The Likely Risk of Florida Senator Greg Steube’s Senate Bill 1400
Senator Steube’s SB 1400 Bill is “An act relating to vacation rentals…preempting certain regulation and control of vacation rentals to the state; specifying authority of the Division of Hotels and Restaurants over regulation of vacation rentals…preempting inspection of vacation rentals to the state…that the Division is solely responsible for inspections and quality assurance…”
According to a January 30, 2018 edition of Flagler Live, “the Division would license and conduct inspections and investigate complaints, and audit about 1 percent of vacation-rental concerns a year, randomly.”
Senator Steube and Representative La Rosa, who has filed a companion bill in the House of Representatives say “the goal of the bill is to stop local governments from overstepping their bounds.”
“I have seen, all throughout the state where local governments have been infringing on that right and telling you what you can and cannot do with your property and how you can and cannot rent it out,” said Senator Steube.
SB 1400 creates a property right for a single-family residential property owner to have a vacation rental.
Local governments would be prohibited from setting rules regarding the leasing of homes or parts of homes for short-term uses.
At a Florida Senate Regulated Industries meeting on February 8, 2018, Lori Killinger, a lobbyist for the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association said Senator Steube’s bill would “clear the deck from a huge morass of local (short-term rental) regulations.”
Along the same lines, in his opening remarks, Senator Steube said his bill “was an attempt to replace the hodge-podge of municipal laws regarding vacation rentals with a uniform state policy.”
If you care about the destruction of the value of your house and the quality of your neighborhood, you need to take this seriously and express yourself to you local city, county and state representatives. Locally, as proposed, it would override Vero Beach and Indian River County’s short-term rental codes.
What this means is that Vero Beach, which has a 30 day rental ordinance, would now be subject to regulation and control of vacation rentals by the state, thereby allowing short-term rentals.
So if you live in Riomar, Vero Beach, for example, your next door neighbor would be allowed to rent out their house to 12 college students for a three day weekend, which threatens the enjoyment of your property from loud noise, over use of their septic system, 12 cars in their yard and garbage in the street.
In fact at a Community Affairs Committee meeting on January 30, 2018, Senator Daphne Campbell, who represents 50 cities in District 38, said all these cities have been very vocal about their opposition to the bill.
She said a five year old from Miami Shores came to her office and said there were “naked people and loud music next to her mother’s house.”
Senator Campbell said she was “very uncomfortable with this bill. It’s confusing to me as there is an amendment, an amendment to an amendment, an amendment to an amendment and this is not the time to make a decision.”
In the end she voted for the Bill and then said: “I just voted on something I didn’t know.”
At this same meeting, Henry Patel, co-owner of Helen Motel and Apartments in West Palm Beach, who had come to the meeting on a bus because he could not afford the airfare, stated his opposition to the vacation rentals bill because there was an Airbnb short-term rental next to his motel and apartments and renters were going there taking away his business and affecting his livelihood. And escaping taxes that he has to pay.
He was cut off mid-remark by the committee chairman, Sen. Tom Lee, R- Thonotosassa.
Patel objected but Senator Lee, who wanted to adhere to a timed vote on the bill approved by committee members, closed the forum and asked Mr. Patel to step away from the lectern.
When Patel again tried to speak, Lee was adamant.
“Mr. Patel, I’ll have you escorted out of here,” he said. “Don’t make me do that.”
Mr. Patel was indeed escorted away. But in fact he should have had time to speak. The committee meeting was scheduled for an hour and began 15 minutes late.
A synonym for corruption is misconduct, “the unacceptable or improper behavior, especially by an employee or professional person.”
Another consideration is that under section 509.013, Definitions, “the term ‘Division’ means the Division of Hotels and Restaurants of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).”
This assumes that State DBPR rental licensing is effective and has sufficient rental regulatory control. This is impeached by empirical data and community incidents and experiences.
As of October 4, 2017 the DBPR has issued nearly 19,000 rental licenses Statewide.
Homeway alone, not including Airbnb, advertises over 109,000 rentals in Florida on its website.
This means 90,000 Homeaway rentals are operating without a State License.
In turn this means only 17.4% of Homeway rentals are compliant and the State of Florida is losing $19.8m in non-complaint Homeaway licensing fees per year.
Then there are also other issues where the platforms of sites like like Airbnb are being leveraged and misused to facilitate wider money laundering operations.
And then, as per SB 1400, the Division of Hotels and Restaurants is required to “inspect vacation rentals when necessary to respond to emergencies and epidemiological conditions, etc.”
Is the Division going to have people out on the streets responding to complaints about noise, parking, septic overuse etc.? According to the Bill, local law enforcement may be “asked for assistance,” but will not be first responders.
We watched videos of Senate Committee meetings on January 30 and February 8. We only recognized two people from Indian River County at the January 30 meeting and three at the February 8 meeting. No one spoke up in opposition to the Bill including Peter O’Bryan, Chairman of the Indian River County Commissioners, who was in attendance at the February 8 meeting.
State Senator Debbie Mayfield, who was at the January 30 meeting, also did not speak up in opposition to the Bill. Where does Senator Mayfield stand?
One person who did speak up in opposition to the Bill was Chris Cook of the Florida League of Cities who said that “vacation rentals don’t necessarily have Florida’s best interests in mind.” If they’re licensed by the state, vacation rentals pay taxes just like hotels. But he said “that’s often not the case.
What we’re seeing out there is a whole lot of unlicensed activity and I would argue that that’s money that’s not being paid to the state of Florida,” said Mr. Cook.
Mr. Cook also says local regulations are vetted by the communities they serve, and that local elected officials respond to what’s best for their community. If the state wants to raise the floor of regulations, he said he’s in favor of that. But he argued “that a one-size-fits-all approach to vacation rentals is contrary to Florida’s diverse economy.”
Why are our local public officials not speaking up against SB 1400? Including Senator Mayfield. Do they consider it a “fait accompli,” from French, meaning “an accomplished fact.”
Please refer to related article:
SB 1400 threatens the enjoyment of real property by a tenant or landowner. The Bill passed in both the Regulated Industries and Community Affairs Committees and now will be taken up by the Appropriations Committee.