Tampa airport strikes car sharing deal, allowing for peer-to-peer rentals

Car sharing just got a little easier at Tampa International Airport.

The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority on Thursday approved updated rules for peer-to-peer car sharing apps and services that connect car owners and renters, like an automotive version of Airbnb. It also approved an official concessions agreement with one such service, Turo, with which it has waged a long legal battle over licenses and fees.

The agreement follows the Florida legislature’s recent passage of a bill setting tax, surcharge and insurance rules for the peer-to-peer car sharing industry, and comes after a more than two-year court battle between the Aviation Authority and Turo.

“This is a major step forward in ensuring Turo and all other peer-to-peer car sharing companies do business here legally and responsibly, which is what we expect from all the businesses that operate out of TPA,” Michael Stephens, the airport’s general counsel, said in an emailed statement. “This industry-leading agreement will support the maintenance and safe operation of our facilities, while offering more choices and added convenience to our customers- all key priorities for our airport.”

The authority first sued Turo in 2019, claiming the company was advertising a fleet of nearly 200 vehicles available for delivery to the airport — even though, unlike rental companies, it had no license to do business there.

Related: Tampa airport to consider policy aimed at Turo’s Airbnb-style car rental business model

The airport argued Turo was causing traffic backups and not paying a fair share for the use of its facilities. Turo argued that it wasn’t a rental company, but a service that connects individual car owners and renters, so it shouldn’t be held to the same standards as Avis or Enterprise, which operate on airport property.

Peer-to-peer services work much like Airbnb, in that car hosts and renters connect via app or online, then arrange a place for pickup or delivery. Hosts get damage protection, roadside assistance and up to $750,000 in liability insurance (renters themselves must meet certain auto insurance scores, and can purchase additional protection plans). Services make money by charging a fee worth a percentage of the overall cost; it varies based on factors like insurance, location, type of car and the age of the driver.

The case was filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, then moved to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, where, after two years, both sides agreed to settle in February.

Among the stipulations: Turo must pay the airport 6.5 percent of its gross receipts from doing business there, and must rent five spaces atop an economy parking garage at a cost of $1,520.83 per month. Turo must arrange pickups and deliveries in a designated area; cars must not circle while waiting; and the company must not advertise on airport property. The vehicles must be “clean and neat in appearance, and safe for operation,” and “subject at any time to inspection by (Aviation) Authority staff or law enforcement officers.”

Turo president Alex Benn electronically signed the agreement in late April.

In an emailed statement, Lou Bertuca, Turo’s head of government relations, called the deal “a major breakthrough for how airports regulate peer-to-peer car sharing, rightfully distinguishing companies like Turo from traditional rental car companies.

“This is a huge win for consumers seeking choice and citizens of the greater Tampa Bay area wishing to share their car to make extra money,” Bertuca stated. He called the agreement and the Florida bill “huge victories for the peer-to-peer car sharing industry in the state. We anticipate that the permit will have an even bigger national impact creating a precedent for other airports to follow.”