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Politics

Private Property Rights Wins the Day in House Short-Term Rentals Debate

April 28, 2017 - 8:30pm

In the end, in a House of Representatives where Republicans dominate, private property rights were always going to win.

But the vote that passed HB 425 was close Friday, 63-56, and will stop local governments from cracking down on short-term vacation rentals because they don't like them.

The win was a victory for online companies like Airbnb and Homeaway, which contract with homeowners to rent out their vacant homes in mostly resort locales.

Under HB 425, only cities with vacation-rental ordinances on the books before 2011 would be allowed to keep them. 

Bill sponsor Rep. Mike LaRosa, R-St. Cloud, pressed his conservative advantage: “Is it possible to have too much freedom?" he asked. "And is this a referendum on that freedom? If it is, I’m OK with that.”

He said local governments shouldn't be punishing the responsible majority of property owners for the potential wrongs of a few.

Several lawmakers opined that HB 425 does not undermine local authority. Municipalities will still be able to rein in nuisances, noise, and crime, they said. And existing ordinances already do that by targeting specific wrongful behavior.

But cracking down on zoning violations takes time and money for any town or city, Rep. Wengay M. "Newt" Newton, D-St. Petersburg, pointed out. For homeowners -- real homeowners -- "quality of life is the most important thing." he said. "What I learned here today, I did not know. ... I have little girls ... I didn't know if I live where there are no deed restrictions, a sex offender can come into a short term rental, do what he's going to do and then be gone ..."

Rep. J.W. Grant, R-Tampa, said, "I've heard all the horror stories ... so I asked the Commerce Committee ... 'At what point does a house become a business? ... How many complaints have their been?' I couldn't get an answer. I asked, 'Can you come up with one single hypothetical horror story that doesn't violate existing ordinances?' ... Nobody could do it."

The bottom line, Grant said, is that municipalities don't want their law enforcement deployed on code violations, "it's too hard." Depriving homeowners the ability to use their assets to create revenue is inherently wrong, he said.

Home-sharing has been going on a long time in Florida. For more than 20 years, homeowners and travelers have taken to the Internet to connect. Polls have shown many vacationers, particularly those with families, prefer rental homes to hotels. And the concept has helped thousands of Floridians rent rooms or houses to help pay their bills.

Without HB 425, that option could vanish in the Sunshine State, said LaRosa.

According to the nonprofit private property rights law firm Pacific Legal Foundation, 21 percent of Florida homeowners use rental income to pay for their child's education, 70 percent of owners use income for renovations or upgrades, and 11 percent save for retirement. A recent Mason and Dixon poll shows 93 percent of Floridians support home-sharing.

Cities in Florida have been trying to ban short-term rentals, charging homeowners big fines. Chief among them is the City of Miami Beach, which voted to impose fines of a record $20,000 on home-sharers.

Supporters of the bill say, not only does this tie homeowners' hands and rob them of their private property rights, it strangles the local economy. Vacation renters patronize local businesses.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

Comments

This is about discrimination by local governments. In the 1830.s the state of California set up road blocks to keep the Okies or migrants out. That was a violation of freedom of movement. Current zoning is usually established in order to keep certain economic groups out of communities. Its a practice to keep out poor people or maybe even minorities. Prohibiting out of town people from staying in local communities is the same thing. The towns don't want "Certain" people in their communities and they always look to zoning to accomplish that goal. Short term rentals doesn't change the use of the property. Its still is being used as a residence. The city and some neighbors just want to keep strangers out of their neighborhood or city. Strangers are bad. Local residents are good.

Look at those surveys that are touted in support of La Rosa and his ilk. Who sponsored them? Airbnb and Homeaway! Garbage in, garbage out. Read the actual survey quuestons and you'll see what I mean. And, the fact that La Rosa's own real estate site claims his business covers more than 70% of Florida? No big surprise he supports 425. These are mini-hotels constructed by investors. I know. I live in a community of them. It's no wonder there are 55 millionaires in our Florida legislature. Many are being fed by the rental industry!

We had a short term renter next to us. Turns out police came knocking 1 morning as she had not 1 but 3 warrants. We bought in a R-1 zone for a reason. If we wanted to live next to a hotel then we would of bought a home in a commercial zoned area!

Our property rights have been trampled for to many years . I'm in the florida keys and for years I've seen corrupted local government go after hard working individuals who are trying to make ends meet and stay out of trouble by renting their homes I hope something is done to review some of these outdated ordinances that have been in place for to long it's a violation of our property rights and our constitutional rights as a citizen

Many home owners have experienced an owner neighbor who lives like a pig and a person anyone cam intelligently communicate with. No law, no rule, no ordinance, home owner rule is perfect. The mastajoroy of land lords i know Are caring people.

Property owners, who own it in "No Deed Restricted" areas, deserve the freedom of doing what they please with their home (within reason that doesn't bring down the values of homes around them). Obviously, having old appliances and cars on your front lawn, is a safety hazard, and should be dealt with. But those who want to rent out their homes to families vacationing, is none of the governments business.

"Private property rights" is not what the rental at any cost, time share, tax deduction crowd claims. It also mean's consideration of one's neighborhood and the peace and quiet of the folks that also have "property rights". Local governments are the best suited for determining the balance.

"Private property rights". Unfortunately, the term is not all in with the make money at any cost, time share, tourist rental crowd. The term also applies to the "neighbor's property". And that means letting folks live in peace and quiet, Local government is local government precisely to determine the balance - and how it plays out in each community.

Local governments are doing the bidding of large hotel companies that don't want people renting out rooms to their customers. It has nothing to do with quality of life. Those problems are already addressed in local nuisance laws. The only difference between now and 20 years ago is that home sharing is taking a bite out of the hotel Industry.

"Private Property Rights" MUST ALWAYS PREVAIL !...AND ANY "politician" who contrives to subvert those rights should be electorally "swept from office" at the very first opportunity; (or as Samuel Adams believed, "tarred & feathered and run out of town"...).! And our U.S. Constitution must ALWAYS remain FOREMOST above all, (and our "Bill of Rights" prevail) over every other law, order, decree, fiat, or order issued or mandated by State, Local, Town or Association !

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