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Florida Vacation Rental Bill awaits Gov. DeSantis review

by Staff

St. Augustine residents urge writing to Gov. DeSantis to veto Senate Bill 280 which if signed into law will regulate short term rentals

Florida’s Vacation Rental Bill awaits review by Gov. Ron DeSantis

The Florida Senate and House of Representatives recently passed Senate Bill 280, which if signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, will regulate short-term rentals.

The bill is eliciting fear from area residents, including Vilano Beach’s North Beach Community Alliance Inc. Led by its president, Carol Anderson, the alliance is urging residents to pen a comprehensive and urgent email to veto the bill listing the governor along with James Uthmeier, the governor’s chief of staff, and Peter Cuderman, a legislative aide.

Anderson described SB 280 as benefitting corporate-owned vacation rentals that are not required to report physical addresses to the state or to local governments. She explained that if the bill becomes law, occupancy limits for vacation rentals will be pre-empted to the state, not local governments, leaving the state to address issues it may remain unfamiliar with in areas it never has even seen.

Also, if the measure becomes law, property owners will be able to establish occupancy during the registration process without noting the number or size of the home’s bedroom/s.

The bill will also only allow local governments to inspect properties upon the issuance of a registration number. And local governments will not be allowed to require compliance with the Florida Building Code or the Florida Fire Prevention Code as a condition of registration.

The St. Augustine Record caught up with Anderson to further discuss SB 280.

The St. Augustine Record: How do short-term rentals affect St. Augustine’s housing in terms of availability and pricing?

Carol Anderson: Short-term rentals were originally used as a way for individual property owners to rent their empty vacation homes. Investors caught on to how lucrative short-term rentals would be as a business, so between 2017-18, large organizations purchased vacation homes for cash, shutting out the home buyer who needs a mortgage to purchase the property. A cash purchase is always more attractive to the seller. 

Organizations also purchased land to build vacation rentals intending to serve as hotels rather than homes. In our North Beach community, property was purchased then divided in half to build two rental units. In August 2022, The North Beach Alliance determined that rental property owners owned almost 40% of the property in our community. Of those, 70% have been bought or built to become vacation rentals since 2018.

It seemingly happened overnight, which has created frustration among our residents.

The St. Augustine Record: What changes have occurred because of short-term rentals?

Carol Anderson: Excessive noise, too many vehicles parked in one driveway, and trash left out for days are among the most common complaints. Not all, but some vacationers, don’t care how they treat the rental property. Typically, a few create such havoc that the term short-term rental has become a four-letter word.

The St. Augustine Record: What are the benefits of short-term rentals.

Carol Anderson: Vacation rentals are a revenue source for the city and the county. But disruptive vacationers negatively impact local residents.

The St. Augustine Record: Can anything be done to prevent St. Augustine communities from becoming a haven for short-term rentals?

Carol Anderson: Florida won’t prevent cities and counties from creating vacation rentals unless a local ordinance was in place prior to 2014; new ordinances limiting rentals cannot be approved.

The city of St Augustine had restrictions prior to 2014, but St. Johns County did not. In 2021, the county approved an ordinance for occupancy, parking limits and trash requirements which was as much as the county was allowed to do by the state.

During the past two Florida state legislative sessions, bills were introduced that would eliminate local government limits to occupancy, but because the House and the Senate couldn’t agree on the bill’s language, it died. It was recently reintroduced and is under negotiation.

The North Beach Community Alliance is hoping to mitigate the negative impact of vacation rentals through our Good Neighbor Program. Property owners will receive information about safety, beach locations, area resources and attractions in exchange for committing to communicate the importance of being a good neighbor to their renters.

The program resonates with the North Beach Community because we’re small, residents have lived here for years, and there are serious safety issues for vacationers crossing the A1A highway to get to the beaches. 

The St. Augustine Record: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Carol Anderson: My family uses short-term rentals while vacation as a welcome change from small hotel rooms. Short-term rentals are great for reunions. But we need to have guidelines to protect communities like North Beach from excessive noise, occupancy, trash, and parking.

The St. Augustine Record: What are the next steps?

Carol Anderson: Governor Ron DeSantis can sign or veto the bill within seven days of its presentation when the legislature is in session. If the legislature adjourns before an act is presented to the Governor or while an act is in the governor’s possession, the governor has 15 days from the date of presentation to veto the bill, or it automatically passes into law. Legislators can override a veto with if two-thirds of the chambers vote.  

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