Vacation rental bill flies through Tallahassee

Bill pits neighbors against neighbors
Posted at 5:55 PM, Apr 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-25 17:57:53-04

A new law that will allow your neighbors to rent out their homes as vacation properties is flying through Tallahassee.

The final Senate subcommittee passed the bill (SB 188) onto a full senate vote Tuesday, after the House's three subcommittees passed their companion bill (HB 425).

The new law could directly impact you. 

It allows homeowners to rent their homes as often, and for however long, as they'd like. It also supersedes any local regulations created by cities, towns and counties after 2011. 

It's terrible news for Bed and Breakfast owners struggling to stay in business as Airbnb operates all around them with fewer regulations. 

Ed Caldwell did something this week that he never wanted to do. He hung a “For Sale” sign outside his beloved St Petersburg Dickens House Bed and Breakfast, “Now that it’s staring me in the face it’s real.”

After 17 years in business, he says the lack of government regulation around his competition on sites like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway, has created unfair advantages for homeowners renting out their bedrooms. It has sucked the life out of his business, which is heavily regulated.

“I cannot survive government stealing my business,” Caldwell explained.

Soon, things could get worse for bed and breakfasts. Two bills flying through Tallahassee would rule in favor of homeowners like Tony Ruth, who’s fixing up his Indian Rocks Beach home to rent to vacationers. “The idea of having someone stop me from doing that with my own home seems a little on the silly side,” Ruth explained.

The law would give Ruth and other homeowners the ability to rent their homes out more, with fewer restrictions. 

That’s dreadful news for Redington Beach homeowner Steve Fields. An investor bought the sprawling beach mansion next door and rents it out nearly every night. Often the crowds get so rowdy, that he's forced to call the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. “They feel like I’m ruining their vacation and I feel like they’re ruining my life,” he said with a sigh.

It’s a debate pitting neighbors against neighbors. While Ruth tries to make extra cash to support his family, that leniency is putting Caldwell out of business.

“Government has stabbed me in the back and kicked me to the curb,” Caldwell added.

The new vacation rental law would also put leaders in Tallahassee in charge of what’s happening at the house next door.