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Flagler’s Hutson Files Amendment to Vacation-Rental Bill That Would “Eviscerate” Regulations

| March 16, 2017

Sen. Travis Hutson has no issues with Flagler County's vacation-rental regulations, and even sees them as working well. Yet he's filed an amendment to a bill in the Senate that would severely weaken those regulations. (© FlaglerLive)

Sen. Travis Hutson has no issues with Flagler County’s vacation-rental regulations, and even sees them as working well. Yet he’s filed an amendment to a bill in the Senate that would severely weaken those regulations. (© FlaglerLive)

Sen. Travis Hutson late today filed an amendment to a short-term vacation rental bill that may nullify local governments’ regulatory powers Hutson himself had sponsored as a House member and helped shepherd into law three years ago.


Hutson, who chairs the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, calls his amendment “a compromise.” Al Hadeed, the Flagler County Commission’s attorney who on Tuesday was addressing a House committee to oppose weakening existing regulations, said the Huston amendment, if it becomes law, would make it impossible for the county to continue regulating the 100 vacation-rental properties it oversees, mostly in the Hammock, today. It would return Flagler to pre-2014 conditions, when the state forbade local governments from regulating short-term rentals.

Three years ago Travis Hutson, then a member of the Florida House, filed a companion to a Senate bill that would return local regulatory control of short-term vacation rentals to county and city governments. Flagler County government had led the battle to get such bills passed because the proliferation of unregulated vacation rentals in the Hammock had created conflicts between homeowners living there and property owners renting out their houses to vacationers.

The vacation-rental industry never made its peace with the 2014 law, and this year successfully lobbied a House and Senate member to introduce proposals that would return to pre-2014 conditions.

On Tuesday, the House Agriculture and Property Rights Subcommittee voted 9-6 to approve a bill that would forbid any regulatory distinctions between vacation rentals and other properties, whether owner-occupied or renter-occupied. So any regulations targeting vacation rentals would become illegal: those properties could no longer be inspected by code enforcement officers for hazards associated with short-term rentals, unless all private properties were equally inspected–and all private properties may not arbitrarily be inspected without an administrative search warrant based on a justifiable reason to inspect.

That bill, HB 426, is sponsored by Rep. Mike La Rosa, a St. Cloud Republican. La Rosa claims the 2014 law has opened the way to regulatory abuses, excessive fines and discrimination against property owners. His only example of excessive fines when he presented his bill to a committee earlier this week, however, focused on Miami Beach, and those fines were the result of false advertising and illegally hosting short-term renters in certain building–not the sort of nuisance and safety issues Flagler and other small counties have dealt with regarding short-termn renters.


An amendment projected as a compromise but hoofed like Trojan horse.


In an interview Wednesday, Hutson said that “certainly in our area, I think we’ve done a pretty darn good job” of balancing property rights interests with neighborhood interests. He said he was opposed to the the La Rosa bill, which has an identical companion in the senate, sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube, the Sarasota Republican. Some areas, Hutson said, “have gone overboard” with regulations, but not, he stressed several times, in Flagler.

So why not fight the Steube-La Rosa bills? Why the need for an amendment?

“I have an amendment ready to go to make sure we maintain local control, because at the end of the day, after fighting so hard, I’m not ready to throw in the towel,” Hutson said. “I would not vote for La Rosa’s bill, I would not vote for Steube’s bill, unless it has something like my amendment on there.”

But it may take an especially powerful magnifying glass to see differences between the Steube-La Rosa proposal and Hutson’s–and if the magnifying glass is powerful enough, you may also detect a Trojan horse or two sauntering between the lines. The Steube-La Rosa proposal is very basic: vacation rentals may not be regulated based on their status as such, which is a different way of saying that they may not be regulated differently than all other residential properties.

The Hutson amendment reads: “A local law, ordinance, or regulation may regulate activities that arise when a property is used as a vacation rental provided such regulation applies uniformly to all residential properties without regard to whether the property is used as a vacation rental […] or a long-term rental.” The Hutson amendment also prohibits the regulation of rentals’ duration or frequency of rentals.

Hutson in Wednesday’s interview said the distinction is about the type of property that may be regulated. “Mine would just say renters,” he said. All renters. Which, in essence, may neuter regulatory powers for county government like Flagler’s just as if it said all residential properties.

