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Every year, Florida sits comfortably in the top five most visited states in America. It is so popular that often times it finishes only behind California as the number one state. From warm, tropical weather to Miami’s nightlife to the soul-crushing lines of Disney World, there are plenty of reasons why Florida is so popular amongst tourists. As the vacation rental market expands and challenges the tourism status quo, certain places have implemented rules and regulations to quell the growth. Vacation rentals are legal in Florida, but there are certain rules that people — hosts especially — should be aware of.
Vacation Rental Definition in Florida
As with most legal issues and questions, a lot comes down to semantics or jargon. This is also the case with vacation rentals. Florida law currently defines a vacation rental as “any unit or group of units in a condominium or cooperative or any individually or collectively owned single-family, two-family, or four-family house or dwelling unit that is also a transient public lodging establishment but that is not a timeshare project.” Florida then further distinguishes a vacation rental in two subcategories: dwelling and condo.
Short-Term Rental Requirements
In order to be legal, the state of Florida requires property managers or hosts to acquire a license. These can be obtained through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and their Vacation Rental and Timeshare Project Licensing division.
These are distributed amongst the two subcategories previously mentioned. A Vacation Rental – Condominium license is issued for a group of units or singular unit in a condominium complex or in a cooperative (more commonly referred to as a co-op). Meanwhile Vacation Rental – Dwelling licenses are awarded to a wide range of accommodations. According to the DBPR website, these include single-family houses, townhouses, or unit/group of units in a duplex, triplex, quadruplex, or other dwelling units that have four or fewer units collectively.
There are also Single, Group, and Collective licenses within the two main categories. These are based on the number of properties that a host represents. Singles are for one home, Group is to cover multiple units in one building, and a Collective is for someone who is a host for multiple units in multiple locations.
Upon receiving one of these licenses, a vacation rental can legally operate in the state of Florida on one of the many vacation rental provider websites.
When Do Hosts Need a License?
As a general rule of thumb, all hosts should assume they must have a license to operate a short-term rental in Florida. Florida requires that anyone renting an entire unit for more than three times in a calendar year, for periods of less than 30 days or 1 month, must acquire a license. But don’t think there are any loopholes in those time periods as they also say if the property is advertised anywhere or regularly rented exclusively to the public it also needs a license.
The one place where hosts can find an exception is with the phrase “entire unit”. If hosts rent a single room or multiple units that do not comprise of the entire unit, then that place is not considered to be public lodging. The Florida DBPR and the Division of Hotels and Restaurants do not require these rentals to get a license because of this classification.
Once obtained, vacation rentals must maintain certain standards to be able to continually keep their license. First, the place that is licensed must display those current licenses in an obvious place within the “business”. The other requirements almost all are related to hygiene and cleanliness. These include that the unit must be in good condition, bedding is clean and sanitized between uses, mattresses are entirely covered by sheets or blankets, soaps should be individually wrapped if provided, the unit is vermin-free, and any dishes or glassware must be cleaned between guests. Failure to comply with any of these could lead to the revoking of a license.
According to Floridian laws, there are ways for property owners to be eligible for a tax exemption of $50,000. This happens often when the property is declared to be a permanent residence or the permanent residence of a dependent. If this is the case, these stipulations could have an impact on a property’s vacation rental status.
The laws outlined in this article are in reference to general statewide laws in Florida. Hosts and property owners should, however, refer to their local government’s requirements to understand if there are any additional requirements to operate a short-term rental. This is not totally uncommon. For example, up until mid-2018, vacation rentals were illegal in Orlando. However, now under certain municipal and local regulations, they are able to function legally.
Guests who book vacation rentals in Florida via booking websites are required to pay certain taxes as a part of the reservation costs. Companies like Airbnb will collect and remit these Tourism Development Taxes for their hosts, but only in certain counties. Hosts should be aware if they are not in one of these counties, they need to arrange the taxes themselves and self-report.