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Vacation rentals take double whammy

April 1, 2020
By NATHAN MAYBERG ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

With the beaches closed in Lee County, the vacation rental business was already taking a financial hit by the time Gov. Ron DeSantis put a temporary two-week ban on vacation rentals in an emergency order issued March 27.

On March 30, the Fort Myers Beach Council took it a step further by putting a 90-day ban on all commercial lodging operations in town during an emergency meeting.

For Rick Loughrey, president of Fort Myers Beach-based Distinctive Beach Rentals, the governor's ban "took too long to take effect." Loughrey said his rental agency stopped taking reservations earlier that week, a few days after the beach ban went into effect. "We felt it was best for our community."

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On Fort Myers Beach, vacation rental signs are everywhere and are a substantial portion of the residental market. There will be no vacation rentals allowed in Fort Myers Beach for the next two weeks to three months.


Vacation rentals are big business on Fort Myers Beach and they make up a large percentage of the total residential parcels in town. Signs advertising vacation rentals line up many of the town's streets. The town also keeps a registry for short-term vacation rentals.

Loughrey said his company owns close to 400 properties on the island. There are about a half a dozen properties where the guests were scheduled to check out this week. A couple others were extended due to extenuating circumstances. "They can't leave," Loughrey said. Another guest is approximately 80 years old and has been unable to return to New York.

The range for a typical vacation renter ranges from one week to the whole season, Loughrey said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a temporary ban for two weeks on all new vacation rentals as part of his latest response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ban on vacation rentals prohibits any such commerce involving guests who have checked in after March 28. Those who checked in by March 28 will be allowed to stay in their vacation rentals.

The order calls on all parties engaged in rental of vacation rental properties to suspend vacation rental operations. "Vacation rentals are prohibited from making new reservations or bookings and shall not accept new guests for check-in for the duration of this order."

Vacation rentals are defined as the rental of any "house, condominium, cooperative, or dwelling unit that is also a transient public lodging establishment" for less than 30 days or one calendar month. The order would extend to Airbnb rentals.

The order exempted long-term rentals, hotels, motels, inns, resorts, non-transient public lodging establishments or time share projects. That became mute when the Fort Myers Beach Council acted March 30 to ban any new reservations at all commercial lodging establishments.

The governor's order made exemptions for any rentals to travelers engaged in non-vacation commercial activities, people performing military, emergency, governmental, health or infrastructure response.

DeSantis said on Friday at a press conference that he does not intend at this time to issue any shelter-in-place orders, saying he would leave it up to localities to decide.

In nearby Sanibel all rental establishments, including hotels, were ordered to stop accepting reservations of anybody who checks in after Saturday. Existing guests will be allowed to stay for the duration of their reservation.



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