“Our universe of those we have to inspect is 100,” Hadeed said of the existing number of short-term rentals in Flagler. “So we have to devote a number of staff to perform that function. Now, if we had to scale that up, I have no idea how many properties are rented. I imagine there’s a good number of them, but it’s more than another extra hundred. It’s way more than that, so we’d have to scale up, meaning hire people, spend public dollars to essentially overburden our regulatory systems.” That’s without mentioning the impracticality and intrusiveness of placing all rentals under the same inspection cross-hairs.

“It means we have to do that for all residential properties where the same circumstances don’t pertain, and it becomes over-regulation, they regulate to the point where it’s not scalable, it’s not practical,” Hadeed said–an irony, considering that the Republican sponsors of the original bills and the amendment are all regulationphobes, at least officially. “This amendment would totally eviscerate the public safety welfare objectives” written into Flagler’s 2014 ordinance, Hadeed said.

County Attorney Al Hadeed. (© FlaglerLive)

County Attorney Al Hadeed. (© FlaglerLive)

As for the Trojan horse: it appears in the Hutson amendment in a couple of forms, and in the original bill in one. The Hutson amendment–at least according to Hadeed–may be read as applying to “all residential properties,” not just rental properties, since the bill doesn’t explicitly states that the proposal is restricted to renters. It applies the proposal to renters, but the wording is slippery enough that it could be interpreted differently–as courts often do.

Even if there were no room for interpretation, both the Hutson and the original bills make an equivalency between one type of home use and another–regular renter and short-term renter, vacation-renter and home-owner–that is false, Hadeed said.

“It is a false equality,” Hadeed said. “”It’s making equal what is inherently not equal. An owner-occupied single family resident does not burden a single family neighborhood in the same way that a short-term vacation rental [does], which has a business license, which has a business tax receipt, which is registered with the department of revenue to pay business taxes and tourist development taxes, which has unique fire and safety requirements. They are not the same.”

Hutson acknowledged, referring to the 2014 bill he helped pass, that “in a perfect world, 2014 is the best scenario for Flagler County.” But he sees his amendment as a “healthy compromise” to prevent another law pass and return the landscape to pre-2014 conditions.

Earlier this week, Flagler County Commissioner Greg Hansen had related a conversation he’d had with Hutson, when Hutson told him about working on a compromise. Hanson called the compromise approach “dangerous.” That danger is now in play.

Hutson has scheduled his amendment and the vacation-rental bill for a hearing before his Regulated Industries Committee March 21 (Tuesday) at 2 p.m.

The Hutson Amendment to SB 188 on Short-Term Vacation Rentals (2017)

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27 Responses for “Flagler’s Hutson Files Amendment to Vacation-Rental Bill That Would “Eviscerate” Regulations”

  1. palmcoaster says:

    You guys voted him in, didn’t you? Not me!

  2. palmcoaster says:

    Be aware of what you wish for…

  3. Knightwatch says:

    That’s Travis Hutson working AGAINST the citizens of Flagler County. He has to go!

  4. JD says:

    Does anyone know how much Steve Milo (the vacation rental king) has contributed to Mr. Hudson?

  5. Jan says:

    Airbnb, Vacation Rental Pros, and other rental companies renting entire residences on a short-term basis are businesses, just like a hotel, and the next round of lawsuits will be based on that premise. Residential areas are zoned so that businesses aren’t allowed.

    We don’t allow a small hotel in our residential neighborhoods; the same will be true of hotels trying to pass themselves off as a house.

    As you know, many communities are fighting these businesses and they are not allowed in residential neighborhoods. We will win on that front.

  6. Liz Matiacio says:

    Mr. Hadeed, we own a condo in Flagler Beach which we purchased in 2014 specifically because short-term rentals were not allowed. We own one of 8 condos located at S 27th, and at least five of the owners are against short-term rentals. Two of the owners are behaving badly, and the condo attorney has put them on notice. With such a small number of condos, it is extremely unnerving with strange people who have no business being on the property driving their trailers into the parking lot and taking up spaces they have no right to. We have no idea who these strangers are. We travel quite a bit, and the thought of having people come and go that close to our home when we’re not there is not fair to us. Bureaucrats who are not in our shoes are making that decision for us. Shame on them. Let these bureaucrats get involved in real state problems and leave our livelihood alone. Sounds like these state reps are more interested in making money for rich people than in protecting the rights of individual homeowners.

