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Vacation-Rental Bill Hearing Rescheduled Just as Key Senate Committee Begins Debate

| April 3, 2017

Sen. Tom Lee, who chairs the Community Affairs Committee, ran out of time just as the vacation-rental bill was being heard late this afternoon. (Florida Channel)

Sen. Tom Lee, who chairs the Community Affairs Committee, ran out of time just as the vacation-rental bill was being heard late this afternoon. (Florida Channel)

Well, that was a wasted trip. At least for Flagler County officials, who once again traveled to the state Capitol—a six-and-a-half hour, 450-mile round-trip by car—for the fourth time in in less than three weeks to argue against a legislative proposal to roll-back local regulation of short-term vacation rentals.


The bill was before the Senate Community Affairs Committee for its second of three committee stops before reaching the Senate floor. It cleared a Senate subcommittee on March 21, and has already cleared two of three House committees, making these latter stops increasingly critical for Flagler County government’s chances to stop the bill.

But Sen. Greg Steube’s bill never got a full hearing this afternoon. It never made it past its first of two proposed amendments, neither of them relevant to Flagler’s concerns, before the clock struck 6 p.m., the Legislature’s Cinderella stroke equivalent of midnight, when lawmakers and lobbyists ritually repair to pubs and back-chambers. But the delay was a better outcome than not either for opponents or proponents of the bill. Sen. Tom Lee, a seasoned senator, a former president of the Senate and the chairman of the committee, was clearly uninterested in rushing business before him or hurrying the most anticipated bill of the afternoon, as had been the case when the bill appeared before Sen. Travis Hutson’s subcommittee last month–even though Hutson represents Flagler. Lee said the bill’s hearing will be rescheduled.

He had left the vacation-rental bill last on a list of 14 to be heard, even though the hearing room was largely filled with proponents and opponents of the Steube proposal.

Steube’s bill would forbid local regulation of short-term vacation rentals if regulation differs from that applied to other residential homes. Flagler officials, who have been represented by County Attorney Al Hadeed, who was in Tallahassee today, and a rolling cast of county commissioners, have argued to legislators that as far as Flagler’s 100 short-term rentals are concerned, the Steube proposal would make it impossible to continue regulating them. That, in essence, is the aim of the Steube proposal.

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Vacation-rental proponents, for their part, see the Flagler approach (and many like it across the state) as overbearing and unnecessary, since existing zoning and nuisance ordinances are, or in their view should be, enough of a check on irresponsible renters. To that end, one of the amendments presented today (by Steube) would require that short-term rentals have a point of contact on file in case of an emergency at the property. The amendment passed with little discussion (except for an objection from the Florida League of Cities, whose Casey Cook slipped in a quick broadside: “It is lacking any sort of enforcement mechanism on the life-safety mechanism,” he said. “The locals are largely acting as the regulatory arm.”

As far as Flagler is concerned, the amendment is superfluous as the requirement is already incorporated in the county ordinance.

But the Steube amendment is at heart a contradiction of the core idea behind Steube’s bill—that it “wouldn’t allow you to regulate specifically vacation rentals,” in his words. Steube has argued that it is unjust to single out vacation rentals or differentiate them from any other single-family homes as a matter of property rights. But the amendment is an implicit recognition of what the opposition has been arguing all along: that vacation rentals are different and that they incur different potential problems.

State inspectors, for example, visit hotels and motels at least once a year to verify compliance with fire, pool and other safety codes. They do not inspect vacation rentals. That’s what county inspectors do in Flagler and other local governments.

The discussion today though never got as far as the debate over the bill. As Steube was presenting yet another amendment—to exempt veterans from a grandfather clause that could yet expose them to some local regulations—Lee marked the time, and said the hearing had to end. It’s not yet clear when the bill will be scheduled next.

In a sense, the reprieve gives opponents of the bill a few more days to make their case to lawmakers behind the scenes. But the battle so far has seemed lost, from opponents’ perspective, as the bill and its House companion have built momentum largely on the strength of vacation-rental lobby, a powerful industry in the state with a substantial economic impact on the tourism industry, including Flagler’s.

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12 Responses for “Vacation-Rental Bill Hearing Rescheduled Just as Key Senate Committee Begins Debate”

  1. Wishful thinking says:

    Sickening..more sickening that the ‘Clock’ not the issues, not the presence of citizens whose rights are being smothered by the ‘Clocks’ operators. Time that we demand that every item must be heard. BARS are opened late – way past 6Pm
    Time for us who oppose this
    attempt to take our local government away from us to tell these bozos in person . Our county attorney has made 3 trips on our behalf. Time we help him out

  2. Jan says:

    Remember Thomas Jefferson’s words: “The government closest to the people serves the people best.”

    None of these bill removing home rule should be passed. And, they are coming after HOAs next (SB 1186).

    Let Senator Hutson know how you feel, even though he is not on this particular committee. He is on other committees that have passed similar bills. Email: Hutson.Travis@flsenate.gov (note the period between Hutson and Travis): Do not take away home rule.

    Do it now: one email, one minute, and one potentially big difference for our communities.

  3. Not in your backyard says:

    So why is it so many people want strict government control over who can live in a rented house, when many of these same people fight endlessly for the rights of people to come into our country illegally?

    Oh wait, it must be because it might be in their own back yards this time, and that changes everything.

  4. Facts says:

    I should not have to be subject to a public lodging establishment busniess in my back yard or yours. We had zoning protection in place prior to June 2011. My property rights where violated. My property was purchase in 2001, ten years prior to the 2011 Senate bill. This bill was an over reach by the State. This bill was about special interest. This bill was the brain child of the Florida Vacation Management Association.

