Watch Out: Florida Bills – SB512 and HB325 May Disrupt Your Quiet Enjoyment.

On June 21, 2016, the Indian River Board of County Commissioners unanimously adopted Ordinance 2016-006 regulating the use of Vacation rentals allowed in unincorporated areas of Indian River County (residential units offered for rent for a period of less than 30 days, which may have been advertised on sites such as Airbnb or VBRO). 

Certain regulations of Ordinance 2016-006 include, among others:

  • Parking regulations.
  • Prohibition of “Commercial Events,” such as weddings characterized by music…alcohol…
  • Restrictions on noise and vibration (drums, cymbals, and loudspeakers).
  • Restrictions on piers, docks, and boat slips.
  • Sea Turtle and dune protection.
  • Engine mufflers
  • Trash and recycling

Additionally, the owner of a vacation rental unit shall obtain from the community development department a vacation rental license.  Separate licenses are required for each vacation rental unit.

Prior to the issuance of a license or license renewal, a county code enforcement officer shall conduct and inspection of the vacation rental unit for compliance with requirements of this section of the zoning code.

An inspection checklist was created with the Ordinance for matters such as smoke alarms, displayed manager contact information, number of bedrooms, fire extinguishers and number of persons per bedroom relative to public or on-site sewar treatment and disposal system.

Should SB512/HB325 become law, all these short-term rental regulations are null and void.

SB512 and HB325 are another attempt over more than seven years of bills to bring Florida’s vacation rental industry under a statewide regulatory umbrella.

Both bills preempt certain regulated activities of public lodging establishments (to include a non-transientapartment, transient apartment…vacation rental) and public food service establishments to state.  They would require vacation rental homes to be licensed through the Florida Department of Professional Registration (DBPR). 

Except for those local communities that have pre-2011 ordinances (to be discussed in a subsequent article), cities and counties would be limited to conducting essentially unenforceable registration of rental homes. 

Additionally, the bills don’t require the State to share licensed rental addresses with local governments, and to require regular reporting and perhaps audits.

Regarding licensing, as of October 4, 2017, the DBPR had issued nearly 19,000 rental licenses Statewide. Homeaway alone advertised over 109,000 rentals in Florida on its website. 

This means 90,000 Homeaway rentals operated without a State License. 

In turn, this meant only 17.4% of Homeaway rentals were compliant and the State of Florida was losing $19.8m in non-complaint Homeaway licensing fees per year. 

This loss of licensing fees has continued.

For the 13 Counties comprising the Senate Community Affairs Committee, the compliance rate was 21% with District 20 Counties registering the highest compliance rate of 31.8% and Pinellas County the lowest at 7.4%. 

Under the bills, DBPR is required to inspect all public lodging establishments as often as necessary for enforcement of the law and protection of the public health, safety, and welfare.  Each licensed public lodging establishments must be inspected at least twice per year. 

DBPR may also inspect a vacation rental in response to a consumer complaint related to sanitation issues or unlicensed activity.  

In addition to Indian River County, one DBPR office in Orlando covers six other counties.  Inspectors from that office would have to travel 112 miles for an inspection in Indian River County.   

So, by default what we have now is Indian River County Sheriff Eric Flowers and his deputies to take this endemic problem seriously.  Does he have the horsepower to take on this additional responsibility.  The Sherriff’s department operates on a 24/7 basis, whereas Indian River County code enforcement works from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday – Friday.  Most of the violations occur after 8:00 p.m. on weekends. Indian River County Code Enforcement view rental regulations as a very low priority, rarely inspect rentals and overwhelming evidence show they do not even issue citations for renting violations when residents call in the violations. 

The South Beach Property Owners Association (SBPOA) is up in arms over both bills considering it is such an ideal locale for short-term rentals.  The Indian River County unincorporated South Beach extends just south from the 17th Street (Alma Loy Lee) Bridge to the Indian River St. Lucie County line, stretching seven miles along the ocean and the Indian River Lagoon.

In 2016 their residential realm was appraised at $1.8 billion, and homeowners wrote checks to Indian River County and the State for $23.1 million in property taxes. On a per capita basis, they have invested $1.3m in the local property market and pay $8,770 per year, 3.3 times the amount of taxes other taxpayers in Indian River County pay. 

This lucrative tax paying pattern for Indian River County continues to this day.

In an intense letter to County Commissioner Peter O’Bryan on February 12, 2022, SBPOA President, Dr. Miles Conway, representing SPPOA, reprimanded him and other County officials for not traveling to Tallahassee to aggressively voice their opposition to SB512 and HB325.  Dr. Conway specifically requested Commissioner O’Bryan (who apparently operates long-term rentals himself/a potential conflict of interest) to: 

1) Publicly state the Commissioner’s position on SB512 and HB325, 

2) Publicly disclose IRC’s action plan to defeat these bills if the IRC is in fact against them,

3) Publicly disclose if and when he will personally appear in opposition before the remaining committees and will he personally lobby Senators and House Representatives to vote NO.  

Commissioner O’Bryan at a previous committee meeting on the regulation and enforcement of short-term rentals.

Of additional SPPOA concern is the lack of representation by Commissioner Laura Moss, who represents the South Beach.  Dr. Conway, in his letter to Commissioner O’Bryan, on behalf of SPPOA, indicated Commissioner Moss “…has either rebuffed, ignored or obfuscated her way out of taking any action or making any effort to travel to travel to Tallahassee to fight for the for the quality of life and quiet enjoyment property rights of her constituents.”  

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