‘There’s no recourse’: Florida’s temporary ban on short-term rentals during COVID-19 pandemic spurs controversy, lawsuit

A battle is going on over Florida's temporary ban on short-term rentals.

ORLANDO, Fla. — A battle is going on over Florida’s temporary ban on short-term rentals.

Gov. Ron DeSantis put that ban in place at the end of March and has since extended the order indefinitely.

A federal lawsuit claims the ban is unfair, and violates property owners’ due process and constitutional rights. Others say the ban doesn’t go far enough due to a lack of active enforcement.

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If you search for a short-term rental online, you’ll find plenty of still-active listings in Florida.

The vacation-resort community of Terra Verde in Kissimmee has been the perfect place for Larry Ackerman to spend half the year. The property he owns allows him to be close to his daughter, WFTV reporter Sarahbeth Ackerman, before escaping the Florida heat each summer. During that time, he rents his property to tourists in town visiting the theme parks.

“We usually get a lot of traffic with vacationers coming in a week at a time,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman was forced to cancel his upcoming tenants, after DeSantis placed a ban on short-term rentals in late March.

But Terra Verde Homeowners Association board member Scott Coyle said not every property owner followed the rules.

“It's definitely on the honor system,” Coyle said. “We're seeing new renters coming in every day, every single day.”

The governor’s ban has been a source of controversy and is now the subject of a federal lawsuit. Some vacation property owners question why they’re prohibited from renting while hotels and resorts are still allowed to operate.

Rental owners said off-camera there is no incentive to take listings down, as there is little being done to enforce the ban.

“It’s being poorly handled by the government, and it’s a trickle down,” Coyle said. “There's no recourse to what's going on. What are they going to do, slap me on the wrist and say, ‘don't rent?’”

For Coyle and Ackerman, the concern isn’t about money. Rather, they worry strangers could come into their neighborhood and possibly bring coronavirus with them.

“People feel they're unsafe because they're walking around and feel like they could be exposed to something they shouldn't have,” Ackerman said.

There is also considerable money at stake. According to the lawsuit, one property management group claims they have lost more than $1 million in potential revenue since the ban went into place.

Channel 9 reached out to the governor’s office to see if he had a date in mind for rescinding the ban. So far, the office has not responded.

Several local families claim they lost thousands reserving summer rentals before the pandemic hit.