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Home Vacation As session starts, Florida lawmakers will debate rules for vacation rentals

As session starts, Florida lawmakers will debate rules for vacation rentals

by Staff

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Linda McIlroy has lived in Redington Beach for a long time. So long, she planted many of the palm trees that now shade her neighborhood and give it its charm.

But the palms weren’t the only things that changed over the years. Some of the homes underneath them did too.

Nowadays, about a hundred of the town’s roughly 900 homes have become short-term vacation rentals like Airbnbs and VRBOs.

“It has changed,” McIlroy said of her community.

McIlroy has no issue with visitors, which helps support the local economy. However, she does take issue with what she says some vacation rentals bring into her community: loud, drunken parties and out-of-control parking situations.

Redington Beach does have an ordinance that regulates vacation rentals, which Mayor David Will believes has served the community well.

“Occupancy and parking. Those are your two most important rules,” he said of the city’s vacation rental ordinance. “Occupancy rate is set at eight per house, and our parking is three cars on the property.”

However, Will believes most of those rules would be stripped away if a bill in Tallahassee becomes law.

Senator Nick DiCeglie, who represents much of Pinellas County, has filed Senate Bill 280.

According to DiCeglie, if passed, it would give the state a uniform set of balanced rules for vacation rentals.

“Quite simply, small beach communities like mine have to accept that vacation rentals are here to stay. We don’t have to accept irresponsible and inappropriate conduct, which would never be tolerated by long-term tenants, destroying our communities and quality of life,” he wrote in a recent Florida Politics op-ed. “The middle ground is elusive, but it is possible.”

The bill, which is in its early stages of discussion and debate, would allow local governments to create a vacation rental registration program, which may require the operator of a vacation rental to do only the following:

  1. Submit identifying information about the owner, the owner’s operator (if applicable), and the rental property
  2. Provide proof of a license to operate as a vacation rental
  3. Obtain all required tax registrations, receipts, or certificates issued by the Department of Revenue or a local government
  4. Update required information continuously to ensure it is current
  5. Designate and maintain at all times a responsible party who is capable of responding to complaints or emergencies related to the vacation rental
  6. State the maximum occupancy of the vacation rental based on the number of sleeping accommodations for persons staying overnight in the vacation rental
  7. Pay in full all recorded municipal or county code liens against the vacation rental

The bill would also allow the local government the ability to suspend a vacation rental’s registration under certain circumstances.
However, the bill would not allow a local government to dictate a vacation rental’s parking rules, appropriate noise levels, or pool usage times unless those rules apply to the city’s entire population.

Will labels the legislation a “preemption bill.” He thinks the bill, if passed, would ultimately transform Redington Beach into a “hotel district.”

“It removes our ability to regulate as we see fit,” he said. “We would like to regulate as we see fit to maintain the peace in our valley.”

Redington Beach homeowners like Fran Massucci think current regulatory power over short-term rentals should remain in local hands.

“I believe in government on the smallest level — on the local level — that’s where those decisions should be made,” he said.

DiCeglie filed a similar bill in the last legislative session, but lawmakers could not strike a deal. As a result, the effort died on the last day of session.

“Over the last few months, I’ve listened to thoughts and feedback and worked to incorporate ideas brought forward by so many stakeholders. This is a top issue for my constituents,” DiCeglie wrote in the recent op-ed. “I promised them we would get it right, and I am confident we will.”

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