As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Florida daily, officials look to slow the spread of the virus. “New executive orders are coming weekly, changing our daily routines it is important to stay informed,” says Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance Florida’s largest independent homeowners insurance agency.
On Friday, Gov. DeSantis signed an Executive Order to suspend vacation rentals for 2 weeks, until April 10. Vacation rentals such as Airbnb and HomeAway are prohibited from making new reservations. They also cannot accept new guests for check-in for the duration of the order. However, the ban does not apply to travelers already staying in a vacation rental.
There are exemptions to the order. It does not apply to hotels, motels, resorts, time-shares or long-term rentals (over 30 days). Stays set to begin no later than March 28 are also exempt from the ban.
Those violating the order are subject to criminal sanctions including potential second-degree misdemeanor charges and may have their vocational rental license revoked.
Recreational boats are also facing new rules. An order on Friday says all recreational boats must be at least 50 feet apart with no more than 10 people on board. This is an effort to enforce social distancing on Florida’s waterways.
Responding to travel bans and an increase in cancellations, Airbnb is offering flexibility to cancel bookings without penalties. They are offering guests full refunds and hosts no charge cancellations for reservations booked on or before March 14 with a check-in date of April 14 or earlier, according to the Airbnb website.
When the policy was announced, some short-term rental owners saw their vacation-rental reservations disappear. Many hosts have watched their incomes dissolve. On Monday, Airbnb addressed the concerns with a $250 million Host Relief Fund to cover some costs of COVID-19 cancellations. The reimbursements are funded by Airbnb and will go to hosts with qualifying cancellations, paying 25 percent of what they would normally receive from a canceled booking.