In a long-running issue watched by communities and businesses across the state, and in Flagler County in particular, a Senate committee Monday approved a proposal that would take away power from cities and counties to regulate vacation rental properties. The 8-2 vote included Sen. Travis Hutson’s support. Hutson represents Flagler County.
The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee backed a bill (SB 1128), sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, that would “preempt” regulation of vacation rentals to the state. Lawmakers have attempted to pass a bill similar in one way or another to Diaz’s in each of the previous three legislative sessions, each time coming close but failing to cross final hurdles.
The Legislature in 2011 approved a bill that removed most local authority from regulating vacation rentals. That bill was intended to give a boost to homeowners whose mortgages were “under water” because of housing collapse, when vacation rentals were seen as a way to make money out of otherwise burdensome properties. That led to a small boom in vacation rentals, including in places such as the Hammock on Flagler’s barrier island.
Supporters of such preemption point, at least in part, to the property rights of people who decide to use platforms such as Airbnb to rent out homes or parts of homes. But critics contend that such rentals, in many cases, have turned into commercial operations in residential areas. Established residents in the Hammock formed opposition groups to vacation rental properties, lobbying the county commission and state lawmakers to restore local regulatory authority. The Flagler County Commission and local residents made their case to then freshman Rep. Travis Hutson and Sen. John Thrasher (who has since taken the presidency of Florida State University). Trasher successfully passed a bill in 2014 restoring at least some local authority while preserving property owners’ rights to rent. (An earlier version of this story incorrectly had Rep. Paul Renner rather than Thrasher in the mix; Renner had not yet been elected.)
The county wrote new rules. A vacation rental company sued the county but the rules were largely upheld in circuit court, and Flagler’s ordinance, the work of County Attorney Al Hadeed, became a model for such ordinances across the state, But the short-term rental industry kept up the pressure on lawmakers, year after year returning to Tallahassee to get the 2014 law repealed, and a new law favoring vacation rentals enacted.
Monday’s committee meeting, which came a day before the start of the annual legislative session, gave a glimpse of the lobbying on each side of the issue. Supporters included companies and groups such as Airbnb, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and property managers, while opponents included numerous local governments, the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Association of Counties and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.
“I can’t remember a bill in a while that’s taken up as much attention in my district,” Sen. Gary M. Farmer Jr., the Fort Lauderdale Democrat, said. He had questions about inspections, and how the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which would be responsible for inspections, “if we’re taking away any inspection or local rights from local governments. Six people at a cost of $440,000 to police the whole state. I think we need to explore that a little bit more, and I think some good points were made between homestead properties and corporately-held properties.”
The cast of characters was almost identical to previous such casts in previous years, though representation from Flagler was conspicuously absent, as it was last year: preserving local regulatory authority is still a priority for county government, but if in previous years county commissioners, Hadeed and the county administrator made frequent trips to the state capital to fight their side of the battle, that tactic has been abandoned. The county has a lobbyist in Tallahassee. (The commission chose to remove Hadeed from legislative initiatives.)
Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican who is a member of the committee, said she thinks the state needs uniform regulations for vacation-rental properties, but she also said the bill has a “long way to go” in addressing concerns. “We can’t just preempt,” Passidomo said. “We have to preempt and set rules.” Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, has filed a House version of the bill (HB 1011).
–FlaglerLive and News Service of Florida
Kathleen Brady says
I am a resident of the Hammock and have made note of the changing atmosphere in my beloved community. There is a preponderance of homes that have become rental properties and it takes away from the close knit community atmosphere that I have long enjoyed in my neighborhood. Other residents on my street have made the same observance. As residents have either moved or passed away, it appears as if more homes have been bought by entities using them as rentals than by individuals wishing to make this area their home.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Dear FlaglerLive.com readers… I know I rant sometimes but please google everything I am about to say about this ‘vacation rental ‘ current Senate/House Bill 1128/1011. I thank you in advance and again ask you close your eyes and imagine 6 garbage pails on your neighbors curb twice a week instead of one before reading on….
