Florida governor DeSantis sued over “unfair” vacation rental ban

US: A lawsuit has been filed against Florida governor Ron DeSantis in a federal district court by property managers and owners who say a ban on vacation rentals in the state “violates” their equal protection and due process rights, as well as their rights detailed in the contracts clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Governor DeSantis signed the executive 20-87 closure order for vacation rentals on 27 March, however it currently exempts other lodging alternatives including “hotels, motels, inns, resorts, non-transient public lodging establishments, or time share projects”. The ban has since been renewed twice but has now been extended indefinitely under DeSantis’ Plan for Florida’s Recovery.

The plaintiffs who brought the claim said that the governor did not have the necessary legal authority to revoke owners’ rental licences without due process, and that it had violated their equal protection rights and First Amendment rights set out in the country’s constitution. They have also brought a free speech claim, arguing that vacation rentals should not be banned if hotels and other lodging options are authorised to remain open.

Meanwhile, a week after launching its SafeHome programme with the Vacation Rental Housing Professionals [VRHP], the Vacation Rental Management Association [VRMA] has coordinated a grassroots advocacy campaign to protest against the ban.

The campaign, which is seeking to gather support from property managers and suppliers across the state, has brought in Smart City Policy Group founder Matt Curtis and Coletta Consulting president Tiffany Edwards to work alongside Rented.com CCO, VRMA board member and Government Affairs Committee chair, Cliff Johnson, to lead the campaign against DeSantis’ decision.

Earlier this month, VRMA president Toby Babich sent out a letter to all elected officials in Florida to ask for equal treatment and economic assistance for vacation rental property managers and owners. He said such properties should be allowed to reopen and not have any unwarranted restrictions, and encouraged other VRMA members and vacation rental housing advocates to write similar letters to the governor.

In a statement, the VRMA said its grassroots efforts include:

  • Bi-weekly calls with key industry stakeholders to better coordinate efforts and provide consistent messaging
  • Organising property managers to send letters with regionally based labour data and business disruption statistics
  • Organising letter campaign with panhandle small businesses dependent on vacation rental tourism
  • Cooperating with elected officials to gather additional data to assist the cause.
  • Coordinating letters from tourist development councils, city and county commissioners
  • Coordinating with VRMA member companies, KeyData and InhabitIQ, are providing data bookings to respond and address inequalities of Florida Task Force recommendations.

Governor DeSantis issued a statement through his office: “Vacation rentals will be reopened as soon as the safety and well-being of Florida residents can be best assured.”