Article Courtesy of
Published October 25, 2017
Two weeks ago the Florida Senate Community Affairs Committee met in workshop to
discuss short-term rentals across Florida, an issue that has bedeviled Flagler
County since county government in 2013 and 2014 successfully led the way to a
new state law that allows for a measure of local vacation-rental regulations,
reversing a 2011 law that had abrogated those rights to the state. Ever since,
the short-term rental industry has been pushing hard to reverse or amend the
The industry almost succeeded during the last legislative session, but efforts
fell shorts. Those efforts have more momentum this year, again placing Flagler
County officials at the forefront of the battle. The outcome will define
short-term rental regulations for the foreseeable future. Home-owner
associations are on the side of permitting, not abrogating, local regulation.
Paul C. Pershes, president of the Ocean Hammock Property Owners Association,
sent the following letter to members of the Community Affairs Committee ahead of
the committee’s meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 24), when members are expected to
“wrap-up,” as their agenda notes, the workshop on short-term rentals. The letter
has been slightly edited for style.
By Paul C. Pershes
I represent the Ocean Hammock Property Owners Association, which numbers
approximately 1100 homes and I would like senators to understand the problems we
face in our community, and to make recommendations.
A short-term rental house on the barrier island in
We are asking the Florida Legislature to:
1. Assure that homeowner associations continue to manage their communities
under their contractual master documents.
2. Protect homeowners/residents living in communities zoned single family by
limiting the occupancy in transient short term rentals. For example, Flagler
County has an average household occupancy of 2.71. Short-term rental
occupancy therefore should be tied to the average occupancy in Flagler. Five
might be a reasonable limit.
3. Continue to enforce current laws that provide for home rule. It works in
Now the details.
Excessive occupancy: When the 2011 law was passed–the law that forbade
vacation-rental regulations by local governments–it allowed the unbridled
expansion of short term rentals within single family communities. No matter
what you heard or will hear, the citizens and voters of these communities
never expected nor wanted short-term rentals with excessive occupancy
In my community, where the homes have three to four bedrooms and a 2.5
person average occupancy, short term rental firms came in and converted all
available space to bedrooms. The number of bedrooms grew to a level of 11
bedrooms and advertised occupancy up to 26 people in a single family home.
These are not single-family short-term rentals. They are multi-family
rentals. Just imagine living next to a property with 26 different people
each week. The side effects of this unacceptable occupancy resulted in
unacceptable noise levels, garbage, cars, traffic, etc. by a new group of
renters every week. Yet these were only symptoms of the problem. Excessive
occupancy by investor-owned homes filled by on-line reservation companies is
In 2014, a law was passed that allowed local governments to adopt ordinances
to control short term rentals, including limits on occupancy (set at 10
people for any single rental). It is working in Flagler County. The County
has worked with both sides and has come up with an ordinance that is
working. The real culprits are the on-line short term rental reservation
companies and investor mini-hotel properties. They are not the “mom and pop”
properties. They are not properties with homestead exemptions. They are not
owner occupied. The investor and on-line reservation companies try to
maximize occupancy to maximize profits.
They told you they want to work with the community. But our experience is
the opposite. In Flagler County, the largest company’s practices have been
egregious in working against the community. They do not have any management
locally to monitor occupancy and guest conduct. Most owners, unless they
rent themselves, have no idea what is happening to the community or their
house. Most of these owners never stay at these properties. They are pure
investments. Greed is the problem. The investors and the on-line reservation
companies do nothing to help the community.
Rebuttal to some workshop statements. Airbnb, HomeAway, VRPs – these
companies are strictly on-line reservation businesses. They have grown at
incredible rates at the expense of homesteaded homeowners who live and work
in Florida and, I believe, also at the expense of the hotel industry. The
2014 law change did not slow them down. They suggest their short term rental
properties blend in with the community. This is opposite to reality.
Property rights. I keep hearing about the property rights of property
owners. I agree. Where are the property rights of a single family resident
when a mini-hotel is converted or built next to them, especially when the
occupancy is multiples of the average resident property next-door? If you
want equal rights, then limit the number of renters in a property to an
average occupancy of the community average or no more than, say, five
If the owner is staying at the property, then occupancy may be increased.
The presence of the owner provides for proper property management and some
automatic controls. We have these rules in our community and we treat
everyone equally. This includes rules related to parking, noise, trash, and
so on. It works.
Florida Statutes define “Transient Public Lodging Establishments” (TPLEs) as
a property with more than three short term rentals a year. We do not want
transient properties in a single-family community. Long term leases work
fine since the occupancy is much less and the long-term renters tend to act
Homeowner associations (HOAs) are an important part of our community. They
have rules and regulations to properly manage each community. Each owner
reviews these rules and regulations when purchasing a property in the
community and agrees to abide by them. These association rights must be
maintained. They should not be overruled by the State.
Community abuses: Institute legislation that controls abuses. For example,
limit fines–say 20 percent of the weekly rental rate. Counties can work with
some frameworks provided by the state to prevent unreasonable, outlier fines
and penalties. But don’t punish the majority for the transgressions of the
Full-time homestead residents are the backbone of our communities and of
Florida. They are the volunteers in our schools, food banks, libraries,
workers, and the voters. Don’t let the abuses of the short-term rentals
continue to push these residents out. We need local homeowner association
rules and local home rule.
Pershes is president of the Ocean Hammock Property Owners Association.