address noise, trash, parking or other behavioral issues on a city-wide level, regardless of how a property is used. He also said all short-term rentals would remain subject to existing state or local taxes.

Steube’s original bill sought to eliminate existing grandfathering provisions, but the committee adopted an amendment that committee chair Tom Lee (R-Brandon) proposed to protect rental regulations and restrictions adopted before June 2011, when the state made it illegal to prohibit short-term rentals.

The committee also adopted an amendment proposed by Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) that would cap maximum occupancy at the lesser of six persons per bedroom or one person per 150 square feet of livable space.

Holmes Beach lobbyist Cari Roth and Florida League of Cities Executive Director Casey Cook were among the public speakers who expressed a preference for Simmons’ legislation and opposition to Steube’s.

Local impact

If adopted as amended, Steube’s legislation would eliminate local rental regulations adopted in Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach after June 2011. This would include recently implemented occupancy limits and registration and inspection programs.

Adopted before 2011, Holmes Beach’s rental-related zoning designations would remain intact. The R-1 zoning prohibits rentals for less than 30 consecutive days and the R-2 zoning prohibits rentals for less than seven consecutive days.

If incorporated into CS/SB 1400, Simmons’ proposed amendments would allow local governments to continue regulating non-owner occupied single-family dwellings and inspect rentals for compliance with building, fire and life safety codes.

Simmons said his intent is to prevent residential neighborhoods from being destroyed by homes used solely as full-time vacation rentals. He said vacation rental owners have property rights, but so do neighboring residents. His legislation would not apply to single-family homes leased through Airbnb and other advertising platforms if the owner remains onsite, but would apply if the owner’s not there.

Sen. David Simmons

Filed after Steube’s amendments, Simmons’ proposed amendments to the substitute bill were discussed last week, but time ran out and the meeting ended before they were voted on. Simmons’ next opportunity to present his amendments will be live online before the Regulated Industries Committee on Thursday, Feb. 8 from 12:30-2 p.m.

House companion

At week’s end, House Bill 773 filed by Rep. Mike La Rosa (R-St. Cloud) had not yet been discussed by a House committee. His legislation attempts to make any local regulations that are applicable to vacation rentals equally applicable to non-rentals, including occupancy limits and registration programs.

A House bill mirroring the Senate’s committee substitute has not yet been introduced. The adoption of Senate legislation requires adoption of similar House legislation for passage.

The Jan. 30 Community Affairs Committee meeting can be viewed or heard at the Senate website.

Related coverage

City proposes state vacation rental law

Committee rules favorably on vacation rental bill