The legally insufficient ( my opinion) bill SB1128 – just google it – states that ” vacation rental ‘fits’ into residential use. However, Blacks Law Dictionary ( respected by judges if not stupid attorneys) clearly defines residential as ” place where one actually lives” ” a person’s dwelling place or place of habitation” ” a house where one’s home is”…. NOT a “Here today gone tomorrow transient get away. There’s more: Bill also says that tourism in Florida (duh) is “unique’ and that vacation rentals are ‘critical to tourism”.. How are vacation rentals critical to tourism the bill doesn’t even attempt to define ( why should it – the votes are probably prepaid for anyway)
The best one of all: ” the bill respects property owner’s ” Constitutional Rights”. Which right(s) are not defined. ( Again, those specific rights don’t need to be defined because they are probably also pre-paid for). Never mind that Contracts for Sale and Purchase approved by the Florida Bar Association ask for a stated ‘use’ of a single family home and the zoning is also single family’. No mortgage lender will grant the ‘residential primary residence loan interest rate’ to an investor who intends to blind-side the meaning of residential and create a mini hotel/motel for themselves – an insurance company will cancel your homeowner’s insurance is your policy says ” owner occupied” but you are running a ( illegal unsupervised) business.
None of this makes a difference to Flagler County really because they have hired a Jacksonville ‘ Lobbying firm’ ( no references) for $60,000 a year to send quarterly updates, together with their $5,000 bills for unnamed ‘ services’ of what’s being heard in Tallahassee ( but not a peep of what they are doing for us) which is free to all of us on the internet. THIS FIORNTINO FIRM DOES NOT LIST FLAGLER COUNTY AS THEIR CLIENT!… NOR DID ANYONE ATTEND THE MEETING IN THIS ARTICLE ON BEHALF OF FLAGLER COUNTY!!!
In spite of numerous e-mails defining the potential disasters for single family homeowners who will find themselves living next to free for alls of who knows whats? and how many of them? and how much noise? how many garbage pails?- FLAGLER COUNTY DID NOTHING. THE $60,000 A YEAR LOBBYIST SENT A REPORT OF WHAT WAS ON TV!
County Commissioners weren’t there – Our $200,000 a year County Attorney was not there. Our $60,000 a year paid lobbyist firm was not there. Not one of our $54,000+++++ commissioners were there. Who do we blame when property values fall when people start moving away from their ‘transient’ neighborhood?
Sorry folks but we have no one to blame but ourselves for letting our county get away with not giving a damn. I must however congratulate Commissioner O’Brien for his action yesterday in exposing a long overdue waste of our money. His action ( and guts) is just the first step in stopping our financial abuse for nothing with almost nothing return. Let’s start by forcing the county officials to get off their butts and make sure this Vacation Rental free for all paid for bill fails. E-mail everyone of them. They get paid enough!
This new vacation bill will destroy our single family residential neighborhoods. It will send us back to 2011. In 2014 Senator Thrasher introduce a bill that would have given back local control of the vacation rentals. It was Representative Hutson the sponsor of a similar bill in the house that created a water down version after he failed to fully explain Thrashers bill to the house . Senator Hutson now wants to turn back the clock in favor of the vacation rental industry and his real estate business.
Why are vacation rentals treated like single family residential homes? Vacation rentals are no different then a bed and breakfast. Both these dwellings are transient public lodging establishments businesses. When an owner of a single family dwelling license their dwelling as a bed and breakfast they are required to obtain a new certificate of occupancy. The reason for this they just change their occupancy use from permanent in nature to transient. When a dwelling is used as a single family dwelling there certificate of occupancy states that this dwellings has an occupancy permanent in nature which is occupancy class R-3. All single family dwellings license as vacation rentals should be required to change their certificate of occupancy to there new designation which is a vacation rental. The legislature must add this new designation into the Florida Building Occupancy code.
