Vacation Rentals Threatening the Character of South Florida Neighborhoods
By Austin Torres
We are all in the process of dealing with the current COVID-19 crisis, but not too long ago a not so critical issue was in the minds of local officials, vacation rentals. Many cities are stopping short term vacation rentals during this crisis in an effort to make room for essential lodgers like first responders and law enforcement. After this crisis is all over and things get back to normal, rules will need to change with how short tern rentals are handled. This problem was especially evident during Super Bowl week. As South Florida continues to rapidly grow as a major tourist destination it has also seen a leap in illegal vacation rentals. South Florida residents have struggled to maintain the character of their neighborhoods in spite of absentee owners who rent homes out to vacationers over platforms such as Airbnb. Residents are often subject to loud house parties and an increase in traffic and trash caused by these short-term rentals.
City officials have faced hardships in monitoring these short-term rentals, which are legal, but are also highly regulated to ensure that residential properties do not function as businesses which would otherwise damage the fabric of local neighborhoods. However, two new Senate Bills, Senate Bill 1128 and House Bill 1011, which are currently under consideration by the Florida Legislature could threaten to prevent the local regulation of vacation rentals.
Short-Term Rentals, which are defined as any condo unit or single-family rental that occurs more than three times a year or for a period of 30-days or less, have become a growing concern for years now in South Florida. Super Bowl Weekend alone saw over $168,000 in fines related to vacation rentals being issued by code compliance officers.
The new bills threaten to undo regulations which have been put into place since June 1, 2001. Instead of allowing local municipalities to regulate, control, and enforce rules on these vacation rentals, there would be one set of rules for the entire state. However, many residents feel that this is in fact a local issue and should be handled from city to city.
Many public officials have been vocally opposed to the new bills, campaigning for control and oversight to remain locally enforced and regulated. Mayor Joy Cooper of Hallandale Beach has heavily campaigned against the bills, claiming that the issue of short-term vacation rentals is one that must be controlled and managed locally.
“We’ve been lobbying and opposing this bill,” says Cooper. “We’re happy to hear that our governor has decided this is a local issue and that the state government should stay out of it.” Recently Governor Ron DeSantis expressed reservations regarding the proposed bills, citing concerns over micromanaging rentals in such a densely populated state.
“My view is probably that it should be determined locally,” said DeSantis.
Cooper went on to explain that although Hallandale has limited control over these vacation rentals, there is a registration that is used to monitor and keep tab of all renters and potential violators.
“If people want to rent their homes they must sign up with the register.” According to Cooper many condominium owners are currently renting their units out as short-term rentals. When asked what could be done to keep these rentals in check Cooper encouraged residents to sign up at www.cohb.org.
“Encourage your condominium boards to report any rentals, then we can at least monitor
them,” said Cooper.
There are also cities such as Aventura which have a full ban on short-term vacation rentals and would like to keep it that way. Platforms such as Airbnb are not allowed. City Manager of Aventura Ronald Wasson agrees that these short-term rentals should remain under local control.
“That would be in the best interest of each city,” said Wasson.
Aventura’s code department keeps a close eye on any potential violators, constantly checking for Airbnb and other similar rental platforms.
Although preempting local control has been a major concern for many residents there are still some who see these new bills as a lucrative opportunity to build a stronger relationship between Florida and the vacation rental industry. Sen, Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah has been a vocal supporter of SB 1128, claiming that the new bill could help bring in an additional $1.2 billion in revenue from potential visitors, citing figures provided by Airbnb.
Diaz has also made the claim that “property rights matter”, a sentiment shared by owners who feel that they should have the freedom to do whatever they like with their property. The question for many remains whether these rights should come at the cost of jeopardizing the peace and quality of their own neighborhoods.
To attain a better understanding of the effect of preempting local control of short-term rentals, we can take a look at a similar situation in Arizona. A similar bill was was accepted by Arizona in 2016, preempting local control and regulation of short-term rentals. Arizona lawmaker John Kavanaugh who has followed the situation in Florida warns that the bill has caused numerous issues for Arizona.
'We dug ourselves into a grave and we're trying to dig ourselves out," Kavanagh said. "The advice I would give to Florida or any other state is an ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure.'"
The preemption law, which passed with overwhelming support, efficiently blocked local governments from regulating short-term vacation rental platforms such as Airbnb and Vrbo. Republicans and Democrats alike saw it as a major opportunity to increase economic growth.
But soon after, many regretted the decision. Arizona saw a sharp increase in house parties being thrown by short-term renters which became increasingly hard to manage. Communities that were once home to retirees around popular suburban areas in Phoenix and Tucson were soon bought out by major corporations that used them out for massive golf weekends, bachelorette parties, and other huge events.
Due to the arrival of major rental platforms such as Airbnb areas such as Sedona became increasingly unlivable as home prices began to skyrocket. Lawmakers are now scrambling to find a way to resolve this growing issue.
As the conversation over the regulation of short-term vacation rentals and property rights continues, we can be sure to see new developments as SB 1128 and HB 1011 continue to make their way to the Senate Floor after the current crisis is over.