Tag: Vacationrental

Gov. DeSantis’ vacation-rental ban challenged

Property owners and a vacation-rental management company have filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis, accusing him of violating their constitutional rights by shutting down vacation rentals during the public health crisis caused by COVID-19.

The lawsuit “seeks to protect and vindicate fundamental liberties that citizens of the United States enjoy free from government interference” and asks a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order or injunction prohibiting enforcement of the Governor’s order.

DeSantis issued a March 27 executive order that blocked people from renting vacation properties during the public health emergency, but he allowed hotels, motels, inns, resorts and time-share facilities to stay open.

DeSantis said the vacation-rental ban was necessary to discourage people from other states, such as COVID-19 “hotspots” Louisiana and New York, from traveling to the Sunshine State and spreading the highly contagious disease. The ban, which also prohibited advertising of rental opportunities during the duration of the order, includes an exception allowing vacation rentals for military, emergency and health workers.

The executive order was set to expire, but the Governor last week extended the vacation-rental ban indefinitely.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Tampa, identifies the plaintiffs as Galen and Wendy Alsop, a retired military couple who live in Destin and own a short-term rental property in the Panhandle city; Florida Beach Rentals, LLC, a Clearwater Beach company that manages more than 200 rental properties; Mike McGrath, a Clearwater Beach resident who owns two short-term rental properties; Paul Gasner, a Pasco County resident who owns four rental properties; and Panama City Beach resident Mark Peery, whose “whole work is renting his privately owned 21 individual units and the 150 weeks of time-share rights he owns” in a Panama City Beach high-rise.

DeSantis’ executive order also instructed the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation to “take steps necessary to inspect properties or third-party platforms whereby Florida vacation rentals may be advertised.” Parties that violate the ban risk losing their vacation-rental licenses or being charged with second-degree misdemeanors.

But the lawsuit accuses DeSantis of exceeding his authority with the order. Florida laws concerning states of emergency do not give the Governor the authority to “unilaterally revoke rental licenses without any due process,” lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in Thursday’s 39-page complaint.

The property owners and management company allege that the vacation-rental ban violates due-process, equal-protection and other constitutional rights.

Galen Alsop, a retired Air Force pilot, and his wife Wendy estimated they will lose between $70,000 and $80,000 by August “due to discriminatory, irrational and unequal restrictions from the Governor’s overreaching fiat,” the complaint says. Nineteen of Alsop’s former squadmates are in the same situation, according to the lawsuit.

Florida Beach Rentals alleges the company has lost over $1.5 million in business since the ban went into effect.

“Such losses continue on a daily basis during the enforcement of this ban and order,” Tampa lawyers Patrick Leduc and Craig Huffman, who represent the plaintiffs, wrote.

The ban also has

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Vacation-rental agencies asked to halt bookings for Pitkin County, Aspen properties | News

After receiving information that some people recently booked vacation rentals in the area and then sought medical treatment for coronavirus-like symptoms, Pitkin County’s Incident Management Team reiterated on Tuesday that the latest public health order bans short-term lodging.

Those who violate the order could face misdemeanor charges leading to fines and/or jail time. Officials also contacted vacation-rental agencies VRBO and Airbnb to inform them not to accept nonresident bookings of short-term rentals within county boundaries. 

“We’ve gotten some information recently to lead us to believe that there are still some companies accepting short-term rentals and reservations, like VRBO and Airbnb. We’ve issued a letter to both of those companies today to ask that they stop accepting them per the Pitkin County public health order,” said Alex Burchetta, IMT spokesperson and chief deputy of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.

“Specifically, they are not to accept any new reservations and they are to cancel any existing reservations,” he continued. “The intent there is to allow nonresidents of Pitkin County to return to their primary [place] of residence.” 

Burchetta said the county doesn’t have the capacity from a public health and safety standpoint to handle an influx of visitors.

“As much as we love them … we love having you here, but just not now,” he said. 

Being at an elevation of around 8,000 feet puts undue stress on a person’s immune system and health, he said. Small and less-noticeable illnesses can be exacerbated by the altitude. While the area has excellent health care providers and systems, would-be visitors might have access to a wider range of health services within their own communities, Burchetta said.

Section L of Pitkin County’s public health order issued on March 23 states, “There shall be no new bookings or reservations during the pendency of this Order. Furthermore, current reservations for the timeframe anticipated in this Order shall be cancelled for all short-term lodging, including but not limited to hotels, motels, short-term rentals (30 days or less), bed and breakfast establishments, lodges and retreats.”

Burchetta said officials were alerted by Aspen Valley Hospital doctors that nonresidents who recently booked vacation rentals in Aspen sought treatment Monday of “some symptoms” not necessarily associated with COVID-19. 

He said he didn’t know how many people were involved in presenting those symptoms to the hospital. Even if it were just two people who got short-term rentals since the order was issued, “it still represents two too many,” Burchetta said. 

“We started [notifications] with the global short-term rental market” like VRBO and Airbnb, he said. “Pitkin County and the Colorado mountain communities are not a place of refuge as they are most other times of the year. …We don’t have the ability to handle the increased capacity.”

Those who fail to comply with provisions of the order, including the mandate banning short-term vacation lodging, may be subject to misdemeanor charges and fines of up to $5,000 and/or up to 18 months of jail time.

“We’re just trying to reinforce [the order],”

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