Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, explains his vacation rental bill to the Government Operations and Technical Appropriations Committee. (Photo: Jeffrey Schweers)

Private property rights at center of vacation rental regulation debate

Miles Conway bought what he thought was a secluded slice of paradise on Hutchinson Island just over the Indian River County line. But the unspoiled barrier island is being ruined by a wave of unregulated vacation rental properties, he said.

These unlicensed and unregulated vacation rentals are popping up on both sides of the Indian River Lagoon, he said.

“They’re here on the island because it’s an attractive vacation spot,” he said.

Local governments vary on their ability to control these unlicensed venues. By law they are supposed to register with the Division of Hotels and Restaurants in the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The regulation of vacation homes was usurped by the state in 2011, with the exception of about 75 existing local ordinances that were grandfathered in.

In 2014, the Legislature narrowed the scope of the preemption by preventing local governments from prohibiting or regulating the duration or frequency of vacation rentals, but let stand ordinances that were in effect before 2011.

A bill sponsored by Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, would eliminate the grandfathered communities as well. The bill had a second hearing before the Government Operations and Technology Appropriations subcommittee Monday and was voted out 9-2.

It stops at the Commerce Committee next, before going to the House floor.

The discussion came down to property rights – those of the homeowners who are full-time community members vs. those of the property owners renting out their homes on a regular basis.

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