Heading into the 2011 legislative session, vacation rental property owners faced crushing local regulations designed to stamp them out of existence in communities across the state. Local residents who lived in beachfront property year-round didn’t like the constant flow of new guests, the increased traffic, and a leveled a handful of other complaints. But instead of trying to stamp out bad behavior by passing regulations that would apply equally to all, city and county governments were passing laws and regulations in a deliberate effort to choke out vacation rental owners.
Enter Lori Killinger and the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association (FL VRMA), which helped marshal the votes necessary to get a vacation rental regulation preemption bill introduced into the legislature. Working together, Killinger and FL VRMA made their case to the Florida legislature, which passed the bill, and ultimately was signed into law by Governor Rick Scott. For the time being, at least, Florida’s $31 billion-dollar vacation rental industry was be safe.
But it didn’t last long. Beginning almost immediately, cities and counties, fueled by vacation rental competitors, pushed back. Unwilling to pass regulations that targeted unwanted behavior equally, in part because it would also restrict the behavior of full-time residents who also voted in local elections, local politicians felt compelled to do something. They succeeded in rolling back portions of the preemption law, restoring just enough local regulatory leeway to embolden the local governments.
As a result, a slew of aggressive local laws and regulations were passed, often stretching legal interpretations to the limit, triggering expensive lawsuits and crimping Florida’s tourism industry. In Miami Beach, for example, some vacation rental owners have been fined as much as $20,000 for violations of short-term rental ordinances, while others are forced to comply with onerous regulations that drive up the cost of operating a vacation rental home, and putting some out of business. Florida’s entire economy is negatively impacted by overreaching tourism regulations.
“It’s not local government’s job to pick winners and losers in the property rights game,” says Lori Killinger, who spoke briefly to The Capitolist when spotted in the capitol building last week. “It is government’s obligation to treat property owners the same, whether you own a home and live in it full time, own and rent it on a long term basis, or own and rent it on a short term basis, your property rights are equal under the law. Local government should regulate the activity, not the use.”
Now Killinger and the FL VRMA find themselves at the vanguard of another legislative battle to restore the rights of vacation rental owners. And State Senator Greg Steube and State Representative Mike La Rosa have introduced a seemingly straightforward solution: Senate Bill 188 and it’s House companion, HB 425. The solution is elegant, in that the bill proposals merely state that:
A local law, ordinance, or regulation may not restrict the use of vacation rentals, prohibit vacation rentals, or regulate vacation rentals based solely on their classification, use, or occupancy.
That leaves local governments with a whole lot of leeway to regulate all the bad behavior they want. Don’t like loud music? Pass a law. Don’t like more than a few cars parked on the street in front of a single property? Pass a law. Don’t like more than two trash cans on the curb per house on garbage day? Pass a law.
Just make sure the laws that are passed apply to every homeowner equally.