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In our recent posts Investing in Real Estate: Your Key to a Diversified Investment Portfolio, we talked about whether to sell or rent your property, as well as top reasons to invest in real estate. Renting your home is a great source of passive income, and real estate is a time-tested investment. If you’re considering purchasing an investment rental or turning your current home into a vacation rental home, Florida, where beautiful beaches and mild weather attract one million snowbirds each year, is a prime location.


While Miami has the most saturated short-term rental market in the country and the city of Orlando has a number of restrictions on short-term rentals in place, many areas of Florida still have opportunities to meet the demands of our state’s ever-increasing number of vacationers. From Ocala, with its famous World Equestrian Center which draws thousands of visitors looking for nearby rentals, to college towns like Gainesville and gulf-side communities like Citrus County, owning a vacation rental can be a lucrative investment.


Curious about how short-term rentals work? Considering becoming a host or landlord? This guide will provide key insights into how to rent out your home, what regulations you may encounter, and important considerations for choosing a listing platform or service to meet your needs. 

What is a Short-Term Rental?

Rentals with lease agreements of less than six months are often referred to as “short-term” rentals. Whether they are rented for a week-long vacation, or a several-month stay near a job or amenity, these rentals aren’t meant to be long-term housing—just to fill a temporary need. In tourist-centric markets like Florida, they may also be called vacation rentals.

In Florida, statute Chapter 509 Section 242 defines vacation or short-term rentals broadly as “any unit or group of units in a condominium, cooperative, or timeshare plan or any individually or collectively owned single-family, two-family, three-family, or four-family house or dwelling unit that is also a transient public lodging establishment.” These rentals can be let privately, through platforms like VRBO or AirBnB, or through a real estate office.

Requirements for Short-Term Rentals in Florida

Short-term rentals may have to abide by different rules than traditional rental properties. These rules are designed to protect the homeowner, the renter, or the housing or hospitality market of the region. 

In Florida, if you rent a property more than three times in one calendar year for less than 30 days at a time you need to get a vacation business license through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. This rule doesn’t apply if you are simply renting out a room in your home that you live on—only for self-contained rentals. 

In addition to this license, your city, town, or municipality may have its own specific registration requirements or regulations for short-term rentals. For instance, Orange County/Orlando city forbids short-term rentals that are not homeshares (i.e., the homeowner does not live on the property) if the property is located in an area that is zoned R (residential). To rent out part of your home, you’ll need to register on Orlando’s site for Home Sharing. Clearwater has similar rules, banning rentals under 31 days in residential areas. On the other hand, Naples and Collier County has more lax rules—but still requires a registration

You may also be responsible for collecting taxes. In Alachua County and Marion County, property owners must register for and collect and remit the local tourist tax/transient tax. Current rates for all Florida counties can be found here. You’ll also need to pay appropriate income taxes on proceeds and may be required to pay sales tax to your county, as well as a discretionary surcharge tax. Those rates can be found here.  

 Lastly, if your property is part of a community association, there may be HOA bylaws that restrict the use of your home for rental. Check with your HOA before listing your rental. 

 To be sure that you are following the appropriate regulations for your county and municipality, check with county/municipal government websites or ask your Citrus County, Marion County, or Gainesville real estate agent to assist you in navigating local Florida rental laws.


Short term rentals may have different rules than residential properties.

Things to Consider Before Making Your House a Short-Term Rental

Beyond understanding rental regulations and being sure you are following them, there are many other considerations before taking the plunge into short-term renting.

Rental Agreement, Deposits, and Rent collection: Online platforms will have their own in-house agreements and systems for collecting deposits and rent. When renting privately you’ll need to come up with your own. Alternatively, real estate agents can help you devise a professional agreement, distribute it to renters for signing, and even collect deposits and proceeds. 

Insurance Coverage: Ensure that your homeowner’s insurance covers short-term rentals. Services like Airbnb may offer a host guarantee against damage, but it’s important to understand the limitations and consider additional insurance options to keep your property protected.

Property Prep: Assess your property’s readiness for guests. Rentals must be in very good condition, clean, and clutter-free. And the more stylish the property and furnishings and amenities you offer, the more you can get for your listing. Clean and declutter the space, provide necessary amenities, and ensure that everything is in working order. Consider investing in quality furnishings and bedding for a positive guest experience.

Cleaning and Maintenance: Florida has strict sanitation rules for vacation rentals. Plan for regular cleaning and maintenance between guest stays. Some services allow you to consider this an extra charge beyond the rental price. Consider hiring professional cleaning services to maintain a high standard of cleanliness and address any issues promptly. Have a plan for trash disposal. In Florida with warm and extreme weather, it’s also important to have a landscape and outdoor maintenance plan in place, too. 

Security and Locks: Implement security measures—such as smart locks—to provide for easy and controlled access to your property. Clearly communicate any security features to guests and provide emergency contact information for both yourself and a local representative if you’re out of town.

Pricing: Research the local market to set competitive and realistic pricing for your rental. Consider factors like seasonality, local events, and demand in your area. Keep an eye on similar listings to stay competitive or speak to your real estate agent to set a fair price.

