New executive orders extend vacation rental ban, implement first phase of plan for recovery

THE PROHIBITION on vacation rentals has been extended by means of recent action of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The action also provided for resumption of limited seating of restaurant customers and limited reopening of some businesses as part of a recovery plan for the state. (Photo by Dotty Nist)

By DOTTY NIST

Executive orders issued by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on April 29 have extended the existing ban on vacation rentals, allowed restaurants to resume seating customers on a limited basis, and provided for limited reopening of some business services.

The restaurant and business provisions are part of the implementation of an initiative announced by Gov. DeSantis on April 29 known as “Phase 1: Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan for Florida’s Recovery Post COVID-19 Emergency.”

The governor’s April 29 actions have extended the prohibition on vacation rentals, put in place at the end of March, for an indefinite period.

For purposes of the April 29 action regarding rentals, vacation rentals are defined as those rented for periods of less than 30 days or one calendar month, whichever is less, which are advertised or held out as regularly rented to guests, or those otherwise regulated by the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) as a vacation rental in connection with to Section 509.241, Florida Statutes.

Exempted from the rental prohibition are hotels, motels, inns, resorts, non-transient public lodging establishments, time-share projects, long-term rentals, and rentals to people performing military, emergency, governmental, health or infrastructure response, and travelers “engaged in non-vacation commercial activities.”

Executive Order (EO) 2020-112 was issued on April 29, to take effect on May 4 and applying statewide, while setting stricter requirements for Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties in connection with provisions for re-opening of businesses.

EO 2020-112 maintains existing limits on the movements and interactions of people in Florida that were put in place on April 1 with Gov. DeSantis’s “Safer at Home” executive order, with exceptions in connection with already-open businesses and services and those allowed to reopen on a limited basis as a result of EO 2020-112 and Phase 1 of the recovery plan.

The Safer at Home order had directed “all persons in Florida” to limit movement and personal interactions outside their home to “only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.”

The existing closure of bars and most gyms is to continue with EO 2020-112, while restaurants will be able to resume seating customers with full outdoor seating and indoor seating at 25 percent of building capacity. However, social distancing will continue to be a requirement, with the size of groups limited to no more than 10 people and a distance of six feet to be maintained between groups.

Prior to the April 29 action, restaurants to had been limited to providing delivery and take-out services, with no on-premises food consumption by customers allowed.

Barber shops and salons are required to remain closed with EO 2020-112, with the exception of those with retail sales sections, with the sales sections to be allowed to reopen at 25 percent building capacity.

Senior citizens and people with significant underlying medical conditions continue to be encouraged to stay and home and limit exposure to COVID-19 by all possible measures.

The new order also states that everyone in Florida should avoid congregating in large groups, adding, “Local jurisdictions shall ensure that groups of people greater than ten are not permitted to congregate in any public space that does not readily allow for appropriate social distancing.”

The order states that nonessential travel should be avoided and that U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines should be observed requiring 14 days’ isolation after travel on a cruise, international travel, or travel to any area with a “significant presence” of COVID-19.

The order extends existing requirements for airport screening and isolation of people traveling to Florida, with exceptions for airline employees and personnel furnishing military, emergency, or health response.

EO 2020-112 provides for limited reopening of business services affected by Gov. DeSantis’s previous executive orders, allowing retail sales businesses to open storefronts with a limit on use of building occupancy to 25 percent and incorporating CDC and U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines.

Museums and libraries are also allowed to open at no more than 25 percent of building occupancy. This is on condition of local government approval—and interactive functions, exhibits, and play areas remaining closed.

Surgeries deemed “medically unnecessary, non-urgent or non-emergency,” both medical and dental, had been prohibited since a March 20 EO (EO 2020-72). Now EO 2020-112 provides for elective procedures prohibited by the earlier order to resume under some conditions and with use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Flexibility for local government public meetings implemented in Florida in connection with the pandemic situation has been extended by the new executive order. This includes suspension of the requirement for a quorum of the local government body to be present at a meeting and for the government body to meet at a specific public place, along with providing the option for use of communications media technology for meetings such as telephonic and video conferencing.

EO 2020-112 is to stay in effect indefinitely, until replaced with another order.

EO 2020-112 and all Gov. DeSantis’s executive orders may be viewed online at: https://www.flgov.com/2020-executive-orders/

Frequently-asked questions and answers for EO 2020-112 may be viewed at: https://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Exec-Order-20-112-FAQs-1.pdf