Florida is home to the largest number of residents living in a community association.
Some 10 million homeowners live in neighborhoods with community associations and are protected by time-honored, deed restrictions adopted by a majority and, in some cases, a super-majority vote of those who pay the bills and will be most impacted by them — homeowners.
These homeowners voluntarily pay more than $2 billion every year to protect their quality of life, home values and property rights through enforcement and compliance through deed restrictions.
Now, renting out one’s home or a bedroom on a short-term basis is nothing new. However, our laws have not kept up. In fact, Florida actually went the other way to benefit those who exploit home-sharing as for-profit, commercial businesses under the false pretense of "property rights.”
And guess where those unregulated, commercial businesses with no offices are headquartered?
Right inside Florida’s neighborhoods.
Mark Anderson (Photo: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO FROM MARK ANDERSON)
These unregulated businesses then went even further and convinced our Legislature to remove what little oversight that existed — with some exceptions for cities who had existing rules — leaving our neighborhoods exposed as a last line of defense against unregulated proliferation of these commercial businesses.
Our neighborhoods, in many cases, changed almost overnight.
A buyer’s market is a good thing, but in neighborhoods, the opposite happened.
While some associations already had protections in place, many did not. Those which did not amended their covenants to halt further proliferation of these commercial businesses inside their neighborhoods, and those efforts continue to this day.
In the 2018 legislative session, some of these commercial operators tried to remove any local government or neighborhood oversight. The Florida Legislature thankfully sided with homeowners and rejected this idea.
However, this year, some lawmakers are backing bills to remove the last vestiges of the few remaining local rules in place to protect the public. These bills unequivocally state that constitutional “property rights” apply to anyone who chooses to rent their home, or multiple homes or hundreds of homes by the night, with no regard for the rules they agreed to comply with.
They say that because vacation rentals are "residential in nature,” they therefore are permitted to exist in our neighborhoods, again, with no acknowledgment of the rights of millions of our fellow Floridians who contractually agreed to play by the rules.
At best, these bills — House Bill 987 and Senate Bill 824 — create confusion and conflict with adopted or yet-to-be adopted protections for our neighborhoods, forcing our associations to increase costs by hiring pricey lawyers to defend the rights of their homeowners.
At worst, these bills violate deed restrictions for an entire neighborhood by allowing anyone who owns a home — or hundreds of homes they don’t live in — to disregard the rules, which they, as a homeowner, legally agreed to comply with.
This is wrong for our homeowners, our economy and our state.
Ten million Florida homeowners who vote, who pay their taxes and pay even more to protect their way of life are depending on our Legislators to stand up, once again, for them and oppose these bills.
And they will be watching.
Mark Anderson is executive director of the Chief Executive Officers of Management Companies, representing management of more than 14,000 homeowners associations, more than 18,000 managers, and more than 6 million homeowners.