Vacation Rental bill appears dead

Legislative efforts to pre-empt local regulations statewide of vacation rental homes may have died again this year on Wednesday as the Senate bill seeking to do so was temporarily postponed in a committee that is not scheduled to meet again.

Historic City News readers in the hospitality business in St Augustine have been following Senate Bill 824 with great interest.  The St Johns County Chamber of Commerce reported that the Bill, if approved, would pre-empt local government regulations and instead require vacation rental home owners to register with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which could then regulate their uses.

“It looks like it might be dead in the water,” said Dennis Hanks, executive director of the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association in an interview with Florida Politics writer Scott Powers.

The bill got postponed Wednesday at the Senate Committee on Industry, Innovation and Technology’s last scheduled meeting, meaning it’s not going to be heard there. Chair Wilton Simpson did not offer any explanation during the meeting. The bill also was set to go before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The regulation efforts have pitted Florida’s traditional hotel industry against the internet-based marketers such as Airbnb and HomeAway, and state lawmakers against cities and counties not wanting to give up their home rule control.

Hanks said relief is increasingly necessary for the tens of thousands of vacation rental home owners, and many more who would like to join them, because since the Florida Legislature opened local regulation in 2014, some cities and counties have introduced regulations “that almost prohibit vacation rentals.”

The patchwork of local rules can go block-by-block, causing what he called “crazy inequality, across the state.”  Hanks went on to admit, “We really don’t have any set of standards to run them.”

Portions of a report by Scott Powers contributed to this article