Jacksonville Rep. Jason Fischer Pushing Bill To Regulate Airbnbs, Short-Term Rentals

Jan 24, 2020

A contentious Florida House bill that would blanket short-term vacation rentals under statewide regulations rather than leave it up to local government passed a subcommittee earlier this week.

HB 1011, sponsored by Jacksonville Rep. Jason Fischer, is being met with strong opposition from local officials and constituents across the state.

“The goal of this bill is to bring accountability to Florida’s vacation rental industry by ensuring only properly registered and licensed vacation rentals are listed on advertising platforms,” Fischer said in front of the House Workforce Development and Tourism Subcommittee Tuesday afternoon.

The bill would regulate platforms like Airbnb and VRBO by requiring users looking to promote their rental to include proper licenses and tax identification in the online ad. Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) would oversee issues with the properties listed on the platforms.

At the subcommittee hearing, many spoke out in the testimonial period to express their displeasure with what the bill is trying to accomplish.

“If you are planning on supporting this bill, you will be the most hated people in the entire state of Florida,” said former Florida House Rep. Jason Steele. “There’s not one city, not one county, not one mayor, not one city councilman that agrees with this bill. As a former member of this legislature I can tell you this bill is so far overreaching, and it interrupts the exact home-rule thing that Rep. Fischer was talking about.”

Critics say issues with the bill include stripping away power from local governments to make decisions on local matters surrounding short-term vacation rentals, and the inability for DBPR to successfully implement the oversight across the entire state.

“DPBR is going to hire six people,” said Florida Tax Collectors Association President and former Florida House Rep. Anne Gannon. “Do you know how many people I have in my bed tax department? A manager and six employees. And that’s to regulate the ones just in my county.”

The bill includes a grandfather-clause to keep in place local ordinances made before June of 2011.

WJCT spoke with St. Augustine City Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline, who was at the subcommittee hearing to oppose the bill.

“It would basically remove registration and licensing to the state of Florida, which would be handled by state DBPR,” Sikes-Kline explained. “And that organization is already overwhelmed and overworked. We don’t feel like the state would be able to do a very good job of doing that particular job.”

Sikes-Kline believes it should be up to local governments to decide which laws work best for their city or county.

“Every city is different,” Sikes-Kline said. “St. Augustine is not the same as Panama City as it is to Jacksonville. We know there are differences and we have unique challenges even at the neighborhood-by-neighborhood level. So for the state to come in and implement a one-size-fits-all law when it comes to local zoning matters, we find that objectionable.”

St. Augustine has passed legislation that loosened up residential zones to allow seven-night minimum days in residential zones. If it’s in historic preservation district one, which includes the downtown residential area, 30-day minimums are allowed from a previous provision.

This is Sikes-Kline’s third year going to the capital to protest bills similar to HB 1011.

“There’s part of [the bill] that I think would be okay,” Sikes-Kline said. “It’s a lot like builders, there’s a lot of pieces to it, a lot of components. Some of them would work, and some of them would not work. But we try to work with the legislature to come up with compromises and solutions.”

The bill was favorably voted on by the subcommittee, with 10 yes votes and 5 no votes. One of the no’s came from Jacksonville Rep. Tracie Davis.

HB 1101 has a pairing state senate bill in SB 1128, sponsored by Miami-Dade Senator Manny Diaz.

The house bill will now move to Government Operations and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee for another hearing.  

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.