  7. Rich says:

    More Republican lies.

  8. Sw says:

    Whatever happened to this is my deed I can do with it what I may. This place sucks and The Fl.Legislsture are control freaks. Vote them out ALL OF THEM

  9. Sw says:

    AND The COMMISSIONERS

  10. Jan says:

    Everyone unhappy with Travis Hutson and Paul Renner – our two “representatives” – PLEASE email them: Hutson.Travis@flsenate.gov and Paul.Renner@myfloridahouse.gov (note the period between Hutson and Travis in his email).

    Let them know you are AGAINST TAKING AWAY HOME RULE, AND YOU ARE OPPOSED TO THEM TAKING AWAY HOA POWERS FROM YOUR COMMUNITY. Tell them that they are supposed to be our representative and you are a voter.

    One email, one minute, and it can make a huge difference. Thanks!

  11. Layla says:

    It shouldn’t matter what his political party is, Mr. Hutson has to go if he is against home rule. And the same with Washington.

    Will Flagler get more than 15 percent voter turnout in the next election?

  12. Sherry says:

    What a complete “Flip Flopper”! Another slimy politician with NO Integrity or Back Bone. . . in the pockets of the wealthy? Who voted for this guy? He must be thrown out of office!

  13. Wishful Thinking says:

    Thanks Jan for staying on top – SB188 and SB1186 must not be allowed to become law. They both violate our legal rights in our’residential’ deeds, Florida Statutes 718 and Forida Statute 720 as well as blatant land use and zoning violations. Mortgage terms will ( and probably already are being) violated. Two fellow HOA members in my community and I met with Hutson in Sept 2015 asking him for help to reform HOA’s for the benefit of members. It is now ( unfortunately) quite obvious that he is choosing to go in the $$$$opposite direction.
    Follow Jan’s advice and e-mail both Hutson and Renner, call them, and remind them of their obligations to those who put them in office – we put them in – we can take them out,

  14. DoubleGator says:

    His lack of competence to draft any legislation is apparent here.

  15. Facts says:

    Senator Hutson is not educated on this subject. First a vacation rental is not a rental or lease. These dwellings are public lodging establishments. They use licensing agreements just like a hotel, motel and bed and breakfast. All of these dwellings are busnieeses and are license as a business with the state. In addition the activity in these dwellings are transient.

    Home owners that rent their home or lease it transfer property rights to their tenant. This is not the case when an owner licenses their dwelling for use. A rental or a lease is not a business operation. A vacation rental is a busniess that is subject to paying a bed tax. In addition vacation rentals must be in compliance with the Florida Fire code 69a-43. A rental or lease is not. Why subject all rentals to rules that do not comply?

    Our Senators and Representative must acknowledge that a vacation rental is a busniess. When an owner applies for a state license this dwelling is a public lodging establishment. Is is no longer a single family home with an occupancy permenant in nature. It is now transient.

    We must keep 2014 SB 354 in place with no modifications. This bill was a compromise. Our local officials adopted ordinances after meeting with all stake holders. There has been no overreach of authority. Let each county, city, and town react to their own issues without state interference. One size does not fit all.

    Please reach out to Senator Hutson and Representative Renner and urge them to vote no. 2017 Senate bill 188, Hb 425 and Hb 17 will only do more harm then good.

  16. Jan says:

    Layla, you are correct – party affiliation is not important – it’s what they DO/DON’T do for their constituents.

    For example, SB 1186 (controlling HOAs) is sponsored by one party; SB 188 is sponsored by the other party.

    So, regardless of party affiliation, tell them you are not happy (and if you are the same party as they are, let them know that, too – at least that is what I have been doing. I think that sends a stronger message.

  17. Jan says:

    Everyone should email Governor Rick Scott as well – let him know we ARE NOT HAPPY WITH BILLS THAT REMOVE HOME RULE (SB 188 and HB 435, HB 17) and, AND BILLS THAT TAKE CONTROL AWAY FROM HOAs (SB 1186)

    Go to this link to send him an email: http://www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/email-the-governor/

    I just did, telling him I’ve lived in Florida for ten years as a full-time resident, and oppose taking away home rule (SB 188, HB 17, HB 435), and weakening HOAs (SB 1186).

