Vacation rentals have been in the news a lot lately. But not like this.
Vacation Rental Pros is one of the principal agencies in Flagler County and the region, offering short-term rentals: residential housing units or single-family homes rented for short periods, usually to vacationers who’d rather not stay in hotels. Vacation rentals are especially popular along the beach and in the Hammock. One of Vacation Rental Pros’ offices is at 5 Utility Drive in Palm Coast, off Old Kings Road.
Late Monday evening (Feb. 5) the agency rented Unit 835 at 900 Cinnamon Beach Way in the Hammock to a man, who carried out the registration online. (The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office is withholding his identity as the investigation is ongoing.) The office “had been trashed and keys from other rental properties were stolen,” according to a sheriff’s report.
Vacation Rental Pros tenants are usually given access to the office, an employee told deputies, and the man who’d made the late-night booking was believed to have been the last person there Monday night, apparently unsupervised.
The property inspector then went to the unit that had been rented on Cinnamon Beach Way the morning of Feb. 6. He knocked. There was no answer. He knocked again many times. No answer. He said the area “reeked” of marijuana and “found several people sleeping and would not respond to him.” He left and notified another Vacation Pros employee.
Both agency employees then told deputies the new tenant or tenants “were in violation of the rental agreement and they wanted them evicted.” The property manager asked a deputy to stand by as a matter of security.
“We rang the doorbell and knocked on the door multiple times before making entry,” the deputy reported in an incident report. No one was in. A note was left on the door advising the tenants they were in violation of the agreement and that they had to vacate the unit. But authorities did not go in. Just before 5 p.m., deputies were called again and informed that the credit card used for the transaction the night before to rent the unit on Cinnamon Beach Way turned out to have been stolen. So the actual identity of the person who rented the unit could not be provided to deputies just then.
The area manager for Vacation pros told deputies she took control of the property. Inside, according to the incident report, she “found most of the electronic devices were unplugged with the cords wrapped around them. She located three copy machines in the kitchen. She located a ten dollar bill that appeared to be counterfeit and a cell phone on the right night stand in the master bedroom. She believes they were going to print counterfeit money. Also found in the master bedroom [was] a small amount of a green leafy substance that appeared to be marijuana.”
In the master bathroom, there were pictures of the suspects: a white man and a white woman. The man was wearing a ball cap that matched a ball cap left on a lamp shade in the master bedroom. The inspector had located a leather satchel on the rear porch containing papers, cash (whether legitimate or counterfeit was not clear at the time) and a wallet.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office since December has been investigating several cases of counterfeit money being used at area businesses, the last instance in late January. No suspect has yet been arrested in those cases.
Vacation rental properties for their part have been at the center of a political struggle between interests looking to deregulate the industry and local governments, including Flagler County’s, looking to maintain certain local controls such as annual inspections and local contact points when issues arise. Since the county has been regulating the local industry, which includes some 120 regulated residential dwellings used as vacation rentals, county officials say there have been no complaints, and the units have had a safe record. The current case appears to be the first documented case in that time span that a vacation rental unit may have been used by its tenants for criminal activity.
Nevertheless, the case on Cinnamon Beach Way underscores the extent to which vacation rentals have been gaining popularity not just for their relative affordability, but for their lack of controls in units where there’s not so much as a front desk presence, thus opening the way for transient uses (and abuses) of properties that may have little to do with vacationing.
These are the kinds of things that happen when neighbors don’t know neighbors.
It’s why people are opposed to transient rentals with strangers moving in and out of properties. Lots more to come if our legislature succeeds in passing the “do anything you want with your property” approach.
Percy's mother says
I think we should all thank Travis for this.
Vacation Rental Pros. has got to have the most gullible group of stooges to have this type of operation going on under their noses. What a joke!
Concerned Citizen says
For those who are wanting the vacation rentals this is a taste of what’s to come. For those against please keep fighting so this doesn’t become more of an occurrence.
Vacation Rental Pros isn’t a pristine company either and I imagine they probably had something to do with this at some level. Their employees are rude and the office severely lacks customer service. if you have an issue with a rental it takes forever to fix it or it doesn’t get fixed at all.
We rented a house in the R section years ago thru them The AC broke and they failed to respond. After numerous complaints they sent a Russian handyman out who worked for someone in the office. He refused to fix it and strongly advised us in the front yard to stop making an issue out of it. He then drove by our house numerous times glaring and basically letting us know he was there. My wife got so nervous over it we eventually moved.
If I recall there was an incident years ago where a Russian individual was driving by Palm Coast properties and discharging a handgun. I believe that these were rentals who were late on rent or had some sort of issue with the managing company. They caught up with him in Tidelands if I’m not mistaken.
A lot of these Realty companies and management offices are sometimes covers for other activities. A friend of mine who recently retired from the FBI said the Russian Mafia gets involved in a lot of Realty business and often uses it for money laundering. Think it can’t happen in Palm Coast? Think again. .
Would be interesting to investigate Vacation Rental Pros and see exactly what they have going on.
We recently moved here from Delray Beach where the vacation rental market was strong. And, I can tell you it was painful and the more popular the Flagler Beach area becomes the results will be the same. There were times when I’d be relaxing by my pool and find wondering eyes peering over the fence, smokers not allowed to smoke inside the vacation rental homes sending a continuous smoke fog our way and worst of all those who rented the homes for birthday parties and family/friend gatherings. Oh, lord, the noise from the voices and music negated the quiet enjoyment of our home day and night during the celebrations. With respect to Flagler Beach, there is a home a few blocks north of us that had 12 cars for a full weekend and up to 18 cars each night for the festivities. We had a half-acre lot in Delray, will be interesting to see how difficult it becomes when the 50-foot wide lots start getting bombarded with vacation rentals. It’s understandable that some can only think of their personal financial gain, but trust me, bending to the vacation rentals in residential areas equates to making a ‘Deal with the Devil.’ Just like this article points out, there is no direct supervision and no watchful eyes to deter criminal activity. Heads up to the city and county police departments, get ready for the influx of complaints!
There you go-back ground checks?That’s crazy.No tears in these eyes.
JUST A PLAIN JO says
We have this in our quiet neighborhood in the w section. Our street is not safe anymore. People rent the home for 2/3 nights at a time. The loud yelling of obscenities, the smell of weed, the beer cans being thrown over our fence and the loss of feeling safe in our own home has caused us to think about moving. Before you say anything, we are senior citizens living right next door. It would be obvious who called the police and we are afraid of retaliation!! PLEASE – do not let this happen in your neighborhood!!