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Short-term rentals get green light to re-open in Florida

Popular vacation lodging destinations can re-open, but are subject to restrictions, including visitors' states of residence.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The State of Florida is reopening a key part of its suffering tourism industry. As of Wednesday, short-term rental lodging businesses can start accepting guests, per approval of their county's plans submitted to the state.

“I think the new safety procedures that have been released are reasonable,” said short-term rental owner Blake Souder, of St. Johns County.

Those rules, like the ones established in Duval and other counties, must be at least as stringent as state guidelines, which closely follow those set forth by the CDC. Although they can vary between counties, they include minimum social distancing of six feet, staggered check-in times, minimum times to sanitize rooms between visitors, and number of people in a visiting group.

There are also prohibitions of accepting visitors from states where COVID-19 levels exceeds certain thresholds. For example, visitors aren’t allowed to book short-term rentals if they’re coming from a state with more than 500 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 residents. 

According to the CDC’s online tracker, as of May 20, those states included Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, Louisiana, and Nebraska, plus the District of Columbia.

Souder said the geographical bans might pose a challenge.

“I’ll have to take that extra step to ask [prospective guests] where they are coming from,” he said, “because I don’t believe I know where they are coming from until a reservation is actually confirmed.”

Souder believes people inquiring by phone will answer those questions honestly, and while he’s eager to get back to business, he said he approves of the mandated cautions.

“I think they’re perfectly reasonable and acceptable, given the circumstances,” he said.

Guidelines for businesses can be found on the CDC's website.

The CDC also has a state-by-state COVID tracker.

Information and guidance related to vacation rentals or other businesses can be found on the website of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

A press release from St. Johns County outlines the short-term rental reopening guidelines there. Duval County rules are outlined in a similar press release.