Vacation rental ban continues in Phase One of Florida’s reopening

The statewide ban on vacation rentals will continue in Phase One of Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ plan to reopen Florida.

For more than a month, guests have been unable to schedule vacation rentals through services like Airbnb or HomeAway. And with phase one, starting Monday, that won’t change — at least for another two weeks.

Earlier this month, DeSantis extended the vacation rental ban until Thursday. On Wednesday, the Governor issued a carryover order (Executive Order 20-111) that extends the ban until phase one begins on Monday, and another, 20-112, that carries the order through phase one.

The original order, issued March 27, (Executive Order 20-87) suspended vacation rentals in homes and condominiums. It did not apply to hotels, inns and resorts, and it did not apply to long-term rentals.

Vacation rentals have become popular with tourists and spring breakers, who have drawn DeSantis’ ire throughout the pandemic.

According to the order, “many cases of COVID-19 in Florida have resulted from individuals coming into the state from international travel and other states, posing great risk to Florida residents.”

Additionally, “vacation rentals and third-party platforms advertising vacation rentals in Florida present attractive lodging destinations for individuals coming into Florida.”

However, with spring break come on gone, DeSantis can’t point to college kids crowding beaches and taking body shots for why to close the rentals.

One of the reopening’s tenets calls for preventing new infections from travelers.

The Governor’s Re-Open Florida Task Force report suggests vacation rentals could open in phase two, but only to Florida residents. Anyone traveling internationally or from domestic hot spots couldn’t rent, according to a subsequent suggestion.

President Donald Trump‘s “Opening Up America Again” framework outlines at least two weeks between phases, and DeSantis seems set to follow a similar timeline. On Wednesday, he told reporters the second phase was hopefully weeks rather than months away.

With the Memorial Day weekend less than three weeks away from the beginning of phase one, vacation rentals will likely have limitations if there are not still closed.

As COVID-19 began spreading in the United States, the Governor ordered that people traveling from New York City, New Orleans and the surrounding areas self-isolate for 14 days upon entering the state, which he says reduced the number of plane trips from the New York area. The state also set up highway checkpoints at the border on Interstate 10 and Interstate 95.

Restaurant dining rooms and retail storefronts will be open to customers but limited to 25% capacity under phase one. The first phase also permits outdoor seating at restaurants, as long as tables are spaced 6 feet apart.

VISIT FLORIDA CEO Dana Young, who led the task force’s working group involving tourism, said she hoped Florida residents, who would be more likely to immediately take an in-state trip, could put that industry on a path to recovery.

On Friday, Pensacola-area Republican Matt Gaetz weighed-in on the vacation rental ban during a press conference alongside the Governor. The Florida Panhandle is more reliant on vacation rentals for tourism that more populous parts of the state.

“In Northwest Florida, we don’t have a 500-key hotel room every 1,000 feet,” he said, but added that he was confident in DeSantis’ “evidence-based, measured approach.”

However Denis Hanks, executive director of the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association, has asked the Governor to make data behind his vacation rental ban public.

“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,” Hanks said in a statement at the time of the mid-April extension.

Gaetz, an ally of the Governor, appeared to balance his political relationship to the man standing approximately six feet apart from him and his constituents. He offered the following advice to the cities and counties of Congressional District 1:

“If there are particular areas of advice or concern that you have, I would strongly encourage you to meet about those, discuss them in public, even pass resolutions regarding the conduct that you think our community is ready for.”

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