Future of Florida vacation rentals bill uncertain despite passage

'What I am trying to do is strike that balance,' Sen. Nick DiCeglie says
Posted at 5:58 PM, Mar 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-29 17:58:35-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — There's a battle brewing in Florida. Should the governor sign a bill giving the state more control over short-term vacation rentals?

Lawmakers have been trying for years to get vacation rental reform across the finish line. They did it earlier this year with a narrow margin of victory.

Now, lobbyists, city leaders and residents are fighting over whether it should get the governor's signature. No one is really sure what he'll do.

Floridians have grown weary of loud and at times disorderly "party houses" in peaceful neighborhoods with the rise of sites like Airbnb and VRBO.

Lawmakers offered SB 280 to help. It gives the state more power to regulate vacation rentals by controlling licensing, creating more oversight of rental ad platforms and setting up occupancy limits.

But it comes at a cost to local governments.

Most city and county ordinances for vacation rentals, created after 2011, would be eliminated under the plan.

"What I am trying to do is strike that balance," Sen. Nick DiCeglie, R-St. Petersburg, who carried the Senate bill this session, said.

During the final debate on the legislation, the Republican lawmaker said some local governments were too restrictive on the issue. He felt the changes would create uniformity in the law while ensuring the tourism dollars keep flowing.

"We have business owners and restaurants. We have an economy. We have property rights," DiCeglie said. "That is a vital part of our constitution in this great country."

Major groups like the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association are on board, calling it a "solid framework for reasonable vacation rental regulation…"

Cities and counties do retain some authority. They can create a registry of vacation rentals, levy fees and suspend bad actors. But local leaders said they're the ones best suited for the job.

"We already have the tools," Indian Rocks Beach Mayor Joanne Kennedy said earlier this month. "This is going to take our authority away from us."

Meanwhile, the Florida Realtors Association worries SB 280 is still too restrictive.

"We see a lot of overreaching regulations in the bill," Andy Gonzalez, Florida Realtors vice president, said. "Basically allowing communities to charge excessive fees to basically suspend or revoke registration for vacation rentals with no course to get that registration back."

Gonzalez said his group is urging DeSantis to veto. It's even set up this website to encourage Floridians to send in their opposition.

"We are staunch advocates of private property rights," Gonzalez said. "And when you look at Senate Bill 280, it really does infringe on vacation rental owners' private property rights."

Florida now waits for the Legislature to formally convey the bill to DeSantis. Once that bill does officially arrive on his desk, he has 15 days to act. He could sign and make it law, veto it and send it back to lawmakers or do nothing — and it would become law without his signature.