    We now have limited regulatory authority in place after our county adopted an ordinance in 2015. This ordinance does not prohibit vacation rentals. This ordinance addresses the concerns of its constituents that where put in this position by our elected officials in Tallahassee.This ordinance has been vetted by all stake holders. This ordinance is fair and balance. But what this ordinance did not do was return our local zoning that protected our single family communities from illegal hotel operations.

    Zoning is purely a county, city or municipal affair. Why would the state exempt a public lodging establishment from local zoning? Zoning controls the physical development of land and the kinds of uses to which each individual property may be put. How can a county develop a comprehensive plan in matter consistent with the Florida statutes if their local zoning has been preempt?

    Why should a vacation rental which is a public lodging establishment be treated differently then a hotel, motel or bed and breakfast? They are all public lodging establishments. All of these busniesses use licensing agreements. They are not rentals or leases. There is no transfer of property rights to the occupants. So the concerns mentioned above regarding government control over rentals is inaccurate. These dwellings are not rentals. They are being used for transient activities not a permanent occupancy. A rental or a lease is a permanent occupancy of a month or more. A transient operation can operate daily. Big difference if you live next door to one of these busniesses.

    We the people need to contact our representatives in Tallahassee and tell them to vote No! Our local governments should be able to address local concerns. One size does not fit all. Miami problems are not Flagler’s problems. Go to HomeRuleFL.com Now!

  5. tulip says:

    Perhaps some people don’t understand the rental situation. These aren’t “regular size homes” being rented out with proper parking and safety features.
    These are HUGE homes that can hold dozens of people at a time on vacation—just like a small hotel. These places are in residential neighborhoods, do not provide enough parking, fire safety equipment may not be adequate. streets and cul de sacs too small to hold too many cars. Also they vacationers are noisy and litter everywhere. The intrusion into these neighborhoods and being able to deliberately rent out these home/hotels and get under the radar of all the rules and regs are what’s being considered to allow the county to make the rules or the state, NOT a person who bought a regular home to rent out to a couple or a family.

  6. Wishful thinking says:

    The stench is so bad we almost have to require oxygen. FLORIDA Realtors never consulted us dues paying members who are all either licensed salesperson or Brokers who pay far juicy dues to a local board – – Florida Realtors and National Assoc of Realtors. We pay big bucks but we are never consulted on issues their non licensed VP of Public Affairs lobbies for on the closed door decision of the big shots what is “good for us Realtors and Home ownership…..
    This political un licensed person called me and tried to convince me that short term commercial rentals are the same as second homes. Need more be said.
    My license is over 1/4 century in good standing.
    Can’t say same for the clowns who claim they speak in my behalf

  7. Jan says:

    Wishful thinking,

    Would love to have a group of local realtors sign a letter that they are in support of retaining home rule and controlling out-of-control short-term rentals in communities zoned single-family.

    That would be immensely helpful. Can you help? Our “representatives” need to hear from you, not just from the short-term rental lobbyists.

  8. Facts says:

    Yes we need our realtors to speak up. Have you sent emails or called any of our representatives? Your lobbyist is representing you in Tallahassee saying we need to take away home rule. Where is Toby Tobin on this issue? It seems he is in line with his fellow Florida Realators Association Lobbyist. Our does he get it now?

    These vacation rentals are a busniess. They are public lodging establishments. They require commercial insurance. They are required to pay a lodging tax. They are subject to additional fire/ life safety codes ( Florida Fire Prevention code 69A-43). They are a transient. New people everyday. They are owned by investors with no ties to our community.

    The NFPA life safety code defines a hotel. It states a dwelling with an occupancy of over 16. If that is the case we have had multiple dwellings in our community fit that category. Does this sound like a single family home? Take a look at Airbnb. There are dwellings being advertise with occupancies exceeding 20 or more.

    If home rule is removed you will once agian see occupancies exceed 14. Local governments must be in control of regulating these activities. Remember the greatest over reach was done in Tallahassee when they passed Senate bill 883 in 2011.

    Go to homerulefl.com

    Let’s stop the Florida vacation management association, AIRBNB, HOMEAWAY, the Florida Realators Assocition, National Realators Association and Vacation Rental Pro’s from destroying our single family communities. Protect your homes now! Our local Realators need to find their voice.

  9. Jan says:

    Wishful Thinking,

    I looked up the Florida Realtor “representative” who voted in support of SB 188 on behalf of Florida Realtors – a bill that would do away with Home Rule and remove restrictions on short-term rentals. His name is Andy Gonzalez, and he is the Public Policy Rep. His email is andy@floridarealtors.org. I sent him an email and asked how he could presume to be speaking for realtors – the ones I’ve asked haven’t been contacted to see how they feel about this issue – and they do want home rule and control of short-term vacation rentals in communities zoned single-family.

    Please email him as well, and encourage your colleagues to do so. It’s giving Florida realtors a bad reputation. He was there supporting this bill along with Airbnb, Homeaway, and the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association. Don’t think you want to be lumped in with them. Please take action! Thank you.

  10. Chris says:

    YES!!
    I’m sure the realtors will write a letter in the support of the bill, but wait!!!
    They make huge commissions on the rental and management fees they charge !
    Good luck with that!

  11. Ron says:

    When home prices start dropping so does those commissions. Along with the tax base that pays for services provided to our citizens. Home rule must prevail.

  12. Wishful Thinking says:

    To Chris: I am a realtor for over 35 years and am writing to every SOB at the Florida Realtors who are paid for by us but working for the’ big boys’. ( Realtors will make very little commission on a 3 day rental and these agencies are not using us realtors)

    I have emailed every officer of Florida Realtors as well as my local Board ‘President’, as well as the local CEO – not one single response. Pretty sad isn’t it

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