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First Step to Re-Open Vacation Rentals Announced

Fla. banned short-term rentals on March 27, and while they remain closed, Gov. DeSantis suggested a re-opening and told counties to submit their safety plans to do so.

ORLANDO, Fla. – An announcement by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suggests that the state may allow vacation-rental homes to start operating again. DeSantis recommended that each Florida county submit a re-opening plan that balances a return of the vacation-rental business with appropriate safety protocols to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Many vacation-rental owners opposed the ban that went into effect on March 27 because other guest accommodations, notably hotels, could remain open. A lot of vacation-rental owners are small investors that own only one or a few properties, and the loss of income has proved challenging, especially for those who hold a mortgage on the unit.

To secure DBPR approval, a county administrator should submit a written request and the county’s safety plan to DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears electronically at: halsey.beshears@myfloridalicense.com.

DBPR created a suggested outline of concerns for counties developing a proposal to reopen vacation rentals, and a copy has been added to Florida Realtors’ coronavirus webpage.

Some counties quickly submitted their re-opening plans to Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, including a proposal by Escambia County. Once DBPR receives an application, DeSantis says the department will decide whether vacation rentals within that county’s borders can reopen. It’s unclear how long an approval process might take.

“If you tell me you’re going to rent them out to people from New York City, I’m probably not going to approve that, OK?” the governor said in announcing that short-term rental approval process. “If you’re saying that you’re going to rent it out to people in other parts of Florida or something that would be manageable, if there’s ways in there that clearly you have an eye to safety, then I’m fine.”

Denis Hanks, executive director of the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association, told the News Service of Florida that the approval process “could take weeks,” although a timeline for the process wasn’t announced.

The vacation-rental ban’s impact in Florida is largely unknown, though the industry has about 275,000 statewide listings. In some Panhandle counties, the number of vacation rentals is greater than the number of hotel rooms.

One group of investors even filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that the ban violated their constitutional rights, but a judge denied their case on May 8.

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