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Opinion
Sarasota Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 4 months ago

Who should rule vacation rentals?

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Local governments across Florida struggle to deal with regulating vacation rentals.
by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

Ask mayors or city managers of any coastal city in Florida what the No. 1 neighborhood issue is in their community, and they are not likely to say sea-level rise or crime.

It’s vacation rentals.

Indeed, go ask that question among St. Armands Key residents, on Longboat Key and especially on Anna Maria Island.

It’s a national issue. Everywhere, elected leaders are struggling with how vacation rentals should be regulated and who should regulate them.

Should Airbnb homes be required to meet all of the safety and licensing standards and regulations as hotels? Who should have jurisdiction, local governments or the state government?

Once again in Tallahassee, the issue is on lawmakers’ agendas.

Senate Bill 1128 and House Bill 1011 are proposing what former state Sen. Greg Steube of Sarasota (now Congressman Steube) tried for two years. That is have the state preempt local  governments and rule all vacation rentals.

This is a conundrum, to be sure. Government is best closest to the people. Citizens incorporate precisely to have control over their communities, not be ruled by the far-away state.

But at the same time, you can make an argument that NIMBYism is so pervasive that vocal neighbors want their cities to ban vacation rentals altogether. In the process, they are forgetting all about property rights. Why should you be allowed to have 10 relatives stay with you but your neighbor be prohibited from renting his home to 10 of his old college friends?

SB 1128 and HB 1011 are indeed flawed — mostly on the regulations they would create for those advertising vacation rentals. Both bills should be tabled.

At some point, to craft a balanced law, legislators must realize this is an issue that requires thoughtful, rational examination and study outside the emotional and horse-trading confines of the annual legislative session.

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