Short-term home rentals and safe neighborhoods can coexist

April 27, 2017 | By MARK MILLER

When Americans think of Florida, they think of sun, sand and vacation. The old state tourism jingle, “When you need it bad, we got it good — come to Florida!” still rings true. Millions of tourists descend on our state each year. And when those tourists come to Florida, they need a place to stay. More and more, those places to stay are the homes of individuals who rent their homes out on a short-term basis.

For this reason, it is good to see state Rep. Mike La Rosa (R-St. Cloud) propose HB 425, a bill that allows homeowners to offer their homes to visitors as short-term rentals. His bill, which recently passed a House subcommittee, is a much needed step to protect private property rights.

Home-sharing is a longstanding tradition in the Sunshine State. The Internet has enabled homeowners and travelers to connect better than ever before, and online home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb and Homeaway help thousands of Floridians rent rooms or houses to help pay their bills. Twenty-one percent of Florida homeowners use rental income to pay for their child’s education, 70 percent of owners use income for renovations or upgrades, and 11 percent save for retirement. According to a recent poll from Mason and Dixon, 93 percent of Floridians support home-sharing.

Yet a growing number of cities in Florida are trying to ban short-term rentals, sticking homeowners with astronomical fines and penalties. Recently, the City of Miami Beach voted to impose fines of $20,000 on home-sharers, among the heftiest fines in the country. These regulations inflict untold costs on communities, destroy opportunities for homeowners to improve their local economies by renting to people who will patronize local businesses, and punish the responsible majority of property owners for the potential wrongs of a few.