March 25, 2019
by Heather Curry
Recently, the Jacksonville Record published an editorial condemning a Senate bill that would protect individuals’ right to responsibly rent their homes to overnight guests. While home-sharing is as Floridian as Key lime pie, the Record bizarrely declares that a bill that protects property rights while allowing cities to punish bad actors somehow “wreaks havoc on neighborhoods.”
Unfortunately, the Record would prefer local governments be able to overregulate or eliminate home-sharing entirely, depriving thousands of Floridians of the supplemental income that is often used to pay for mortgages and medical bills. This position is not popular among Florida residents—instead, a recent poll from Mason-Dixon shows that 93 percent of Floridians support home-sharing. These residents recognize that home-sharing offers more choices and lower prices for visitors, provides income for homeowners, and drives tourist dollars to local economies. It is no surprise that home-sharing is increasingly popular in Florida.
The Record takes the position that SB 824’s effort to protect property rights is an infringement on “local control”—an effort by the state of Florida to undermine the ability of localities to respond to the unique needs of their communities. On the contrary, SB 824 and its companion bill in the House reinforce the ability of local governments to focus on their most vital jobs: protecting quiet, clean, and safe neighborhoods. These bills balance the important local role of enforcing nuisance rules with the responsibility of the state to protect Floridians’ individual rights, including private property rights.
Florida’s state legislators are right to act to protect the fundamental rights of their citizens, and they are not alone in this effort. In 2017, Arizona passed landmark legislation to protect home-sharing, and several states have since followed suit, with many states actively considering the same action. Just this month, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts signed LB 57, a similar home-sharing bill that passed the state legislature with unanimous bipartisan support. These states recognize that the best way to regulate home-sharing is to allow cities to prevent homeowners and their guests from committing nuisances, while protecting the rights of responsible homeowners to rent their homes, regardless of the duration of the rental.
The Record breathlessly declares that there should be “hundreds of sets of rules, based on locality.” But local governments already have a variety of tools at their disposal to ensure that their communities remain safe, quiet, and clean. These tools exist to manage the kind of neighborhood challenges that can arise regardless of whether occupants are long-term or short-term renters, and they include ordinances to manage nuisance complaints as well as parking enforcement measures. Regulations that respond to legitimate health and safety regulations can be tailored to fit the specific needs of a community, and should be. But those rules should be applied the same to everyone who is causing problems. What local governments cannot do under SB 824 is needlessly and arbitrarily discriminate against Floridians who use their private property for home-sharing.
Further, the editorial takes issue with the idea that residential properties should be treated equally when it comes to regulation and oversight by local governments. This position suggests that the types of activity, like sleeping and eating, that occur in a short-term rental are fundamentally different from the very same types of activity that occur in a long-term rental. As such, localities want the option to require short-term rentals to meet a different standard for health and safety than they would require from homes not used for short-term rentals. This double standard often manifests in expensive and invasive additional requirements (like decibel monitors) that serve only to discourage residents from opening their homes to travelers. Rather than punish responsible home-owners with arbitrary regulations, cities should utilize the tools they have to respond to bad actors.
Florida’s vibrant tourist economy benefits when travelers have more options, and home-sharing Floridians benefit when the rules are clear and consistent across the state. Lawmakers in Tallahassee are right to pursue the type of measured approach offered by SB 824, protecting homeowners while still empowering local governments to maintain the quality of life for all residents.
Heather Curry is the Director of Strategic Engagement at the Goldwater Institute.