A Dangerous False Sense of Security Over Short-Term Rentals.  Indian River County, FL.

Republican State Senator Danny Burgess’ Senate Bill 512 would preempt “certain regulated activities of public lodging establishments (to include a non-transient apartment, transient apartment…vacation rental) and public food service establishments to the State.  They would require vacation rental homes to be licensed through the Florida Department of Professional Registration (DBPR). 

Florida State Representative Jason Fischer presenting Florida state preemption bill addressing short-term rentals with Indian River County Commissioner Peter O’Bryan in the background.

Except for those local communities that have pre-2011 ordinances, 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.

Indian River County (IRC) government is relying on the following wording incorporated into the bill as a safe harbor, grandfathering all existing IRC regulations for short-term rentals, when in fact all these short-term rental regulations would be null and void.

A local law, ordinance, or regulation may not prohibit vacation rentals or regulate the duration or frequency of rental of vacation rentals. This paragraph does not apply to any local law, ordinance, or regulation adopted on or before June 1, 2011, including when such law, ordinance, or regulation is amended to be less restrictive or to comply with the local registration requirements provided in this paragraph, or when a law, ordinance, or regulation adopted after June 1, 2011, regulates vacation rentals, if such law, ordinance, or regulation is less restrictive than a law, ordinance, or regulation that was in effect on June 1, 2011.”

IRC regulations (Ordinances 2016-006 and 2015-014) by IRC Board of County Commissioners regulated the use of vacation rentals offered for a period of less than 30 days, which may have been advertised on sites such as Airbnb or VBRO and allowed them into unincorporated RS – residential areas of Indian River County. 

IRC regulations are more restrictive, not less restrictive, than a law, ordinance, or regulation that was in effect on or after June 1, 2011, since they include, among other regulations,

  • 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.
  • Occupancy restrictions
  • Trash and recycling

Prior to Ordinances 2015-014 and 2016-006 transient guests were allowed to park more than 5 cars, hold events at the hotel and motel and blast noise from every quarter. Thus Ordinances 2015-004 and 2016-006 are more restrictive.  In effect, prior to its adoption, short-term rentals were non-restricted, basically providing short-term renters with an open season.

According to State Senator Danny Burgess, addressing SB512 at a Senate Community Affairs Hearing on February 2, “if there is any existing ordinance (by a local government), you can adopt a less restrictive ordinance.” 

House Republican Representative Jason Fischer’s companion bill HB325 will presumably incorporate the same wording if he and other House representatives agree to further weakening their bill.

The subject bills have recently passed two Senate committees 8-0 and 6-3 and one House committee 10-6. The remaining committee votes are the Rules in the Senate, Ways and Means and Commerce in the House before going to the floors of both houses for final votes and then to the Governor for signature and could be new law before July 1, 2022, or sooner. 

Anfield Consulting of Tallahassee is Indian River County’s lobbying firm, specifically, Edgar Fernandez, who’s profile reads “he has been working in the legislative and governmental arena for over 30 years serving in many capacities.” Anfield’s website indicates that they have, “through its representatives, over 136 years of experience in government relations, and has successfully represented clients before the Florida Legislature.”

Anfield Consulting. Edgar Fernandez far right.

Why, then, at the Senate Community Affairs Hearing on February 2 did Edgar Fernandez “wave in support,” when his appearance card came up to address the committee on the of the amendment containing the less restrictive language?  Does he really represent Indian River County?  Has he ever been here?  As of this writing, we have been unable to reach him for comment.

Enforcement of Indian River County Rental Regulations

IRC 2016 -006 and 2015-014 provide for specific, targeted rental regulations to ameliorate anti-social, renting behavior in the realm of parking, commercial events, occupancy, sanitation, and noise.  Both SB512 and HB325 preempt these regulations by adopting an Airbnb playbook used in other States to impose the “not solely imposed standard” explicitly applied to parking in both bills and implicitly for any regulations.  In short, to ameliorate anti-social, rental behavior of its 1% of the problem doss (the living room couch was my doss for the weekend) houses, it would have to contain RS-3 rental activity on the remaining 99% bona fide, living residences. Ordinance 2015-014.

  1. For a vacation rental that has a carport of garage, the number of automobiles that may be parked outside a carport or garage shall be limited to one automobile per bedroom, not to exceed not to exceed a total of five (5) automobiles parked outside the carport or garage shall be parked within a designated and improved or stabilized driveway and set within any required yard area.

Watch how our State Senator Debbie Mayfield (District 17, including Indian River County) vote when, as a member of the Rules Committee, SB512 hits the Senate floor. Is she going to truly represent Indian River County?

Kimberly Guilfoyle and Senator Mayfield

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 where all meaningful control bets are off!

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