Even though the ban has ended, most Florida vacation rental owners are reeling from the losses incurred because of the actions of Governor Ron Desantis. We must remember the legislature had no say in his Executive orders, and the actions were from one man to control our livelihood and illegally take our property.
While the lawsuit filed in Tampa by a group (whom we have been in communication with) sought to end the ban on vacation rentals, our suit seeks to recover our lost revenue from the illegal taking of our property.
On May 13, a 2nd letter was sent to the Governor mapping out our statutory cause of action based on Section 252.36(5)(d). Section 252.36(5)(d) of Florida law states that the Governor has powers to utilize private property, but it comes with a price that the taxpayers will have to pay. The law states as follows:
"In addition to any other powers conferred upon the Governor by law, she or he may:
(d) Subject to any applicable requirements for compensation under s. 252.43, commandeer or utilize any private property if she or he finds this necessary to cope with the emergency.
While Chapter 252 does contain this provision granting the Governor power to utilize the private prope1iy, the legislature has clearly stated within the law that such utilization comes with the price of paying compensation under Section 252.43. Section 252.43 states as follows:
(1) Compensation for services or for the taking or use of property shall be owed only to the extent that a claimant may not be deemed to have volunteered her or his services or property without compensation and only to the extent that such taking exceeds the legal responsibility of a claimant to render such services or make such property so available.
(2) Compensation for property shall be owed only if the property was commandeered or otherwise used in coping with an emergency and its use or destruction was ordered by the Governor or a member of the emergency forces of this state.
Those who have had the most invested and the most risk associated with owning vacation rentals were the ones who have been hurt the most. Many owners make a living off their vacation rental property investments.
We (Teeming Vacation Rentals) have spent over $20,000 in the past few months protecting our rights to rent. We have had to respond to numerous complaints from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (for renting in compliance with the ban). In the past 4 years, we have spent more than $100,000 doing the same confronting rogue condo association boards and cities that arbitrarily make up “rules” to deter rentals in their communities.
Litigation is very costly. And you never know the end result. It can be an expensive endeavor. We are still attempting to raise enough capital to continue our fight. If you have not been involved in filing a lawsuit before, most of the work is in your argument (filing). That is the basis for your claims. So, in a case like this, where we are asking a judge to rule on the law, much of the work and costs are upfront. Hence, we still need additional funds to continue.
Our Freedom to exercise our right to own or run a business of vacation rentals is not free. Like most things in life, it comes with a cost. Thankfully, this is only a monetarily one. Please join us in the fight.
Our attorney has also posted an update on their website. Robert Anthony Attorney Website
(Please feel free to share this campaign with any other vacation rental property owners.)
Link to VRMIntel Article with Letter to Florida Governor
Link to VRMIntel Article about this effort
VRMIntel is the leading trade website and magazine for the vacation rental industry.
Link to our Attorney, Robert Anthony’s page giving additional information.
Robert Anthony Attorney Website
The VRMIntel link above was recently published highlighting the letter that was sent to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody and arrived at their office on April 29, 2020. On that same day, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-112 (attached). This order continues the prohibition of vacation rentals in perpetuity. There is no set duration, end date, or object standard for expiration. Our property rights are conditioned on the subjective whims of one man. As a vacation rental manager (365 or so properties) and owner of 8 short term rental units ourselves, I was appalled at the singling out of our industry in the Executive Order.
What reasoning did he use to shut down vacation rentals and allow hotels and timeshares to continue to operate? While at the same time FEMA, along with other state agencies and counties were contacting VRM’s to place COVID19 positive guests in our units.
The state’s taking of private property necessitates just compensation under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment), Article X, Section 6(a) of the Florida Constitution, and Section 252.43, Florida Statutes. When the Division of Emergency Management was contacted by vacation rental owners regarding compensation, as prescribed by s. 252.43, F.S., phone operators directed owners to the Federal Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program Loan. This is not just compensation. The state of Florida is bound by the Constitution to provide vacation rental owners the fair value of the property lost under the executive orders.
We need your support to rectify what I believe to be the illegal taking of property from Florida vacation rental owners. If we determine that we have sufficient funds to file a lawsuit, then our ideal Plaintiff would be an investor vacation rental owner who has more than 1 property and lost considerable income during the taking period. We have set up this gofundmepage to facilitate the raising of the capital to continue our efforts to research and pursue what we believe is needed to initiate a lawsuit. We are seeking donations to fund efforts to challenge the Governor's order. We are seeking $500 contributions from vacation rental owners. If enough money is raised to file a lawsuit we will consider filing a lawsuit. For now, we are researching (having spent many hours already working on case law) and the viability of succeeding in a lawsuit.
