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Lee County restricts vacation rentals

By Staff | May 21, 2020

Vacation rentals in Lee County can now be utilized by non-Florida residents but not those from Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.

The county’s new regulations will allow guests at vacation rentals who are from states with less than 700 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents. As of May 26, the nine states previously mentioned have rates higher than 700 cases per 100,000 residents. A list of all states and their COVID-19 rates is available at www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker. Michigan was originally one of those states though its rate has since dropped.

The changes are due to actions taken by Lee County Government under a plan approved by the State Department of Business and Professional Regulation, county spokesperson Betsy Clayton announced Thursday.

The plan originally presented by County Manager Roger Desjarlais and approved by the Lee County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday limited vacation rentals to Florida residents.

The previous ban on states or localities “with a substantial community spread” has been stricken from the regulations, which means residents of all counties in Florida can now utilize the vacation rentals in Lee County.

Vacation rentals will continue to be prohibited to international travelers.

Rita Oben, owner of Breeze Vacation Rentals, which rents out properties on Fort Myers Beach and in Cape Coral, questioned why the county was being more restrictive on vacation rentals than hotels. “Hopefully, in the next few weeks things have changed” as far as the restrictions go, Oben said.

Oben, who manages about 20 properties on Fort Myers Beach, said “there hasn’t really been much of a demand right at the moment because of the restrictions.”

The town’s ban on short-term vacation rentals was just lifted on May 15 and couldn’t take effect until Gov. Ron DeSantis rescinded his own ban on short-term vacation rentals by approving Lee County’s plan for vacation rentals on May 20 which was just for Florida residents. She said “it’s great that we can accept people from other states” rather than the initial plan of just Florida. Many of her customers arrive from southern states.

Oben is worried the downturn in the economy will lead to a slow summer for her business. “When people lose their jobs, vacations are expendable income and people don’t have it right now,” she said. “It’s going to be a tough summer.”

Oben said she has a lot of places booked for 2021 but getting though this year “is going to be a challenge.”

The vacation rental regulations also calls on the owners of vacation rentals to:

Allow adequate time between the conclusion of a guest stay and the check-in of the next guest stay for appropriate cleaning and sanitation.

Clean and disinfect all frequently-touched surfaces in the property between each guest stay.

Wash all linens, dishware, and other service items available for use by guests between each guest rental.

Provide sufficient soap and surface sanitation supplies for guests to utilize in the vacation rental property during the guest’s rental period.

Ensure adequate safety protocols are in place and publicly displayed, in line with CDC guidance, regarding shared or multi-residence amenities such as pools, gyms, and other communal spaces.

Follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting their facility, per the CDC site www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/disinfecting-building-facility.html.