As vacation rental platforms have increased in popularity, vacation rental owners and tourists have been in a state of flux due to rules and regulations that differ from one city or county to the other. That is why we have filed Senate Bill 1128 and House Bill 1011 in an effort to create predictable and uniform regulations related to vacation rentals in Florida.
The bills will protect homeowners and consumers by clarifying the rules for everyone with a single, statewide system with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and the Department of Revenue (DOR) handling vacation rental licensing, inspections and the verification of state tax registrations.
While vacation rentals are certainly not a new concept, online platforms such as Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO have made them easier to list and to rent. In fact, a report recently released by Airbnb states that Florida’s host community has surpassed the ten-figure mark by earning a combined $1.2 billion in supplemental income while welcoming approximately 6.6 million guests to the state in 2019. Those numbers are remarkable.
While the popularity of vacation rentals has grown, local governments have unfortunately attempted, and in some instances succeeded in, restricting or outright banning vacation rentals–in violation of Florida state law. These bills clarify the role local governments can play in regulating vacation rentals, while placing due responsibility on the platforms. Importantly, though, the legislation does not affect homeowners’ association covenants, condominium association documents, or local regulations and zoning rules adopted prior to 2011 that are considered “grandfathered” in under state law.
In reality this legislation would actually help all jurisdictions—even those that currently do not have ordinances regulating vacation rentals. If passed, the bills would create a mechanism by which listings that were non-compliant with this uniform set of rules would be taken off the market, without local governments having to spend any taxpayer money or resources.
For years, we have heard from both supporters and opposition groups, and these bills take both perspectives into account by offering regulations that provide uniformity, create accountability and continue to grow the partnership with vacation rental platforms. In fact, some platforms already voluntarily collect and remit sales and bed taxes to the state of Florida. These bills go a step further by ensuring accountability and allow the state to realize tax dollars that otherwise may not have been collected or submitted.
Tourism is one of Florida’s top revenue generators. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to ensure that we continue the record-setting pace of travel and tourism in a way that recognizes and protects the many contributions vacation rentals have made to our state and residents.
Vacation rentals simply provide additional lodging options for travelers choosing to spend their hard-earned money vacationing in our state. And if consumers are looking for this option and it helps to attract even more guests to Florida, then vacation rentals are something we should embrace with transparency and accountability.
As we continue to seek ways to cut regulations and red tape that are prohibitive to growing Florida’s economy, we must address this drawn out clash between local governments, the vacation rental industry and competing business interests. The proper place for the regulation of vacation rentals is the DBPR—just like the rest of the hospitality industry.
State Representative Jason Fischer is a Republican from Jacksonville. State Senator Manny Díaz, Jr. is a Republican from Hialeah Gardens.