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Florida Vacation Rentals Remain Off Limits, And Property Owners Are Struggling

Property owners and people who are employed by the short-term rental business are seeing the negative effects of a Florida order suspending their services.
Property owners and people who are employed by the short-term rental business are seeing the negative effects of a Florida order suspending their services.

Last week, Gov. Ron De Santis extended an executive order suspending short-term vacation rentals because of COVID-19. Short-term renting will not be allowed until at least April 30.

The order only restricts the opening of homes and condominiums, not hotels, inns, and resorts. Long-terms rentals are also allowed. This has sparked a negative reaction among homeowners who rent their places to tourists and who have been greatly affected by the new rules. 

“While we understand the public safety approach to this emergency order and extension, we do have some serious concerns as the only hospitality sector singled out and restricted by its implementation,” said David Hanks, Executive Director of the .

“In the meantime, hotels...airports, and other lodging and transportation providers continue to operate without restrictions of this nature despite them posing a higher risk of spreading the virus.” 

According to Hanks, people are still traveling within Florida, so he feels vacation rentals are being singled out.  

“Those bookings are still coming to Florida, they are just going to another lodging, so they're going to hotels or other facilities. So (DeSantis' order) is not stopping people from coming to Florida,” said Hanks. “It's only redirecting them once they get to Florida.”

People employed by the industry are seeing effects. Property managers are losing thousands of dollars each day due to cancellations of bookings. Due to the restrictions, they cannot take new customers unless they are emergency personnel.

According to Hanks, 85% of their places are vacant statewide. As a consequence, some of the larger companies have had to lay off their staff, while some of the small businesses that are integrated into the vacation rental industry have also been negatively affected.

“A property manager who manages 25 to 30 homes is going to hire a local contractor, they are going to hire a local landscaper, they are going to hire a local cleaning crew. So they are going to hire all these other small businesses too,” said Hanks. “So it’s really a big impact in the community when you tell all those little companies and all those businesses and all the employees ‘Sorry, we don’t need you anymore, there are no bookings.’”

He also argues that vacation rentals are a safer alternative to hotels during the coronavirus. In separate houses and condominiums, it is easier for people to follow the CDC guidelines, isolate with their families, and follow social distancing rules. 

“You're secluded in the home and you're not sharing all these services. So even if there's a pool with the vacation rental, you're sharing it just with your family in the home,” said Hanks. “Where pools and game rooms or even fitness facilities in a hotel, they're all shared services and everybody's touching those, and you're not able to stay in your residence.”

“Most of them (hotels) don't have any cooking facilities, so you're going down and using the restaurant, or you're picking things up. And you always have to be in and out of your room where other people are residing as well,” added Hanks.

He also believes that reopening vacation rentals would help people who have been in quarantine for a long time and want a change of scenery. 

“I think he (DeSantis) needs to open it up so that Florida residents that want to go stay in a vacation [home] or somewhere else, that they should be able to go and move from one side of the state to the other if they want,” he said. “Some people are stuck at home with their kids, they can't leave. And if they want to rent another home somewhere else and watch the sunset every night over the beach, they should be allowed to do that.

“We're not saying that they should be allowed to do anything more than anyone else, just that that should be an option to them if that's what they want.”

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Angela Cordoba Perez is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for the spring 2020 semester. Currently, she is a sophomore at USF majoring in mass communications and completing a minor in psychology.