In addition the sponsor of this bill has stated that he is unaware of the code requirements of bed and breakfast dwellings. Why introduce a bill taken away local authority to regulate Vacation rentals? The DBPR does not have the resources to inspect every vacation rental in the state. A single family dwelling license as a bed and breakfast are required to be inspected twice a year for life and fire safety issues. They are also inspected prior to being issued a license to operate. A bed and breakfast also most provide a sprinkler system if their secondary means of egress do not exit to grade level. But a vacation rental is exempt from these rules if we turn the clock back to the 2011 bill which exempted these dwellings.
When Flagler County adopted ordinances they required that vacation rentals be inspected prior to issuing a permit to operate. After the first inspection over 90 percent failed. These vacation rental dwellings where operating in non compliance of the Florida Fire Code. Putting not only there customers lives in jeopardy but our first responders. Vacation rentals should have the same standards as a bed and breakfast. Both these dwellings are transient public lodging establishments. Vacation rentals should be inspected prior to the state issuing a license to operate.
Our local officials should be able to use their property zoning laws to prohibit incompatible uses in our residential single family neighborhoods. A bed and breakfast is prohibited from operating in our neighborhoods. These bed and breakfast dwellings are no different than the operations of vacation rentals. The only solution is to fully repeal the 2011 Senate bill 883 that caused this breach of our residential neighborhoods allowing this incompatible use.
Our communities infustructures are being taxed. Investor owned structures are being built purposely with the intent to operate as a vacation rentals with occupancies exceeding 25. The water usage alone is ten times the amount allocated by the Dunes Water District. When Ocean Hammock was develop the water usage was based on 2.5 people per household. Our property rights are being attack. Operating a transient public lodging establishment was never a property right. Now our legislators want to go further and establish a constitutional right. This right will be used by the vacation rental industry and their lawyers to overturn every law and CC&R’s prohibiting their use. All of us will be threaten. The rights of every property owner will be removed to benefit the vacation rental industry.
Great news for Flagler county neighborhoods!
We need more diversity in our neighborhoods, the same old neighbors get boring and this brings fresh new faces!
Stephen Smith says
Before the state takes away local rights regarding rentals. They first need to establish the mechanism to limit and enforce occupancy limits, noise, liscense and taxation both of property value and use taxes of these now commercial establishments. To simply remove local restrictions without concern for residential homeowners is at best ridiculous.
As for our senator. It’s obvious he does not represent his constituents and should be replaced in the next election
Dave if you want new faces every day move into Cinnamon Beach. There are plenty of homes and condominiums available. This area is zoned exclusively for vacation rentals use. This is a great example how property zoning works. Keeping non compatible uses separate.
But Dave will not move next door to one of these transient public lodging establishments. He just wants to operate them any where he pleases. Taken away property rights from our single family neighbors.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Correction of several statements in my original post where I said the 8 Senate votes in favor were ‘”PROBABLY instead WERE pre paid’ including our own Hutson, who voted in favor of SB1128 Monday to take away our home rule and force Air B&B down our throats . Read below… They already had been given $250,000 by Air B & B PRIOR to Monday’s vote – especially ‘chair’ Simpson. Sorry for the error..
Kathleen Brady says
I find it absolutely disgusting that the name of the committee through which the money is funded is “People versus the Powerful” when it is just the opposite. It is big business money versus the people. I have emailed and called the Senators office to express my displeasure but I don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to donate so I guess my voice will count for nothing.
I understand that HOA’s are not exempt from this proposed law.
I’m not planning on moving anytime soon thats why it would be great to have some “spice” around my neighborhood.
And I’m sorry but no I do not own more homes than the one I’m in and would just like to see more vacation rentals because we have had great experiences with people visiting or passing threw.
CB from PC says
Dave, I thought maybe you were busy moderating the problem kids in the schools.
Maybe for the vacation rentals you will also volunteer your time and services picking up the trash left behind by the “vacationers”.
What are you talking about? You think I should pick up the neighbors trash?
If you are referring to the vacation rentals, they usually charge a cleaning fee which the owner or manager of the house would do between guests.
I think I may be missing your point. And I’m not sure what you mean about school kids?