KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Sharon Harley’s company, Jeeves Florida Rentals, manages nearly 600 vacation rentals. The majority of the properties are in Osceola County. She's not happy with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“We’ve probably moved and canceled around $5 million worth of business, because of the governor’s order,” Harley said.
Osceola County Commissioner Peggy Choudhary tells FOX 35 News that vacation rentals being shut down is hurting the county too, saying they bring in big bucks.
“Some months it will actually be 50 percent of our TDT [Tourist Development Tax] revenues," Commissioner Choudhary said. " It also is a boost to our economy. It is a big deal here in Osceola County.”
There are 40,000 vacation rentals in Osceola County which generate roughly $32 million a year in bed taxes, according to Experience Kissimmee, the tourism authority for Osceola County. Harley believes it is unfair that hotels can be open when vacation rentals can’t be because they’re governed by the same rules.
“We’ve implemented all the VRMA [Vacation Rental Management Association] guidelines for cleaning so we know all the products that we use are effective against COVID-19. We’ve put virtual meetings with the guests in the process so we don’t have to come into their space unless absolutely necessary. If they do, they wear gloves they wear masks they wear hoodies,” Harley explained.
She believes that right now vacation home rentals are safer than hotels, especially for families.
“Once a family is in a home, it’s their space, so they don’t run into the same issue in the hotel of pressing a button in an elevator -- you have no idea who pressed the button before. If you go sit out by the pool, it’s your pool furniture. We’ve sanitized it for you. No one else is going to sit on it,” Harley added.
Commissioner Choudhary tells FOX 35 News that county leaders sent a letter to Gov. DeSantis earlier this week, urging him to allow licensed owners to be able to do short term rentals. They are now working on a new letter spelling out exactly what the governor is asking for, to make it happen.
Nigel Worrall owns three vacation rental properties in Osceola County. Having them sit empty during the coronavirus pandemic shut down was a $20,000 loss for him. That number going up, every day his vacation rentals sit empty.