With that said, if we were to file a lawsuit, we would want to include several vacation rental owners as plaintiffs in the litigation and anyone who wants to be a named plaintiff should let us know. We would like to have individuals and companies to be named as co-plaintiffs. Our intention is to have a small group of plaintiffs who have different vacation rental interests but without the need to comply with class action requirements for an initial lawsuit.
The purpose of this endeavor is twofold. First, we realize that raising money and getting publicity is putting pressure on the Governor to stop the ban on vacation rentals. Secondly, our ultimate goal is to recover the money we have lost because of the state's illegal taking of our property. We are aware of the injunction filed in Tampa. We choose not to participate as our opinion was that trying to put together a case for Federal Court in 4 days was insufficient time and the results would show that. Federal court is not for the faint of heart and is like the major leagues compared to the minor leagues, with very few making it to the majors. It must be done right.
As of May 8, all donations will be used at our discretion as payments to our designated attorney to continue our efforts to allow vacation rental owners to get back in business. The ultimate goal is not only to get back in business but to pursue our lost revenue from our rentals. We cannot do this alone. We need more vacation rental owners to participate. We do believe that the State of Florida will ultimately end up paying us, but only if we pursue them. There is a bucketload of money to compensate vacation rental owners. Here are some ways that can happen;
-Unfund VisitFlorida that now has a budget of $50 million
-Have the Legislature pass a law mandating a 50% discount or any vacation rental property tax for 2021.
- All tourist taxes collected for 2020 by any vacation rental are refunded to the property owner for June 1- December 31 of 2020.
- Pinellas County has a budget of $40 million alone and is mostly controlled by the hotel industry.
- Pinellas County https://www.tampabay.com/news/business/2019/10/09/visit-st-peteclearwater-taps-pensacolas-steve-hayes-to-lead-tourism-marketing/
- Pinellas County https://www.visitstpeteclearwater.com/ has no representation for anyone in the vacation rental industry which is commonplace statewide while the vacation rental industry collects more than 50% of tourist tax revenue in most districts.
We do not know where the venue would be for a lawsuit. We believe the case would need to be brought in a county with a history of protecting property owner rights. This will need to be researched. If the court decides in our favor the State would most likely appeal. The case would likely move to the State or Federal Appellate Court, and then on to the Florida Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court.
We would most likely plan on asking the Coalition for Property Rights and the National Association of Independent Businesses NFIB, which is already reviewing our case to write an Amicus Brief (Amicus briefs are legal documents filed in appellate court cases by non-litigants with a strong interest in the subject matter. The briefs advise the court of relevant, additional information or arguments that the court might wish to consider.) on our behalf.
To be transparent, the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association (FVRMA), is not supportive of our actions. To our dismay, they even suggested to the state that STR’s have a mandatory 3 day waiting period between reservations! I am not sure who the FVRMA thinks they are representing, but they certainly are not representing my business interests. The Governor's Committee for Re-Open Florida Task Force Industry Working Group Link to Governors Committee has no representation for vacation rentals but has 6 appointees in the hotel industry.
I am now looking to raise these funds to pay my attorney to continue his efforts to research and pursue whatever options we believe are best. It will take a large amount of money to handle a case of this magnitude and we realize there is no way to predict how the case would turn out at this point,
To engage an attorney, we would have to comply with all Florida Bar ethical rules which is why I am sending this on my own. There is the possibility to join a few other groups that have started down this path as well. I am not an attorney, but I believe this is not a Class Action Lawsuit as it is a question of law - was it an illegal taking that owners should be compensated for or not? (see attachment) If a judge rules that it was an illegal taking, every Plaintiff would need to settle with the state individually by way of a jury trial, or most likely the state would develop a formula to calculate damages for each plaintiff.
As a group, we need to protect our rental rights and not let the media and government authorities “bash” our industry, guests, and owners. We collect a large percentage of tourist tax dollars statewide and continually get no representation. It is time we stand up and be counted. Executive Orders 20-87 and 20-103 use the state’s police power to permanently deprive Florida vacation rental owners all economically beneficial use of their property from March 28, 2020, to ?????, contrary to their reasonable investment-backed expectations. These executive orders have forced vacation rental owners to refund guests scheduled to check in during the banned period and required owners to let their properties sit idle during the peak of the rental season in Florida.
Let's hope the ban ends soon. I do feel that we will prevail and the state will have to compensate us for our losses.
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