Counties must submit requests to governor before reopening vacation rentals

Vacation rental properties are still required to stay closed during phase one of Florida’s reopening plan, but the governor said Friday he will allow counties to submit applications to begin bookings again under a detailed safety plan.

“It’s going to be done on a case by case basis, but I am giving them the option of submitting a plan,” DeSantis said. “But the plans got to include how you’re gonna approach this, what are the safety precautions gonna be.”

Denis Hanks, the executive director of the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association, said they expected more from the governor.

“We have 26% of the entire U.S. market of vacation rentals right here in Florida. It's a $30 billion a year industry,” said Hanks.

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He said vacation property owners feel singled out since hotels are still operational.

“So we sent an email out right after the governor's announcement today to every county administrator in the entire state of Florida,” said Hanks, adding that he worries the county governments will take weeks to come up with a plan and further delay short-term rentals.

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Hanks said they shared potential guidelines for cleaning and sanitation in the email. He said some owners are taking extreme measures to get prepared.

“Some of our property managers in some of the big operations, they've gone out and they've bought thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment that's like fogging equipment to spray the homes and disinfect the homes,” said Hanks.

But as for who would be able to stay in the rentals, approval is up to the governor.

“If you tell me you’re gonna rent them out to people from New York City, I’m probably not going to approve that, OK?” said DeSantis.”If you’re saying that you’re gonna rent it out to people in other parts of Florida, that would be manageable. Or if there are other ways in there that clearly you have an eye to safety, then I’m fine.”

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Vacation rental leaders said they understand the concerns about hard-hit areas, but Hanks said they are getting calls from people in other states wondering why they can’t stay at the properties. He said they want to be trusted to reopen bookings in a safe way.

“We totally understand that, but the rest of the country wants to get out. People have booked trips months and months ago, and they want to come to Florida,” said Hanks.

FOX 13 reached out to Hillsborough and Pinellas County leaders to get their thoughts on the change, but both counties said they need a chance to discuss and may even wait for more details in an executive order.