A lawsuit was filed in federal district court for the middle district of Florida against governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday.
The suit was filed on behalf of several plaintiffs who either own or manage vacation rental properties in the state. They allege that a ban on vacation home rentals due to the COVID-19 pandemic has violated their equal protection and due process rights, and their rights under the contracts clause of the U.S. Constitution. They have also brought a free speech claim.
The complaint stems from several executive orders the governor has issued as part of the state’s attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. On March 27 Governor DeSantis issued executive order 20-87, which suspended all vacation rentals but exempted “hotels, motels, inns, resorts, non-transient public lodging establishments, or time share projects” from the order. The order was set to expire on May 1, but was extended first until May 4 and has now been extended indefinitely as part of the governor’s “Plan for Florida’s Recovery.”
The plaintiffs claim that the governor’s orders exceed his authority by revoking their rental licenses without due process, as well as violations of their equal protection rights, given that hotels and motels are not subject to the order while their individual short-term rental properties are. They also allege a violation of their First Amendment rights because the order bans advertising of rental opportunities for the duration.
The governor’s office released a statement to media saying “Vacation rentals will be reopened . . . as soon as the safety and well-being of Florida residents can be best assured.”