Florida Legislature Hates Regulation ... Except as It Applies to Vacation Rentals

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: March 13, 2014 3:55 AM
Vacation Rental Property

Orlando vacation rental property

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.

The bills would wipe out their protections. They would allow locals to zone these popular tourist accommodations out of existence if they wanted, literally stripping them of their property rights and opening the door to litigation.

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. 

Nancy Smith

Nancy Smith

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 or at 228-282-2423. 


Comments (3)

Ron Boyce
8:40AM MAR 27TH 2014
There is nothing wrong with counties and cities regulating a short term single family vacation dwelling. Counties and cities will not impose rules that will hurt the industry. The numbers quoted by the industry include all public lodging establishments. Those numbers do not show the revenue derived from single family dwellings that where license as vacation rentals. When a single family dwelling is license as a transient public lodging establishment that dwelling is now a register business with the state. It is also required to follow the state fire prevention code 69A-43.
The law is 2011 was pass by our representatives to assist owners in distress. A nobel cause. But the fact of the matter was that the vacation management industry was targeting costal communities that did not have local ordinances in place to protect their residents. This law open the flood gates to investors. These investors quickly grab as many properties thru foreclosure and short sales and retrofitted these dwellings to accommodate occupancies of 20 or more. Is this a single family dwelling that you would want to live next to in your community. Remember this type of dwelling could be rented daily just like a hotel or motel. But the fact of the matter is, local governments can not inspect these dwellings with out proper ordinances in place. The fact is their hands where tied. Who was protecting the individual property rights of occupants that bought homes in single family communities? HB 883 remove those property rights.
This law prevented local governments from enforcing fire codes, building code, zoning issues,etc. These dwellings are unregulated and a danger to the short term renter and the first responders.
You will hear the vacation management industry cry about property rights. What about the property rights that where taken away from the public in 2011 when SB 883 was passed? What protection was in place for a family that purchase a home in a residential single family community? My question to Paul Hayes and any representative, what if I built a 12 bedroom transient public lodging establishment next door to your single family home and rented to 20 or more people daily how would you feel. Would you continue to live up to your call for property rights. I think not.
There are many counties and cities in Florida and through out the United States with ordinances in place and still have a very successful vacation rental business.
Support Senate bill 356 and house bill 307. These bills will correct a wrong and give local governments back home rule which should have never been removed in the first place.
7:38AM MAR 13TH 2014
This action could have very negative results upon private homeowners who might see their neighborhoods turned into vacation spots. Local governments have done a great job in this area, protecting the majority of homeowners. This, once again, demonstrates fixing something which is not at all broken!
6:58AM MAR 13TH 2014
Any Republican that votes for these bill needs to be removed from the Republican Party. You need to cut out the cancer early to save the patient, and riding the party of RINOs is how you do it. These bills are an affront to principles of good government (a.k.a. less government) and to the principles of the Republican Party. Republicans serve the people not the Special Interests.

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