Residents Urged to Join Fight on State Preemption of Short-Term Rental Regulation

The City of Sanibel is urging residents to “join the fight in protecting the quality of life in our town” through a news release. Currently, a bill is proceeding quickly through Florida legislators that would limit or totally preempt cities’ ability to govern short-term rentals.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently stated he believes this legislation, if adopted, “micromanages vacation rentals.”

In a joint letter on Feb. 26 to DeSantis, Sanibel Mayor and Florida League of Mayors President Kevin Ruane and Florida League of Cities President Isaac Salver voiced their support for his position.

“Municipal leaders work closely with their residents and know what is best for their communities,” the letter states. “They know what works for some cities might not work for others. Florida’s cities are diverse, and we should allow that diversity to dictate how an issue as important as short-term rentals is regulated.”

This legislation also proposes that the Department of Business and Professional Regulation handle inspections and regulations of the tens of thousands of short-term rentals throughout Florida. Ruane and Salver wrote in their letter that they believe the “DBPR is overwhelmed with its existing workload and the legislature’s proposal to supplement staffing is inadequate.”

“It will be impossible for an agency in Tallahassee to regulate day-to-day problems arising from commercial enterprises in residential neighborhoods throughout the state,” the letter states. “This issues needs local oversight, local solutions and local voices.”

Ruane and Salver point to Arizona, where similar legislation was passed two years ago which resulted in communities being overrun with out-of-state investors buying hundreds of homes and converting them to short-term rentals. Arizona legislature is now walking back that bill, just as Florida did in 2014.

In 2011, the state preempted cities from regulating short-term rentals which led to a bill that diminished the preemption three years later. However, it left language in place that does not allow cities to regulate short-term rentals through zoning or the frequency or duration of rentals.

In 2019, Sanibel City Council passed an ordinance that helps the city better enforce regulations of short-term rentals. The city has required a business tax receipt for vacation rentals and a more thorough registration and licensure procedure was established under the ordinance.

The number of Sanibel vacation rentals listed on sites such as Airbnb and Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) grew by 12.64 percent last year, to 340 properties. That’s according to a study by AllTheRooms, a vacation rental search engine which based the figures on the number of homes on the market via renal sites.

“Our members know that if regulation was preempted to the state, the impact on their communities would be devastating,” Ruane and Salver state in their letter. “We hope the legislature hears the wisdom in your words on making this a local issue. If they choose to pass this bill, we will request your support for a veto.”

The city asks residents to email DeSantis to thank him for his position on protecting Sanibel’s home rule and the right of Florida cities to self-govern. Read Ruane’s and Salver’s full letter.

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