  18. Jan says:

    Examples of laws currently not specifically authorized by Florida law that will be abolished on July 1, 2020:

    If HB 17 kicks in, these will no longer be in effect by 2020:

    •Noise regulations on noise generated by businesses.
    ••Adult entertainment/sexually oriented business regulation.
    •Height restrictions in municipal charters adopted by voters.
    •Parking or semi-trailers, tow trucks and similar commercial vehicles in residential areas.
    •Home-based business regulations such as traffic, parking and employees not residing at the home.
    •Hours for door-to-door solicitation

  19. Bc says:

    We all vote so let’s send them to the unemployment office get ride of the clowns that don’t care about there voters.

  20. Marlee says:

    If he is a Republican….what do you expect?

  21. Chris says:

    Such nonsense!
    State of Florida and by definition Flagler Beach define short term renting as 6 months or less. Long term renting is 6 months plus one day. Based on the above distinction, the rights and the relationship of the renter changes. After 6 months and one day, both parties are governed by the landlord-tenant act.
    I own a condo in Flagler beach and rent both short and long term (see above). Regardless I rent with a signed lease knowing full well that after 6 months, the tenant can stay in the condo for free until I spend weeks or months trying to evict him(her)(them). Less than 6 months, I pay 10% bed tax and all other applicable fees to the city, county, state.

  22. Facts says:

    Note any use of a unit for less than 30 days or one month is not a lease or rental. It is a licensing agreement. Check out the Florida homestead laws. This licensing is just like operating a hotel. Yes, you are required to pay bed tax in addition to other regulations. Much different than a long term lease of more than six months.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I am on the fence with this one. As I understand it the reason behind this change is because of some draconian laws/rules put in place by some city’s/towns in Fla. If one lives in a condo or HOA you should know its rules on such rentals before buying into them. If a owner is violating the rules the condo HOA should fine them to make it NOT profitable. If one lives outside of such and your neighbor is renting as a vacation home IMO first get to know them in a nice way. it may be the only way they can keep the home till they move in full time. also they will appreciate heaving someone look out for their home and what is going on within. In my HOA we have a few long term rentals and would gladly trade them for someone just coming to Fla for a nice vacation.

  24. Sherry says:

    Like many other “necessary” regulations. . . the “devil is in the details” and therefore “broad sweeping” state regulations end up being a “one size fit NONE” reality. In Flagler county our rental property circumstances are not the necessarily the same as in other counties in Florida. Our situation is made even more complex by “influential” (political contributing/law suit filing) short term rental businesses that are the “middlemen” between the holiday maker and those with empty homes that need that rental income.

    Companies like Vacation Rental Pros and Air BNB often take absolutely NO responsibility for the occasional BAD behavior of the “holiday makers” who line their pockets. Those companies can be seen as trying to use legal loopholes to compete with hotels. . . while avoiding the taxes and regulations imposed on the hotel/motel industry. There needs to be separate regulations for the short term rental industry that is becoming more and more popular.

    While no one objects to “renters” that are model citizens and quiet, respectful neighbors. . . those that bring down the quality of life in the neighborhood are the problem. . . no matter how long their stay. Not every home has a Home Owners’ Association to rely on to control the rental situation. Without detailed “local” governmental regulations that therefore can and should be strictly enforced on a “local” level, our peaceful, considerate communities are unacceptably disrupted and negatively impacted. Over time, ALL our property values will be driven lower.

    Whether you own a rental property or not. . . this is an important issue for our entire community. Contact Hutson and Renner and make your voice heard!

  25. Pogo says:

    @Sherry

    All good points. Add this. The houses that are constantly rented to any-trouble-maker-who-can-pay-cash party dogs? Check them out on the property appraiser’s site. See how many are owned by quick buck house flippers, who will rent to anyone to maintain cash flow to their over leveraged butts. And/or Chinese, Indian, Russian, etc, nationals sending their money out of their country to a safe place you pay to defend. Money. Money. Money. God on earth.

  26. Renter Hater says:

    The local representative and the senator should not chance the anger or resources of the voters within Hammock Beach. Home rule should prevail and we already passed a two-thirds vote to put in sensible regulations to our rental program.

    I thought you were Republicans?

  27. Sherry says:

    Pogo. . . excellent point! I really enjoy your “Right On” commentary!

    When it comes to almost anything these days. . . but especially political and business decisions. . . Follow the MONEY! We now live in a completely corrupt society! We must be vigilant and we must speak out!!

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