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Bill to deregulate vacation rentals advances in House Committee

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A bill to repeal all local ordinances and regulations on vacation rental homes, rolling them back to 2011 levels, advanced Tuesday in the House Careers and Competition Subcommittee.

The proposal, by St. Cloud Republican Mike LaRosa (HB 425), would require local governments in Florida to treat vacation rental homes like any other home in any given neighborhood.

In discussing the legislation, LaRosa fumed against what he called “an obscene” amount of local ordinances around the state against vacation homes.

“We’ve seen ordinances as much as $20,000 fines applied against vacation homes,” he said. “We’ve seen restrictions on the number of occupants inside vacation homes. We’ve seen licenses suspended for over 180 days, not allowing someone to use their property, for that purpose, for that amount of time.”

The issue was posed as pitting property rights versus local residents and families who resent commercial enterprises in residential areas. But it’s also become another example of local lawmakers blasting Tallahassee for taking away the power of home rule.

La Rosa’s proposal is similar to a Florida law signed in 2011, but much of that deregulation was rolled back in 2014 after cities and counties complained. That law allowed local regulations as long as they didn’t require a minimum stay or prohibit vacation rentals.

Palm Bay Republican Randy Fine said he thought the issue should be regulated through zoning. He said the losers were the people who lived in residential neighborhoods. He proposed an amendment that said that would make a homeowner who often rents his or her home out to be a commercial property, which would have to be regulated by local zoning restrictions. He later withdrew that amendment, but voted against the bill.

In recent years, single-home vacation rentals have proliferated in Florida through Airbnb and HomeAway; in some cities, there’s been significant pushback by those governments.

Last Thursday, the Miami City Commission supported reaffirming zoning regulations prohibiting short-term rentals of single-family homes in Miami’s residential areas. Mayor Tomas Regalado has said that short-term rentals create nuisances throughout Miami’s communities.

“We view this as an attack on home rule,” said Miami assistant city attorney Kerri McNulty. “We would like to be able to have these businesses operate in our city, but we need to be able to regulate them, identify them, have them get their business tax receipts, their certificate of use so we can inspect them for fire safety and other code compliance issues, and that’s all that we’re asking for here.”

Miami Airbnb host Marcie Mascaro attended last Thursday’s public hearing at the City Commission. She said she was one of the hundreds who opposed what Regalado is doing, and supports LaRosa’s bill. “The sharing economy is the ultimate example of freedom and democracy,” she said. “Effective online rental platforms come with self-regulated measures to protect host guesthouse, neighborhoods, communities and economies.”

“We are not opposed to vacation rentals, and we do not stifle tourism,” said Anna Maria Island resident Ruth Uecker. “We do not overly regulate usage, not interfere with property rights, but we do want to remain the tools we have to solve local problems.”

Republican Greg Steube (SB 188) is sponsoring the Senate companion. It has yet to be heard in committee.

 

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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