DeSantis Vetoes Vacation Rental Bill

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday vetoed a measure aimed at regulating vacation rentals, saying the proposal would create “bureaucratic red tape” for local officials.

Oversight of vacation rentals for years has been a thorny issue for the Legislature, as advertising for properties on platforms such as Airbnb has ballooned.

This year’s bill (SB 280) — a priority of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples — also was contentious, with the Senate voting 23-16 to approve it and the House passing it in a 60-51 vote in the waning days of the legislative session.

Champions of short-term rentals say they provide extra income for homeowners and boost tourism, while critics complain that noise, trash, and traffic woes from a revolving cast of visitors negatively transform neighborhoods.

DeSantis’ veto drew mixed reactions.

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“This is a difficult issue that has property owners on both sides who deserve a voice in the process,” Senate bill sponsor Nick DiCeglie, R-Indian Rocks Beach, said in a text message. “We worked hard to pass legislation through both the Senate and the House that took the concerns of all stakeholders into consideration. While I disagree with the governor’s decision, I understand his concerns.”

But Melbourne Beach Mayor Alison Dennington called DeSantis’ veto “wonderful.”

“It seems like he’s recognizing that there should be some local registration, that we should be allowed to have it, and that this went too far,” Dennington told The News Service of Florida.

Dennington suggested DeSantis create a work group to explore the issue.

“I would love it if he would form some kind of task force with some legislators and some local officials and some building officials, like a regional task force, and maybe we could come back and propose better legislation next year. That would make both sides happy on some of these issues,” the mayor said.

The bill addressed one of the key sticking points over the years — “preempting” regulation of short-term rental properties to the state.

Current law bans local ordinances or regulations passed after 2011 that prohibit vacation rentals or regulate the duration or frequency of rentals, doing away with registration programs adopted by many coastal communities as the use of online platforms such as Airbnb expanded.

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The bill would have preempted regulation of vacation rentals to the state while allowing local governments to have short-term rental registration programs that met certain parameters for what the local programs could require. The bill would have “grandfathered” in regulations adopted by counties before 2016 — an exception that applied only to Flagler County, home to House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast.

The bill would have prevented local governments “from enforcing existing ordinances or passing any new local measure which would exclusively apply to vacation rentals,” DeSantis wrote in a veto message Thursday.

“Under the bill, any such measure must apply to all residential properties. The effect of this provision will prevent virtually all local regulation of vacation rentals even though the vacation rental markets are far from uniform across the various regions of the state,” the governor wrote. “Going forward, I encourage the Florida Legislature and all key stakeholders to work together, with the understanding that vacation rentals should not be approached as a one-size-fits-all issue.”

The vacation-rental bill sparked a clash between two powerful industry groups in the runup to DeSantis’ veto.

The bill drew intense opposition from vacation-rental management companies, coastal community leaders and Florida Realtors, an influential real-estate industry group whose members urged DeSantis to nix the measure.

“The bill fails to strike a fair balance between the rights of private property owners to rent their property on a short-term basis and the ability of local governments to regulate these rentals,” a website set up by Florida Realtors said. The website allowed visitors to submit emails detailing complaints about the bill directly to the governor’s office.

Meanwhile, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, also a politically prominent industry group, corralled its members to appeal to the governor to sign the bill.

“We were proud to work with the bill sponsors and have this important legislation pass this session as a solid framework and first step for regulatory reform in the sector,” Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Restaurant and Lodging Association, said in a prepared statement Thursday night. “We are disappointed with Governor DeSantis’ veto but will continue with our efforts to work toward a resolution and ensure equity across Florida’s lodging industry — from vacation rentals to hotels — to best serve our guests and promote their safety.”

But speaking to the News Service in March, Dennington called short-term rentals “an existential threat” to single-family zoning.

“Because having a mini-motel pretending like it’s single-family zoning right in the heart of every single-family-zoned street is not single-family zoning. … It’s a commercial enterprise. Period,” she said.

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