ORLANDO, Fla. – Two Central Florida property owners added their names to an existing federal lawsuit, demanding that vacation rental properties be allowed to reopen amid the pandemic.
Andrew Greenstein, the owner of a handful of luxury rental properties including Great Escape Parkside Place and Great Escape Lakeside in Lake County, and Eugene King, who owns rental properties in Daytona Beach, are among more than a dozen vacation rental property owners to demand they be allowed to formally reopen.
“I’ve been dealing with clients anxious, clients that want to reschedule, clients that are upset,” Greenstein said.
In the complaint, the lawsuit alleges that vacation rental property owners have been unfairly targeted during the pandemic, since they are forced to remain closed while hotels, timeshare condominiums, and resorts can remain open.
"From the perspective of imposing restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, even though hotels may be subject to different regulations regarding cleaning and maintenance, the Governor has allowed timeshares to openly operate, and it is not uncommon for one unit in a residential building to house a timeshare, while the exact same unit might be classified as a vacation rental, both used IDENTICALLY and cared for identically, but one is “essential” and one is “criminal.,”" it reads.
Greenstein’s attorney, Luke Lirot, points out what he says is a hypocrisy by the Governor, which is why he is seeking an injunction against the Executive Orders.
“Many motels are small and humble operations, i.e. ‘moms & pops,’” the complaint reads. “The challenged restrictions are underscored by the fact that even run-down and shabby motels can operate, while the most luxurious and well maintained private vacation rental are rendered unlawful by the challenged EO’s.”
"It just seems very unfair and doesn't make any sense and we're trying to peel away the layers and get to the real reason," Lirot added.
“We have a comprehensive six hour cleaning process with a commercial cleaning crew,” Greenstein added. “This is before COVID-19 and it’s six people. That’s 36 hours of labor going through each house and now, they are sanitizing every square inch, every handheld control.”
“The entire purpose of the Executive Orders issued by the Governor is to avoid large crowds which might spread the virus,” the complaint reads.
“And yet, hotels with hundreds, even thousands of rooms and residences therein, accumulating in their various lobbies, have a far greater chance of not engaging in social distancing, then the short-term rentals of one room here or there.”
In addition to reopening, Lirot said the suit demands the government compensate property owners who have missed out on revenue.
"As far as damages, from that point in time where other businesses were allowed to open and my clients could not, I think the government should have to pay for every penny they lost," he said.
“Whether we are taking guests remains controversial right now,” he said. “The county has us licensed as a hotel/motel which is essential, but the state has us licensed as a vacation rental which is criminal. We are confused among ourselves whether we are allowed to or not allowed to [host guests.]”
During the governor’s press briefing in Jacksonville Friday, he told reporters he’s asking counties who want short term rentals to reopen to submit their plans for his review.
“We’re telling counties, if you want short term rentals, you request it to be authorized through the state and provide your safety plan,” he said. “If you tell me you’re going to rent them out to people from New York City, I’m probably not going to approve that. It’s going to be done on a case-by-case basis.”
“The best-case scenario is allowing vacation rentals to open up immediately, albeit with common sense restrictions just like everyone else is required to follow,” Greenstein said.
“We’re hoping that common sense will reign,” Lirot added. “All it takes is basic discipline to follow the CDC guidelines, it’s not hard.”