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House Panel Votes 9-6 to End Vacation Rental Regulations in 3rd Straight Defeat for Flagler

| March 28, 2017

Rep. Paul Renner's opposition to a vacation-rental bill was not enough to convince a House subcommittee this morning to kill the bill. (Florida Channel)

Rep. Paul Renner’s opposition to a vacation-rental bill was not enough to convince a House subcommittee this morning to kill the bill. (Florida Channel)

A Florida House subcommittee voted 9-6 to approve a bill that would all but erase local governments’ authority to regulate vacation rentals this morning. It was the second House committee to advance the bill, which has also won approval by a Senate committee, pointing to growing momentum for a measure that would have considerable impact in Flagler County.


The bill is strongly opposed by Flagler County government, whose attorney, Al Hadeed, and County Commissioner Donald O’Brien, addressed the Careers and Competition Subcommittee this morning. Flagler led the battle to restore local regulatory control over vacation rentals three years ago, and wrote an ordinance that served as the template for many towns and counties around the state. The bill approved today, by Mike La Rosa, a St. Cloud Republican, would return state law to a 2011 standard, when local governments were barred from writing local regulations targeting vacation rentals.

Flagler County government had staked its chances on killing the bill in this particular committee because Rep. Paul Renner, who represents Flagler, sits on the panel and had pledged to do what he could to halt the bill’s momentum. He tried.

“Flagler County was ground zero for the 2014 statute,” Renner told the subcommittee. “The same parties that spoke for it and against it today struck a balance, and over the last several years I think that has been working. I’ve told constituents that wanted greater restrictions that we needed to keep this deal in place and let it work. I think it has been working.”

Flagler County Commissioner Donald O'Brien appearing before the subcommittee today. (Florida Channel)

Flagler County Commissioner Donald O’Brien appearing before the subcommittee today. (Florida Channel)

The argument could not overcome La Rosa’s argument, framed as a property rights issue. “The properties that are being used are no different than the properties that are around,” La Rosa said. “What I’m asking is that you don’t treat the vacation properties than any other properties that are there.”

It was just past 10 a.m., two hours into the committee meeting, when the bill was taken up, the last of 12 on the committee’s agenda. Just before introducing it Halsey Beschears, the chairman of the committee, joked that the panel’s work was done that day—an attempt at humor to defuse some of the controversy that has surrounded the issue. Every committee that’s heard the bill faced large contingents of proponents and opponents. Today was no different, with two dozen people registering to speak. Opponents outnumbered proponents, but that’s seldom reflected in the vote on contentious issues: the vacation rental industry has deep pockets, residents scattered across the state in various communities don’t, at least not as an organized force.

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Two amendments to the bill had been filed in the past 24 hours, one by Beschears, one by Randy Fine, another member of the committee (both are Republicans). Beschears’s would have required vacation rentals to follow specific definitions, qualify for certifications and follow registration requirements. The amendment appeared to impose constraints on the La Rosa approach. But Beschears withdrew it after presenting it.

Fine did the same, after summarizing his amendment, which would have required vacation rentals to be restricted and defined as commercial businesses, different from residential homes.“It’s not so much the hotels I’m worried about, it’s the folks who live in the residential neighborhoods who watch it be transformed into a commercial area,” Fine said. But, he added, he would just withdraw the amendment and vote against the La Rosa bill.

The arguments from proponents and opponents of the bill broke down along sharp lines: proponents followed the La Rosa theory that all properties should be treated equally, while opponents described that premise as fundamentally wrong: short-term rentals are not residential homes, but businesses, as even the state Department of Business and Professional Regulations define them.

Hadeed and O’Brien briefly appeared before the subcommittee, Hadeed to repeat the arguments he’s presented to committees twice before this month, O’Brien, in his debut before a legislative panel, to read a statement conveying the county commission’s opposition to the bill.

The House bill, HB425, has one more stop—before the Commerce Committee–before heading to the House floor. The Senate version, SB188, has two more committee stops: before the Community Affairs Committee, likely later this week or next week, then the Rules Committee. The bill may be killed at any one of those stops, though from the looks of the votes, that’s becoming increasingly unlikely.

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14 Responses for “House Panel Votes 9-6 to End Vacation Rental Regulations in 3rd Straight Defeat for Flagler”

  1. tulip says:

    When that area was starting to be developed, the county should’ve put in a rule that this is strictly residential and that homes cannot be rented out to tourists. I guess they weren’t paying much attention and this is the result. Perhaps the county should look into other areas that are or will be developed in order to prevent this from happening again.

  2. Wishful Thnking says:

    Looks like we need to charter a bus…. and look for some ‘short term vacation rentals’ near the Capitol to make sure our faces and voices are seen and heard by the ignorant, incompetent, uneducated idiots in the legislature who have no business serving in public office. What is next? Chicken – better yet rooster farms? Santaria groups? Churches, Synagogues , Temples, Mosques? Animal breeders – Laissez-faire as the French say.
    United we stand – or we will lose our rights….Its time for us to get serious – how do you see it?

  3. brad says:

    Thank god everyone is finally being treated the same i have neighbors that are grandfathered in yet i can’t do the same activity renting my house when i am away… Very unfair as the system is currently..

  4. Anonymous says:

    Bought and paid for by the tourism, hotel and property management associations.

