Two Florida lawmakers are proposing new regulations to limit control over vacation rentals in Florida, including renting through popular homesharing sites like Homeaway and Airbnb.
The pair of bills — SB 1400 and HB 773 — would limit the ability of local governments to regulate vacation rentals. The power to regulate vacation rentals would instead be granted to the Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants, which licenses, inspects and regulates public lodging and food service establishments.
Sponsors of the legislation Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud, said their bills are common sense solutions for property owners who they believe should have the right to their private property.
Airbnb and vacation rentals are legal in Florida, but some local governments have pushed back against the idea, arguing vacation rentals cause damage to neighborhoods and negatively affect the quality of life in certain cities.
Many homeowners face monetary consequences for renting out their homes in places where vacation rentals are frowned upon. Fines for illegally renting out homes in places like Miami Beach can soar all the way up to $20,000 per infraction.
Steube called stories like these disappointing and expressed concerns that local municipalities might be targets of influencing from the hotel industry, which has often been critical of vacation rentals since they cut into their profits.
“It is extremely disconcerting to hear stories from my constituents and other homeowners from across the state who are being targeted by their very own local officials for choosing to rent out their homes,” Steube said at a press conference in Tallahassee Tuesday. “I believe this is nothing more than an effort by the hotel industry to put an end to vacation rentals which are a vital part of Florida’s tourism economy.”
Last year, Airbnb helped Floridians earn $450 million in supplemental income by allowing homeowners to offer up rooms or entire houses for tourists and travelers visiting the Sunshine State.
Airbnb Florida welcomed approximately 2.7 million guests to Florida in 2017, a number which represents a whopping 75 percent growth over the year.
According to Airbnb, around 40,000 Floridians share their homes or vacation rentals through the site, which allows homeowners to list rooms or entire apartments or houses for travelers.
“I believe that all private property owners should be treated equally, regardless of whether they choose to rent out their homes for one day, one month or one year,” said La Rosa. “Vacation rentals give property owners a chance to earn additional income while driving tourists to local businesses in the community.”
Not everyone has been convinced the vacation rental industry is a positive boon to Florida cities. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine — both of whom are running for governor as Democrats — have criticized Airbnb and the vacation rental industry for “hurting” local governments and their cities.
“The repercussions of these decisions show up in every day decisions,” said Gillum.
Levine has previously railed against Airbnb, engaging in a high-profile clash with the company for the last year.