House Rules: Establish clear house rules and communicate them to guests before their arrival. If you are listing your rental on an online platform, these should be clearly laid out so guests can make decisions about suitability before seeking rental. Include information about check-in and check-out procedures, noise policies, and any specific rules unique to your property.

Guest Screening: Many sites allow you to screen guests before approval—but not all. If you can, implement a screening process for potential guests. Airbnb allows hosts to review guest profiles, ratings, and reviews from other hosts. If you use a real estate agent, they can serve as experienced screeners for potential renters, as well.

Emergency Prep: Because of the commonness of extreme weather in Florida, this isn’t an item to be overlooked. Develop a plan for handling emergencies like flooding and hurricanes. Provide guests with important contact information, emergency exits, and instructions for handling common issues like power outages or appliance malfunctions.

Communication: Short-term rentals can require a significant time commitment, including the ability to promptly respond to issues and inquiries. Establish a clear communication strategy and reply to all requests quickly. Good communication can contribute to positive reviews and enhanced guest satisfaction. If you aren’t in town, be sure you have a trusted point person that’s local who can assist with your renter’s needs. 

Renting Through an Online Vacation Rental Service vs. a Realtor

 When you choose to rent out your home or purchase a home expressly to use as a vacation rental, you’ll need to consider the options available for marketing, booking, and managing your rental. For most property owners in Florida, they choose to use an online booking service like VRBO or Airbnb or they utilize a local real estate office that is experienced in vacation rentals. Let’s take a look at the main pros and cons of each.

Online Platforms: Airbnb, VRBO, and

While these booking platforms have some similarities, there are major differences that set them apart, including their fee structures, target market, and property owner protections.

Airbnb is known for attracting a diverse range of travelers, including those seeking unique and local experiences and offers flexibility in terms of the types of accommodations you can list, from shared rooms to entire homes. For hosts, service fees aren’t exceptionally high—only about 3%. However, the high fees charged to guests by the service (14%) may mean that you need to lower your nightly rate to attract renters. 

VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) is appealing to guests because there are no booking fees and this platform specializes in whole-home rentals. However, as a host you will need to pay an annual subscription fee. This can be economical for hosts whose rentals are frequently booked—but if this doesn’t apply to you, for instance you intend to also use your home as a residence or vacation property part of the year, it may not make sense. 

Lastly, is often used by travelers who are considering a variety of options, from rooms in a home to hotels and bed and breakfasts to whole home rentals. It also is a popular platform for international travelers. charges hosts a commission on each booking, which can vary based on the property type and location (though is typically higher than Airbnb’s service fee).

Other Considerations for Online Platforms

In addition to fees charged by these services, remember that in many areas of Florida you’ll need to collect (include as part of your rental fee) and remit your own taxes—another cost to calculate into your profit margins.

You will need to complete your own screenings before approving a rental request. With both Airbnb and VRBO, you can rely on guest reviews made by previous hosts—but there may still be some guesswork involved in your decision-making process. With there is not an option to screen your guests in the same way.

Guest assistance is provided exclusively by the host. Any issues that arise while guests are staying on the property must be handled quickly and to your guests’ satisfaction. This could include anything from gaining access to the premises to addressing malfunctioning appliances or systems. You will need to make arrangements for their assistance if you are out of town.

Cleaning, preparing the rental, distributing and collecting keys from renters, and other aspects of guest turnaround are also the responsibility of the host. Failing to provide quality services and smooth guest transitions could result in poor reviews. 

Liability and damage protection is the final major consideration. These platforms each provide some protections, though you will be required to work with the platform for a resolution, which can take time and effort. Airbnb and VRBO may reimburse you for your costs for damages. will seek payment from the guest on your behalf. 

Your town may have its own regulations for short term rentals.



Renting Through a Real Estate Agent

Renting through an international online platform has the benefit of potential wide-scale exposure. But it also requires property owners to do a significant amount of legwork themselves, from taking pictures and writing the listing description to managing a schedule and hiring cleaning services. 

If you live far away from your rental, are new to vacation rentals, or are looking to reduce your own workload, renting through a real estate agent might make more sense. While real estate agents may charge more for their services, you will usually receive a higher level of assistance and may be able to fetch a better price from guests when you work with a professional listing agent. 

What can a real estate agent do?

Every real estate office is different, and many can tailor their services based on your needs. Generally, real estate offices can help you:

  • Prepare your property for rental.
  • Provide advice on appropriate pricing.
  • Vet potential renters, even running background or credit checks.
  • Collect security deposits and rent.
  • Navigate local taxes and regulations and assist in registering for the proper permits.
  • Help ensure that you have the right insurance for your property and purposes.
  • Arrange cleaning services between guests.
  • Arrange key distribution and collection.
  • Help handle issues and emergencies pertaining to the property.
  • Manage your booking calendar.

Agents will also list and advertise your property both online publicly and through other channels. 

    Real estate agents can help with a variety of real estate needs


    Work With a Central Florida Realtor to Rent Your Home

    Renting a property can be a big undertaking, but when you work with an experienced agent, you can have the peace of mind knowing that your home and your investment is in good hands. 

    Whether you’re looking to rent your property for 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, or longer, we can help. Our team of local Alachua, Citrus, and Marion County realtors can help you navigate rental preparations and regulations, list your property, and find the right tenant.