  5. Layla says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I think everybody had better be asking our state elected officials WHY they would even think about taking Home Rule away form local governments. It’s seems like it might be real important to hear that explanation NOW. Doesn’t every community have the right to decide these things? I can only guess that BIG MONEY must be in play here, but this just doesn’t make sense.

  6. Mark101 says:

    These people are bought and paid for by the large vacation rental companies. Time to vote them out.

  7. Facts says:

    House Representative LaRosa property rights statement is full of holes. When Senate bill 883 was passed in 2011 each and every property owners rights where taken away. There local zoning laws where removed in favor of the vacation management association businesses.

    Your rights to enjoy your property where removed. Senate bill 883 was an over reach of authority. It open up every neighborhood in Florida to unregegulated public lodging establishments if your locality failed to adopt ordinances prior.

    If House Representative LaRosa was really concerned about property rights why not repeal the 2011 Senate bill that created this mess in the first place? There is not one ordinance that was adopted after 2014 that prohibited a public lodging establishment busniess. But prior to 2011 there where counties, cites and towns that adopted ordinances that prohibited this busniess in one family communities. Was this a property rights issue? Seems not, so why now?

    2014 Senate bill 354 has been working. The public lodging establishment of today are safer than they where after 2011. Our State does not have the resources to conduct fire safety inspection. Our State does not have the ability to monitor illegal activities in each of our counties, cities and towns.

    We can not afford another year without home rule. Our county at the present time is under a major water consumption alert issued by St. John water district. With out local ordinances, the uncontrol occupancy problems will return. With occupancies exceeding 20 without a way to enforce. We had one family dwellings consuming 35,000 to 50,000 gallons of water per month. Where the average one family dwelling consuming 7,500 gallons per month.

    Our Senators and Representatives must say no to senate bill 188 and house bill 325. Keep home rule!

    Go to HomeRuleFL.com

  8. Wakeup says:

    it always amazes me why people would want to spend their vacations in Flagler County. In reality there is nothing to do here. The beaches were destroyed, there are no popular tourist business businesses on A1A Just dated cheap gift shops and tee shirt stores, the main tourist spot after dark caters to the low class and teaming with LOWLIFES. If you go out to dinner and want good food you have to St Augistine or Daytona then you have to drive back through the speed traps that are set up.

    What’s next tour busses to the Mondex?
    Timeshare presentations at the new ‘low income” housing projects coming to Bunnell and Palm Coast?

    Flagler County, where we are always concerned about today never about tommorow!

  9. ed james says:

    wakeup, you are on the money!!

  10. Wishful Thnking says:

    Mike LaRosa is a licensed Florida Real Estate Sales person: SL 3056596 working under LaRosa Realty, Lic. 1020629 as well as a Realtor with his local, state and National Association of Realtors. His profession requires him to not violate any provisions of Florida Statutes 475 and 455 as well as his duty to the Code of Ethics required of all member Realtors. His outrageous, knowingly untruthful but very influential comments made at the House Hearing yesterday I hope forces him to recuse himself voluntarily from any further hearings on HB425. Whether he is plain stupid or ignorant or on the take the results are the same. He is causing a dangerous cancer to form with intent to destroy what private residential property rights we are trying to hold onto. Sickening

  11. Dave says:

    Flagler county has beautiful quiet beaches, amazing waterways and places to fish and swim. So many walking trails and places to ride bikes. There are many decent lil places to eat. Bunnell is over flowing with culture and different kinds of people. I love vacationing on Flagler County

  12. Timothy says:

    That explains La Rosa’s interest in HB 425. As a Realtor he would benefit if the residents move to get away from the short term rental properties in their neighborhood. More properties being bought and sold means more commissions for him. He should be voted out of office.

  13. Facts says:

    This is why the Florida real estate association is backing these bills. All Florida residents loss their property rights when the 2011 Senate bill 883 was passed.

    Here is what this bill did. It took away local zoning that protected our single family neighborhoods, it exempted these dwellings from fire/ life safety inspections even though they are required by Florida law to be in compliance with Florida Fire Prevention code 69A-43, it exempt them from installing a sprinkler system even in newly constructed dwellings built as a public lodging establishment, it placed a member of the vacation management association on the DBPR board and it change the name of these dwellings from a Resort Dwelling to a Vacation Rental.

    Now they want to go back to 2011. The present 2014 Senate bill 354 does not prohibit these public lodging establishments. The vacation rental industry has grown since 2014 even with local governments enacting local ordinances.

    Since LaRosa and Steube feel that they are the protectors of property rights why allow ordinances that prohibit vacation rentals stand prior to 2011?

    All Florida homeowners have the right to rent or lease their property. But a vacation rental is just a term that is being used by the industry. These dwellings are public lodging establishment. They use a licensing agreement just like a hotel, motel or a bed and breakfast. They are all license businesses with the state. All of these public lodging establishment businesses are not allowed to operate in single family neighborhoods why are vacation rentals exempt?

    LaRosa and Steube are the mouth piece for big busniess. This industry is not the mom and pop just trying to make a mortgage payment. This is not about home sharing with the owner residing in the dwelling. These busniesses are being run by investors. They are being supported by big money. VRBO, HOMEAWAY and AIRBNB, they are in Tallahassee now.

    We need to contact our Senators now! Go to homerulefl.com

  14. cls says:

    Well, now we know who to vote against in the next election, don’t we?

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