Vacation rental bill favored by second Senate committee

Senate Vacation Rental Bill
The Florida Senate is seeking to eliminate or reduce local governments' ability to regulate vacation rentals. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

Watch the meeting here at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13.

TALLAHASSEE – The vacation rental legislation now known as CS/SB 1400 has been further amended and reported favorable by the Florida Senate’s Regulated Industries Committee.

The Florida House bill, HB 773, as originally filed by Mike La Rosa (R-St. Cloud) is significantly different from the Senate bill. The House bill was expected to be amended to match the Senate bill before or during the House’s General Accountability Committee meeting at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

The Senate committee reported favorably on the bill by a 9-1 margin during its Thursday, Feb. 8 meeting, with Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange) casting the only nay vote.

The Senate bill’s final committee stop will be the Appropriations Committee, where Sen. David Simmons (R-Longwood) intends to again propose amendments that would allow local governments to retain some regulatory control over vacation rental homes.

As amended last week, CB/SB 1400 contains legislation originally proposed by Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) in SB 1400 and legislation originally proposed by Simmons in SB 1640. Additional amendments were made last week and during the Community Affairs Committee meeting on Jan. 30.

Vacation Rental Steube
Sen. Greg Steube – | Submitted

The Senate bill currently seeks to preempt all licensing, inspection and regulation of short-term vacation rentals to the state’s Department of Professional and Business Regulation (DBPR). DBPR already requires vacation rentals to be state-licensed, but additional inspections and oversight are strictly complaint driven.

Steube wants the state to have total regulatory control over vacation rentals. If adopted as he proposes, the cities of Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach would lose the local vacation rental regulations adopted since 2014. Local rental and zoning regulations adopted before June 2011, would still be preserved.

“There is no constitutional right to run a business in a neighborhood zoned originally as a residential neighborhood.”
David Simmons, State Senator

Simmons is willing to preempt some control to the state, but he wants local governments to retain the ability to regulate detached single-family homes used as short-term rentals. He also wants local governments to retain the ability to inspect vacation rentals for compliance with building, fire and life safety codes.

Senate amendment

Steube is a member of the Regulated Industries Committee that amended the bill last week. Simmons is not and he did not participate in the meeting.

The committee approved an amendment proposed by committee chair Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) that ensures home owners associations (HOA) and condominium associations can still restrict or prohibit short-term rentals.

“Any HOAs or condos that are worried about the sanctity of their own neighborhoods have that ability to outright ban, prohibit or do whatever they want to vacation rentals,” Hutson said.

Hutson did not express similar concerns about protecting the sanctity of residential neighborhoods not protected by condominium or HOA bylaws.

“Thank you for allowing me to put the amendment in to protect some of my locals back home,” Hutson said regarding Steube’s support of his amendment.

Amendments pertaining to non-discriminatory rental practices and American Disability Act compliance were discussed but withdrawn.

Simmons amendments

The Senate bill is now headed to the 20-member Appropriations Committee that includes Simmons and Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), but not Steube. As of Sunday, that meeting had not yet been scheduled.

Speaking by phone on Friday, Simmons said, “I plan on bringing up my amendments in the Appropriations Committee and we’ll have a very robust and professional debate.

Vacation Rental David Simmons
Sen. David Simmons intends to re-introduce his city-friendly amendments during the yet-to-be scheduled Appropriations Committee meeting. – | Submitted

“There is no constitutional right to run a business in a neighborhood zoned originally as a residential neighborhood. Those neighborhoods that don’t have restrictive covenants that could control something like this don’t have the internal ability to stop the abuses. If you turn them all into vacation rentals nobody’s going to want to live there because you’ve got a bunch of investors from outside the community and nobody with a sense of community.

“It’s important that the local governments talk to their legislators and also come up (to Tallahassee) and talk to the committee so they can explain that this is destroying the fabric of those neighborhoods,” he said.

Simmons represents a portion of the greater Orlando area and a portion of Volusia County.

When asked what impact vacation rentals are having on Florida’s east coast, he said, “Call over to Cocoa. They’ll tell you it’s destroying the fabric of their community. Less and less people want to live downtown or are able to because they’re turning areas close to downtown into a place of non-owner-occupied vacation rentals.”

House legislation

As originally filed, La Rosa’s House bill simply said, “A local law, ordinance or regulation may regulate activities that arise when a property is used as a vacation rental provided such regulation applies uniformly to all residential properties without regard to whether the property is used as a vacation rental, or a long-term rental or whether a property owner chooses not to rent the property.”

La Rosa unsuccessfully pursued similar legislation in 2017.

Bradenton Beach insight

For the second consecutive year, Dave Ramba and the Ramba Consulting Group are serving as the city of Bradenton Beach’s contracted lobbying firm.

Last week, Bradenton Beach City Attorney Ricinda Perry said Ramba told her that he and his team have met with several Senate committee members about the Senate’s vacation rental bill. They are also working behind the scenes in opposition to La Rosa’s House bill.

Perry also said Ramba told her that Gov. Scott does not support the Senate legislation originally proposed by Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) that calls for all vacation rental licensing and regulation to be handled by the state. Doing so would place additional financial and staffing burdens on the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Related coverage

Compromise sought on competing rental bills

City proposes state vacation rental law

Florida House passes rental bill

Committee rules favorably on vacation rental bill