This is something a lot of people will want to keep an eye on. It’s an issue that will impact many of you both on Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel. There are several bills creeping through the Senate and House in Tallahassee that will give the state more control over how vacation rentals are regulated.
The state wants to require online platforms such as Airbnb to pay a tax on vacation rental properties so that only licensed rentals are advertised. Those paying that tax will have to provide the state with specific information about the rentals. In turn, the state would be in charge of regulating the rentals, taking that responsibility away from local governments such as the Town of Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel. On Fort Myers Beach now, vacation rental homes are everywhere, mixing in with year-round residents, in nearly every residential neighborhood.
The new state law would only allow local governments to regulate the rentals the same way they would any other property in neighborhoods. Local governments say they need to be able to regulate vacation rentals differently to prevent party houses, mini-hotels and commercial operations in residential neighborhoods.
Some lawmakers believe when people buy these homes they should be able to operate them as they see fit. In some cases, they’re investments that provide them with income during their retirement years. And, some homeowners agree that they are entitled to the same rights as their neighbors and shouldn’t be regulated differently.
If the state does end up regulating vacation rentals it would fall under the Division of Hotels and Restaurants.
The proposed bill would do away with ordinances regulating short-term rentals adopted after June 1, 2011, so the town council on Fort Myers Beach is being patient, making sure not to monkey with its own ordinances that may have been approved before 2011, which would grandfather them in.
Sanibel Vice Mayor Holly Smith is spearheading the effort on behalf of the Sanibel City Council to write a letter to send to lawmakers to voice their concerns with this legislation. She’s called Fort Myers Beach Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros asking the Fort Myers Beach town council to do the same, which they plan to do.
We have put a request in to have Representative Adam Botana on our show next Saturday to discuss this issue. He’s responded that he will confirm yes or no this Monday.