A proposal to halt local regulation of vacation rentals passed in committee Tuesday after a heated debate over private property and community rights.
In 2011, the Florida Legislature barred cities from regulating short-term vacation rentals and preempted local control. Three years later, the Legislature returned some authority to city governments, allowing them to enact new ordinances such as building requirements.
But Rep. Mike La Rosa, the bill's sponsor, says many ordinances passed to address vacation rentals are infringing on property rights.
“Since that time, we have seen an insane, or obscene, amount of ordinances – to the point to where individuals’ private property rights have been violated. This has come in cities across our state," La Rosa says.
The House bill moved forward after a 9-6 vote in the Careers and Competition Subcommittee. It would nullify any ordinances passed since 2011 related to short-term rentals and once again bar cities from regulating vacation rentals of private homes. Any ordinances in effect before June 1, 2011 would remain on the books. Business groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Association of Realtors are backing the bill.
But the proposal has its critics. Ruth Eacker, a resident of Anna Maria, urged lawmakers to vote no. She says communities must be able to solve any problems stemming from the homesharing industry on their own.
“We do not want to overly regulate usage, nor interfere with property rights. But we do want to retain the tools we have to solve local problems," Eacker says. "And one of those major tools is our ordinance, which is a very good ordinance that works well."
Her concerns were echoed by Assistant Miami City Attorney Kerri McNulty. She says cities like Miami must retain the power to address the concerns of residents who complain about short-term rentals operating in residential neighborhoods.
“We are being inundated with calls from our residential neighborhoods who are complaining about these short-term rentals – which are essentially businesses being operated in residential and mixed-use neighborhoods," McNulty says. "We have not passed any regulations in response to these short-term rentals, but we would like to, in order to regulate them.”
In Florida, the homesharing industry is booming. Companies like Airbnb have surged in popularity, connecting homeowners with travelers who want to save money. The bill has one more stop before it reaches the House floor.