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Legislature passes new vacation rental law

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Holmes Beach Commissioner Marvin Grossman’s 2012 drawing of a vacation home.

It seems wrestling control over vacation rentals faded in the final days of the Florida Legislature, depending on where you stand across the fence.

Both houses of the Florida Legislature passed a bill returning limited regulatory power over short-term rentals to local governments, but cities and counties cannot set a much sought-after minimum-stay requirement.

Senators approved the bill May 1 by a vote of 32-2, a day after it passed the House by a 90-27 vote.

The House removed an amendment by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, that would have allowed local governments to set a seven-day minimum stay at a vacation rental.

The final version of the bill eliminates any regulation on length of stay.

With the Florida Legislature ending its session May 2, the bill, SB 356, will go into effect July 1 — if the governor signs off.

The bill balances the rights of homeowners to rent their property as a short-term vacation rental — established by a bill passed in 2011 — and restores some local regulatory powers.

The prior bill limited local government from enacting new laws to limit length of stay, number of guests and other oversight that routinely applies to a hotel or motel.

Complaints from residents in Anna Maria and Holmes Beach — and other coastal areas of Florida — focused on a diminished quality of life as nearby homes operated as mini-motels. Elected officials expressed frustration that their hands were tied when it came to addressing those concerns.

Only Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island had zoned length-of-stay limits in place in 2011.

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn said she was excited upon learning the new law passed the Legislature. “Now we’ll have the opportunity as a city to balance our vacation rental industry with our residents,” she said.

Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen, who with SueLynn was a vocal proponent of SB356 and lobbied the Florida League of Cities for support, said she was “pleased that some home rule is being returned to us.”

SueLynn said the city can work without Galvano’s amendment.

“I don’t want to speculate on what the commission might do, but I’m sure there will be a number of suggestions,” she said.

She said an unintended consequence of the 2011 bill, HB 883, resulted in “party houses,” where people rent a house for a weekend and invite 20 or more people.

Under HB 883, any ordinance the city passed restricting vacation rentals in the residential zone had to apply to all homes.

Larry Chatt, owner of Island Real Estate which manages several hundred vacation rental properties, said the bill is a “good compromise and a good base.” He said he has “every belief we in the industry can work with local island governments in a cooperative spirit and manner.”

“I feel very good that the commission will find an agreeable ordinance that balances the rights of our residents with people in a vacation rental enjoying our beautiful city,” SueLynn said.

She said it’s up to Commission Chair Chuck Webb to schedule it on the agenda.

 

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