breaking news

Boca legislator urges Gov. Scott to oust Broward sheriff over Parkland response

Vacation rental change sails through Florida Senate committee


The score is now vacation rentals – 2, local government – 0 after a bill giving the state the power to regulate the former on Thursday cruised through another Senate committee.

A wave of opposition from local elected officials and lodging groups couldn’t stop the Regulated Industries Committee from voting 9-1 on SB 1400 by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota. The bill – which has the support of online vacation rental companies, including Airbnb and HomeAway – has one more stop before it goes to the Senate floor.

»RELATED: The latest in Florida political news

Should it become law, vacation rental properties would be regulated largely like hotels and motels, with owners who hold five or more properties being subjected to twice-a-year inspections by state regulators.

Local governments would be prohibited from passing ordinances regarding the leasing of homes or parts of homes for short-term rentals but they could set policies that address traffic, parking, and limit occupancy of vacation rentals.

Vacation rental laws on the books prior to 2011 would be grandfathered.

“There’s still a lot of flexibility for local government to do what they want to do,” Steube said.

Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill, of Port Orange, who cast the lone nay vote, disagreed.

“I really have concerns about how this affects city codes and county codes also and what the powers (are) that they retain if this bill were to pass,” she said. “There’s still so many issues for me.”

But vesting oversight with the state “is the right approach,” said committee chairman Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast.

“I think some of it’s kind of “gotcha politics” because I’ve not heard from anybody being severely hurt in a vacation rental because of structural code-type issues,” he said.

Earlier in the meeting, the committee approved an amendment proposed by Hutson to the bill that ensures it would not supercede rules set by HOAs or condominiums regarding vacation rentals.

Casey Cook, senior legislative advocate for the Florida League of Cities, said the bill is missing language requiring vacation rental owners to list the maximum occupancy of their dwellings on their licenses and also disclose the number of nights their properties are rented annually.

But a major problem with the bill is that it strips inspection oversight from local governments – a move that could create a safety risk because owners would not be required to have their vacation rentals inspected prior obtaining a license, he said.

Many local governments adopted vacation rental ordinances – 30 since 2014 – to conduct those inspections, Cook said.

“We think we want those properties to be safe before folks are staying in them,” Cook said.

Democratic Sen. Perry Thurston, Jr., of Fort Lauderdale, said protecting customers against discrimination was the motive behind an amendment he proposed but later withdrew.

The amendment would have required vacation rentals to be included in the bill’s definition of public accommodation and require hosts to maintain a registry of guests they denied lodging and make that list available to the state for review.

Thurston said his recommendation was based on complaints from guests who’ve had their bookings canceled and shortly thereafter see the property relisted.

But AirBnb spokesman Brian Batista said the amendment is unnecessary thanks to federal, state, and company anti-discrimination protections already in place.

For example, AirBnb assist guests with finding new lodgings if they arrive to a property but are denied accommodations, he said.

“While we recognize there’s always work to be done fighting discrimination,” he said. “AirBnB and its peers have some of the most progressive and comprehensive anti- discrimination policies in the world.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

State Rep. urges Scott to oust Broward sheriff over Parkland shooting
State Rep. urges Scott to oust Broward sheriff over Parkland shooting

State Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, is urging Florida Gov. Rick Scott to remove Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel over his agency’s handling of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Hager sent a letter to Scott on Saturday calling on him to remove Israel, who was elected in 2012 and 2016, “for...
Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates pleads guilty in Mueller investigation
Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates pleads guilty in Mueller investigation

Rick Gates, a former aide in President Donald Trump's campaign, pleaded guilty to making false statements and conspiring against the United States on Friday, making him the fifth person to enter a guilty plea in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Scott, legislative leaders offer plans in response to school shooting
Scott, legislative leaders offer plans in response to school shooting

The minimum age to buy a gun in Florida could soon become 21, and all public schools could have either armed officers or armed teachers, under proposals made by Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders Friday. Scott and the Republican leaders of both the House and Senate held separate news conferences to unveil proposals they say they want to complete...
As Donald Trump Jr. drums up business in India, some ask what’s being sold
As Donald Trump Jr. drums up business in India, some ask what’s being sold

Donald Trump Jr., who has spent the week in India pitching new luxury high-rises that bear his family’s name, took the stage before a crowd of about 200 on Thursday. “Building a Better Mumbai,” the banner behind him proclaimed.  “We’re actually delivering true luxury,” Trump told the guests, who were greeted...
Sen. Marco Rubio finds himself at center of gun debate, again
Sen. Marco Rubio finds himself at center of gun debate, again

When a gunman slaughtered 49 people at an Orlando nightclub in 2016, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., described it as a moment of revelation — a tragedy so grave that it helped prompt his decision to seek a second term.  A year and a half later, with no gun violence legislation having been enacted in the interim, Rubio is again at the center of...
More Stories