Facing opposition from property rights advocates and the vacation rental industry, state lawmakers in both the House and Senate took a step back from their push to hand full control over short-term rentals back to local governments.
Elected officials in some Southwest Florida beach towns have been calling for a complete repeal of a 2011 law that prohibited cities and counties from enacting any restrictions on vacation rentals.
But that now seems out of the question. A compromise protecting certain short-term rentals may be the only way to keep the legislation moving.
Still, there is significant disagreement over the bill, with the House and Senate adopting different amendments.
The House bill goes further to shield vacation rental owners from local regulations. The House Local & Federal Affairs Committee approved an amendment Thursday that addresses the main concerns of vacation rental companies: That communities not be allowed to ban rentals outright or inhibit nightly or weekly rentals.
Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, voted against the amendment, which passed 11-7. Pilon wants to repeal the 2011 law and allow communities to have full control of vacation rentals. “I just in general think it should be a local choice and local elected officials should respond to their constituents on this issue,” he said.
But the bill, which ultimately cleared the committee 18-0, may not have advanced without the amendment, which was supported by the vacation rental industry.
“I believe ultimately this bill now protects those people so their private property rights are not impeded on,” said amendment sponsor Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud.
There was no debate over the Senate bill, which was amended Thursday and set up for final passage through the full chamber next week.
Vacation rental companies oppose the amended Senate bill because it does not protect nightly rentals and does not have language preventing communities from banning vacation rentals altogether. The bill does bar local ordinances from outlawing weekly rentals, which have become a major source of contention in some beach communities.
Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, sponsored the amendment. He does not believe the bill needs to specify that local governments cannot enact a complete ban on vacation rentals because of state law protecting property rights from being taken through government regulation.
“I’m not convinced that they can do that now without having to do it against the backdrop of regulatory takings that already exists,” Galvano said.
On the issue of nightly rentals, Galvano said cities and counties should be able to restrict them. But he wants to protect weekly rentals, which also have sparked controversy over noise, parking, trash and other concerns in communities ranging from Venice to Anna Maria and Holmes Beach. Galvano said nightly rentals are akin to “a hotel.”
“The traditional vacation rental in a residential community is a weekly rental,” he said, adding “that’s where I have drawn the line.” Galvano’s amendment is generating strong opposition from the vacation rental industry and mixed reviews from local government officials in beach communities.
The Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association said in a statement that the Senate bill still “offers too much opportunity for vacation rental property owners to be unfairly targeted and even banned. This is a clear threat to the property rights of these individuals.”
Holmes Beach City Commissioner Jean Peelen called the bill “half a loaf.”
“It’s better than nothing but not what we wanted,” she said, adding that a full repeal of the 2011 law is the only way to rectify “an unconstitutional taking of the rights of cities to govern” themselves.
Whether the House and Senate can reach a compromise on the bill remains unclear.
“This is a delicate issue on both sides,” said House bill sponsor Rep. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton. “We have sides on either side of the fence here and I’m trying to bring them closer to the middle.”
Since then, communities in Manatee and elsewhere have experienced an influx of mini-hotels in residential neighborhoods, which neighbors complain cause parking, noise and trash headaches their local governments are
By Zac Anderson , Herald-Tribune