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Florida lawmakers consider regulatory changes around vacation rental properties

Florida lawmakers are wading back into legislation surrounding vacation rental properties.
Florida lawmakers are wading back into discussions about vacation rental properties.

The Florida Legislature is making a return trip to vacation rental legislation in a long-running effort to determine how much say municipalities should have in regulating such properties.

“It's an issue that's been around for a while, but this isn't your vacation rental bill of old," says Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills. "I really think that what we have here is a true balance in the force, and I believe you'll hear that from the stakeholders.”

Burgess filed the latest bill, which has an identical version in the House. The legislation takes away local government authority to regulate advertising platforms like Airbnb, pre-empting that to the state. It also requires those platforms to collect and remit taxes on certain transactions.

Current law does not allow local ordinances or regulations that prohibit vacation rentals or that dictate the duration or frequency of those rentals.

“I remember this issue from when I was in the House, and it was a war," Burgess told the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee. "I feel like we've really struck the need to enact fair preemption but also allow the locals to have the ability to regulate where they need to.”

Burgess’ bill says local governments can require the registration of vacation rental properties and impose fines on those that don’t comply. The registration fee may not exceed $50. Additionally, anyone advertising on vacation rental platforms must include certain information about the property and attest that the information is accurate.

"On the policy front, if the legislature wants a third party like an advertising platform to be collecting and remitting taxes, and of course regulating third party advertising platforms at the state level, we're in support of that,” said lobbyist Jennifer Green, speaking on behalf of the travel booking website Expedia.

Vacation rentals are licensed through the Florida the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).

Samantha Padgett with the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association says her group hasn’t come out for or against the bill. She says they strongly support some of the provisions, like requiring advertising platforms to remit taxes and verify the state license number before a unit is posted for rent.

"But we believe there are additional provisions that need to be addressed in this bill if it's really going to strike that true balance that Senator Burgess referred to," Padgett told the committee. "For example, there's no quarterly reporting to DBPR and no requirement for the sharing of the physical address of a unit. A license number can represent up to 75 different individual units, and without a physical listing of a particular address of a unit, this can make enforcement measures very difficult.”

Padgett also objects to a provision that says an advertising platform is not liable if they adhere in good faith to what's required in the law or in their own terms of use.

“I'm sure we would like to all set our own rules and our own terms of use," Padgett said, "but this doesn't seem like a great way to ensure full compliance.”

Padgett called the bill a good starting point. She says her group hopes to work with sponsors of the legislation as it moves through the committee process.

Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. Follow Gina: @hearyourthought on Twitter. Click below for Gina's full bio.