On Wednesday, May 27, Polk County joined a growing number of counties in Florida in having vacation rentals allowed to reopen for business.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis banned vacation rentals on March 27, in an executive order aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. The move sparked pushback from property owners, management companies and some local government officials.
Earlier this month, DeSantis pivoted toward allowing vacation rentals to reopen with state and local approval. On May 19, seven counties in the Panhandle were cleared, and counties elsewhere have steadily joined their ranks.
The easing in Polk County comes after a proposal was sent to DeSantis, as well as Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary, Halsey Beshears, from the Polk County Board of County Commissioners.
"Based on the Department’s review of the safety plan for vacation rental operations that accompanied your request, Polk County has established the necessary plans for operation of vacation rentals at this time. Accordingly, I approve the operation of vacation rentals in Polk County pursuant to the plans as submitted," Beshears wrote in a letter addressed to the Polk County Board of County Commissioners.
The proposal included a detailed safety plan that included provisions for the cleaning and disinfection of all lodging, self-quarantine for visitors coming from states that are designated as hotspots for the virus and limitations on the numbers of people allowed in the rental homes.
“The opening of the vacation rental homes segment of our hospitality market is just another indication that Polk County is ready to get back to work,” said Mark Jackson, the director of Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing. “This detailed plan takes into the best practices from the CDC and expands on them, indicating just how important we feel the safety of our guests and our hospitality workers should be to all of us.”
According to Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing data, vacation rental homes make up nearly 50 percent of the available rooms in Polk County and represent an important part of the county’s tourism industry — valued at $2.4 billion annually.