A little Airbnb regulation is good

Airbnb and other short-term rental sites like VRBO and HomeAway are popular in Pioneer Valley, but so far since all private landlords have had to list their space on the internet, they’ve operated with little oversight. .

Now regulation has come to this cottage industry. The law signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in December will require landlords to register with the state, purchase insurance and pay state lodging taxes beginning July 1.

“Airbnbs will come out of the shadows, so to speak,” Craig Della Penna, owner of the Sugar Maple Trailside Inn in Florence, told Gazette reporter Scott Merzbach.State short-term rental rules put Airbnb and bed and breakfasts on equal footing», January 7, 2019).

There are 330 active hosts on Airbnb in the county of Hampshire, according to the company – a number that rose from 220 hosts in 2016 to 280 in 2017. In 2018, 25,400 guests stayed at these properties, bringing in around 3 millions of dollars. There are about 15,700 hosts in Massachusetts, Airbnb said.

State law is a reasonable way to put this industry in the sun and provide consumers with assurance that the rentals they stay in are safe, making them compliant with local health and safety codes. Like us opined in April 2018, “old and unsanitary housing without two exits does indeed exist and a fire blocking the only exit is a drama that is a nightmare for firefighters. House fires, food safety and sanitation issues are the pitfalls of unregulated short-term housing.

These regulations will level the playing field for other accommodations, including hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts, which already comply with a host of state laws and inspections and pay state taxes.

“We are doing what should be done if you are a professional innkeeper,” said Joan Stoia, operator of Centennial House in Northfield.

Prompted by state law, Northampton and Amherst said they are already working to integrate these short-term rentals into the infrastructure for lodging inspections.

State law smartly allows municipalities to further regulate these rentals, including capping the number of rentals or length of stay, and adding more taxes to short-term rentals when the operator does not live on-site and rent two or more. rooms at a time.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said he wanted to know more about an aspect of the law that could lessen the effect of short-term rentals on the housing market, driving up rents and limiting options rent.

“One of the impacts of room sharing has been the impact on the availability of long-term rental units,” Narkewicz said.

Two Airbnb hosts told the Gazette that they are concerned about the licensing and inspection aspects of the new law, and that cities should be willing to work with hosts to make the process accessible. Improving transparency and accountability around short-term rentals is good for everyone.

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