The state Senate Community Affairs Committee has drawn the lines for next session’s home rule battle.
When a bill lifting local regulations on home-sharing rentals offered by companies such as Airbnb sailed through the House last session, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, thought senators had a “superficial” understanding of the issue. Senators let the proposal die on the Senate floor.
The profitability of “home-sharing” rentals fueled by digital apps has soared to the point where beach communities complain the tranquility of neighborhoods has been lost in the noise and traffic of vacationers and their late-night arrivals and parties.
When Anna Maria passed a vacation rental ordinance, within a year, the little town near Sarasota drew 82 lawsuits seeking more than $30 million. Homeowners argued their property rights were taken by the restriction. Some have settled out of court.
Sen. Greg Steube, R-Bradenton, sponsored last year’s proposal preempting local ordinances and said he will do so again for the upcoming session. Lee wanted the Senate to be prepared.
“Sometimes we don’t take up an issue until someone files a bill and that’s a little too late to be learning,” Lee said Tuesday. “I wanted to workshop this upfront because it is starting to have an impact not only on the hotel restaurant industry but on homeowners’ associations and even in some cases property tax rolls.”
In recent years, the Legislature has thrown out local ordinances on guns, drones, ride-sharing, marijuana dispensaries and gas station signage. Lawmakers attacking vacation rentals ordinances say the state needs a uniform rule that protects property rights.
“You have a right to own property,” said Steube. An attorney and prolific writer of bills, Steube said he has yet to decide on the language for the 2018 legislation.
“Why should the government come in and against that constitutional right tell you, ‘Oh you can rent it for 30 days, but if you rent it for 29 days we are going to regulate you,'” said Steube. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
Rep. Larry Fine, R-Brevard, voted against the 2017 bill. Fine generally supports deregulation efforts and property rights. He explained that vacation rentals present a complicated mix of rights, expectations and regulations. Fine said he sides with residents’ rights to live in a residential area.
“I wouldn’t say I support the status quo,” Fine said.
“If someone wants to rent their primary residence while they go on vacation I don’t think the government should get in the way of that … but the notion of buying up hundreds of homes in residential areas and turn them into effectively hotels, that is not something I would ever support.”
Lee said the trick is for lawmakers to find a balance between the rights of property owners and their neighbors’ rights.
Steube said he has a different read of the constitution.
“Quiet enjoyment is not a constitutional right. It is not a right like the right to own property,” Steube said. “You want to try to balance them? They are not equal rights under our constitution.”
Copyright © 2017 Journal Media Group, James Call; Marco Island Eagle