Q&A of the Day – Should Florida regulate vacation rentals like Airbnb?

Q&A of the Day – Should Florida or local communities regulate vacation rentals like Airbnb?

It’s the Q&A of the day. Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Facebook: Brian Mudd https://www.facebook.com/brian.mudd1

Today’s question was submitted by a local Mayor…

The state is trying to preempt local municipalities and the authority that the legislature grated to them as a constitutional authority under home rule. HB 987 Preempts local municipalities from regulating short term vacation rentals. You can talk all you want about having consistency in a state wide regulation, the problem is the state government has created a process that requires state licensing and oversight. They have yet to show that they can do that. Second, the state likes to say that the prohibition of short-term rentals is both discriminatory and represents a taking under constitutional law. 

The Supreme Court of Florida has already established that zoning is a constitutionally accepted authority of local municipalities to protect the quality of life in their communities. I would welcome short term rentals into my community as an opportunity to bring additional revenue to my community. I also have the obligation, however, to protect the residents from commercial operations that are increasing in local neighborhoods. If the state viewed the municipalities as the incubators of ideas instead of adversaries, we could figure the issue out. Thanks for your attention to this issue.

Brian, as you can tell this is a passionate issue with me. It represents fundamental constitutional rights.

Bottom Line: This topic/debate is as much philosophical as it is structural. Do you believe the state of Florida should regulate the vacation rental industry, companies like Airbnb, or should local governments? The arguments are pretty much like this. If you’re the operating companies... How do you learn to comply with potentially every municipality applying different standards on how to operate your service? If you’re an advocate for local regulations, as cited by the mayor in today's Q&A, you want to ensure a quality of life in your community that you feel might be challenged by residential properties suddenly being turned into defacto commercial enterprises. I have a lot of experience on both ends of the spectrum.

I’ve operated businesses in multiple locations including one of the most restrictive in the country (Historic Savannah) and know what it’s like to have restrictions aimed specifically at one’s business. At the same time, I live in a historic district and appreciate the character and quality of life associated with the district. As with most things in life I believe the key to be balance. In this case it’s balancing newer technology and business solutions with quality of life. Personally, do I want someone operating Airbnb next to where I live? No. I get the sense many local governments feel that way as well. I also believe there’s a solid case to be made in commercial zoning being a determining factor. But here’s the thing – are there people operating commercial enterprises out of residential properties all throughout South Florida right now, including X number of ride-sharing operators.Where’s the justification not to enforce zoning for some businesses/industries and not others? That’s where I have concerns and issues with local governments picking and choosing “winners and losers”.  

In researching this topic, I couldn’t even get an accurate count of South Florida cities that have taken enforcement action based on local regs. Additionally, we’ve had conflicting court rulings with enforcement action even in the same city (Miami). It becomes unmanageable from a business perspective at a certain point. If you’re Airbnb and every city in the country has different rules and regs how is it sustainable/manageable? 

But just as cities and the taxi industry fought to suppress the ride-sharing services originally, and lost, this too will be a long-term losing battle for those who attempt to fight it in my opinion. If municipalities were consistent in the application of zoning restrictions, I might feel differently. Instead, state consensus regulated and enforced consistently has the appearance of being the most reasonable to balance the concerns of municipalities with a sustainable business model that’s desired by operators and customers alike. Also, there’s nothing that says that you won’t get exactly what you’d like to see from a statewide resolution to the issue.

I’m not saying it’s perfect and I don’t expect all to agree but if there’s going to be a company like Airbnb operating in Florida – it currently makes the most sense to me from a businesses and personal perspective. 

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