Florida Legislature Hates Regulation ... Except as It Applies to Vacation Rentals
Around the State
In the current mood of the regulation-busting Florida Legislature, it's puzzling -- and, frankly, a little disturbing -- to see legislation that invites local officials to run all over one of the state's most robust economic engines.
Two measures, Senate Bill 356 and House Bill 307, basically eliminate a provision in a 2011 law prohibiting local governments from imposing rules and regulations that restrict short-term vacation rentals.
Short-term vacation rentals offered over the Internet and listed by owners can be as much as 50 percent cheaper than hotels. They are growing in popularity. But the numbers of cities trying to curb the trend are growing, too.
SB 356 and HB 307 come just as an economic study of the vacation rental industry has been released. The study concludes that vacation rentals played a critical role in the state’s economic recovery, sheltering more than 17 million tourists during 2013.
Consider that in 2013 they generated a total annual economic impact of $31.1 billion.
Whatever are we doing messing with a number like that?
Have a look at the report, "Economic Impact: Florida's Vacation Rental Industry," prepared for the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association by a group called Thinkspot.
“The vacation rental industry is a contributor to Florida’s economy whose impact until now has been largely overlooked,” said Dale Brill, founder of Thinkspot, the primary investigator conducting the study.
“Like any business sector competing in a global market, changes to the regulatory environment can have devastating results," he said. "Regulatory burdens intentionally created by state or local governments negatively impact the full spectrum of job creators who also generate more than one out of every five total taxable sales dollars collected in the Sunshine State."
The Florida League of Cities supports the bill, and has said, ”Cities mentioned that too little oversight could expose guests to dangerous situations, create unfair competition in the tourism industry, and rob the state and local governments of tax dollars.”
That statement is code for "we want to decide if they stay or go, they hurt our hotel business because they're cheaper, and we can't tax them to the hilt like we do businesses."
Short-term rental properties generally are larger single-family homes popular for family reunions, for people who don't like structured vacations in hotels or motels and who like to be slightly outside the hustle and bustle of Tourist Attraction Central.
The study integrated expenditure data compiled from more than 11,000 individual rental units in the state with 2012 visitor spending estimates recently published by Visit Florida, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation.
Here's a breakdown of the impact of the vacation rental industry, as shown in the study:
-- Florida’s vacation rental industry directly or indirectly supports a total of 322,032 jobs in Florida annually.
-- The total labor income generated by those 322,032 jobs is approximately $12.64 billion per year.
-- The total estimated spending by visitors staying in vacation rental units is $13.43 billion.
-- Total owner-management spending across all licensed rental units in Florida is $3.3 billion.
-- For owner/managers, “maintenance on existing units” and “services to units” reflect the two largest categories of owner/management spending with $6,465 and $5,516 average annual expenditures, respectively.
It's idiocy for lawmakers to ignore the central role the vacation rental industry plays in the Florida economy and instead work to kill the golden goose. Senate Bill 356 is sponsored by John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine; House Bill 307 by Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, and Daphne Campbell, D-Miami.
“It’s hard to imagine why any lawmaker would support a bill that would harm such a vital economic engine,” said Paul Hayes, president of the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association. “Vacation rentals provide meaningful work for a variety of other industries, including fishing charters, cleaning and maintenance crews, and jobs at local entertainment and dining establishments around the state. It’s mind-boggling that lawmakers would turn their backs on so many hard-working Floridians.”
Tim Doyle, spokesman for the Short-term Rental Advocacy Center, which works with stakeholders and policymakers to create fair and reasonable short-term rental regulations, told Florida Watchdog regulations on the industry aren't good for the economy.
Doyle said he wants “fair and reasonable, simple registration systems.” He said that if the legislation is approved, local municipalities will impose onerous rules and exorbitant fees.
Short-term rentals, by driving down the cost of visiting a destination and increasing the supply of accommodations, can boost tourism and contribute millions to the local economy. In Orange County, room-tax collections soared to $15.2 million in July. Okaloosa County got a similar boost and used the windfall to fund tourism and restore its beaches, Doyle said.
Hopefully, Visit Florida will be in every pertinent committee meeting waving the economic impact study and flying the flag for Florida tourism. This legislation is an affront to private property rights and a painful blow to a strengthening state economy.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423.