Escambia County loses vacation-rental case

Court ruling allows Airbnb and similar services to operate in the Pensacola area

Jan.January 03, 2016 01:00 PM

A circuit court judge struck down a directive by Escambia County commissioners to prohibit short-term rentals of homes in residential neighborhoods.

In doing so, Judge Ross Goodman of the First Judicial Circuit Court of Florida allowed such services as Airbnb,  TurnKey and Vacation Rental By Owner to operate in the City of  Pensacola and in unincorporated Escambia County.

The county notified Margaret Hostetter that short-term rental of her four houses in Pensacola violated the Escambia County land development code. Her case was adjudicated in July by a special magistrate, who ruled that the code makes commercial activity in a residential neighborhood impermissible.

Hostetter appealed that decision to Judge Goodman, who found that state law preempts the county’s land development code.

State law prohibits the enactment of local laws and regulations that “can prohibit vacation rentals or regulate the duration or frequency” of such rentals.

In 2014, state Attorney General Pam Biondi issued an opinion that “zoning may not be used to prohibit vacation rentals in a particular area where residential use is otherwise allowed.” [Pensacola News-Journal] — Mike Seemuth

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