The Florida Vacation Management Association, along with AirBNB, Home Away and VRBO, are intensely lobbying our Legislature this session to pass bills that will benefit their business models but take away home rule from our local municipalities. Those bills are 2017 Florida House Bill 425 and Senate Bill 188.
Home rule was removed from our counties, cities and towns as it relates to regulating a transient public lodging business (vacation rentals) back in 2011 when Senate Bill 883 was passed. This bill also removed our local zoning to regulate these dwellings, eliminated the requirement for sprinklers, required no life safety inspections prior to licensing them, and appointed a representative from the vacation management industry to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. In addition to those changes, it also renames these transient public lodging establishment from a resort dwelling to a vacation rental.
Why would the vacation industry change the name of this transient public lodging establishment? The fact is they are not rentals or leases. They use a license agreement just like a hotel, motel or bed and breakfast. All of these businesses are transient public lodging establishments. All of these businesses are subject to local zoning and regulations. So why are vacation rentals treated differently?
When Senator John Thrasher helped passed Senate Bill 354 in 2014, our local officials where able to pass an ordinance to deal with our local issues. Since all counties, cities and towns have different issues, and one size does not fit all, this approach is the right one. SB 354 does not prohibit vacation rentals. Even Gov. Rick Scott said our tourism industry is doing great.
So why are the vacation industry pushing these bills? They do not like to be regulated.
The bills that they are trying to get passed will have destructive consequences to our neighborhoods. Our Legislature talks about property rights for all homeowners. But they were not concerned about our property rights when they removed local zoning from our single-family neighborhoods in 2011.
If I was to apply for a license to convert my one-family dwelling to a bed and breakfast, which is a transient public lodging establishment, I would not be able to operate in a neighborhood zoned for single-family residences. Bed-and-breakfast establishments are also required to be inspected for life safety semiannually and to install sprinklers in most cases, be ADA compliant and change their certificate of occupancy to reflect their new use, which is transient.
So why is a vacation rental treated differently?
Our representatives must acknowledge that these dwellings are no longer homes. They are licensed businesses, and all businesses should be regulated locally.
I am asking all Florida residents to stand up an defend local home rule authority. Visit homerulefl.com for more information.
Ron Boyce lives in Ocean Oaks Lane, in a subdivision of Hammock Beach. He drives by a vacation rental on his street every day.