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Florida takes first steps toward reopening short-term rentals

  • May 19, 2020 | Jennifer Sokolowsky

Smathers Beach, Florida Keys

Governor Ron DeSantis has announced that Florida counties may submit proposals for reopening short-term rentals, which the state will consider on a case-by-case basis. Those proposals must address safety procedures designed to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

“If you tell me you’re going to rent them out to people from New York City, I’m probably not going to approve that,” DeSantis said May 15. “If you’re saying that, you know, you’re going to rent it out to people in other parts of Florida or something that would be manageable or if there’s ways in there that clearly you have an eye to safety, then I’m fine.”

Escambia County has already submitted a proposal to the state. That plan would bar reservations from international travelers and guests from U.S. COVID-19 hotspots identified by the governor, including New York and New Orleans. Reservations would be allowed from U.S. states with a COVID-19 case rate of less than 700 cases per 100,000 residents, as of May 15. Franklin County is working on a draft proposal for reopening vacation rentals there.

DeSantis shut vacation rentals down March 27, and extended the order through the first phase of the state’s reopening plan. The state moved on to its Full Phase 1 plan May 18. Hotels, motels, inns, and other short-term accommodations have been allowed to stay open.

The short-term rental shutdown includes some exemptions, including rentals to guests working as part of military, emergency, government, health, or infrastructure response, as well as travelers engaged in non-vacation commercial activities.

The governor was recently sued by a group of short-term rental operators who said the ban violates due process, equal protection, and other constitutional rights. 

Communities plan vacation rental reopening in California, Oregon, Maryland

Meanwhile, communities within other states continue to lift restrictions on vacation rentals, particularly in coastal resort areas.

In California, San Bernardino County, near Joshua Tree National Park, has given short-term rentals the go-ahead to resume operations. The county recommends operators sanitize between guests and only rent to guests from the same household. Vacation rentals will be able to reopen in Newport Beach on May 20, with a required minimum stay of three nights.

However, the California city of South Lake Tahoe is getting tougher on violators of its short-term rental ban. Both short-term rental hosts and guests may be fined $1,000 for violating the state’s stay-at-home order. So far, two vacation rental hosts have been cited and fined.

Several communities in Oregon are lifting restrictions on short-term rentals, including: 

And in Maryland, Ocean City allowed short-term rentals to reopen May 14, following the end of the state’s stay-at-home order.


Lodging tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Avalara Author
Jennifer Sokolowsky
Avalara Author Jennifer Sokolowsky
Jennifer Sokolowsky writes about tax, legal, and tech topics. She has an extensive international background in journalism and marketing, including work with The Seattle Times, The Prague Post, Avvo, and Marriott.

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