By Ernie Bach
As the Florida Legislature reviews numerous legislative proposals this session, a key issue impacting Florida’s neighborhoods and homeowners will be proposed legislation to pre-empt the ability of local officials to enact and enforce appropriate regulations on short-term rentals.
Similar legislation has been proposed in past years without success, and this year’s proponents have already jumped into the ring with SB 824, which seeks to give lawmakers control over local short-term rental ordinances.
This is an issue that continues to increase in relevance as the number of short-term rental properties across Florida keeps growing. This is no longer just an issue facing tourism hot spots like South Beach. The short-term rental market has seeped into residential neighborhoods across Florida, as investors seize the opportunity to acquire homes, apartments and condo units for the express purpose of serving as short-term rental properties. Our communities and residential buildings are becoming pseudo-hotels, replacing neighbors with transient renters.
There is a distinction between homeowners renting out their home or second home in order to earn extra income and commercial operators renting out multiple units, solely as short-term rentals, in the same community. The latter is essentially operating a lodging business, but without the zoning and safety regulations as a traditional lodging business.
The property rights of homeowners should be protected. But that works both ways, and the rights of homeowners living in areas with short-term rental properties should also be taken into account.
That is why it is critical to reject legislative proposals that seek to overrule city and county officials’ ability to regulate short-term rentals, including ordinances that require public hearings where residents can make their voices heard.
Florida is a diverse state, made up of a wide range of communities. Local residents should have a voice in the decisions that impact their individual communities, and our local officials should have the ability to bring those voices forward in enacting common sense regulations that best fit the needs of their communities.
As home to more than 3.5 million residents age 60 years or older, our state prides itself on providing a promising quality of life for retired persons. Allowing commercial investors to operate unregulated illegal hotels in residential neighborhoods and buildings does not fulfill that promise.
Our elected lawmakers in Tallahassee should not put the interests of out-of-town commercial operators above the safety and well-being of their constituents.
On behalf of Florida’s Silver-Haired Legislature, a statewide senior citizen organization chartered since 1978 including former judges, teachers, doctors, business owners and former elected officials, I urge the Florida Legislature to oppose proposed legislation that would pre-empt the ability of local governments to regulate short-term rentals operating in their communities.
Ernie Bach is the executive director of the Florida Silver Haired Legislature. He lives in Largo.
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