A new year brings about new challenges and opportunities; this is especially true in government relations. In the U.S., state legislative sessions are underway, and these new sessions will have numerous prospects to protect the short-term rental market place. However, there will also be strong opposition to reasonable regulations from various groups, such as the hotel industry and affordable housing advocates.
That is why it is imperative for managers and industry suppliers to connect with their local and state elected officials in the coming months. Many of you may have relationships built, but the composition of elected bodies changes and the dynamics of the internal politics change with it. This most recent U.S. election saw many changes, which potentially leave the door open to new proponents of the vacation rental industry.
The 2016 U.S. election saw a nearly 20 percent change, or 1,340 districts in state legislature districts’ representation. This type of shift, while not necessarily a partisan shift, will have major policy implications in the 2017 sessions. New representation often means there is a need for more education from industry advocates.
For example, New Hampshire, a state that voted to study short-term rental regulations in 2016, had a 54 percent change in house representation. Florida, which has protections for vacation rentals, had a nearly 50 percent change in its senate. We also saw eight U.S. state governorships changes in 2016 — four of those were along party lines.
Adjustments like these are an opportunity for the vacation rental management industry to demonstrate their commitment to professional property management, contributions to the overall travel and tourism industry, and provide consumers with safe and affordable lodging options. In order to demonstrate these principles, conversations need to be held between professional managers who hold the knowledge of the industry and policy makers who often only partially understand what it is you do and how it affects the greater economy of your community and state.
Discussing your business with elected officials can yield positive results. Last year Idaho passed HB 511, a bill preventing homeowners’ associations from changing rental rules after the fact without the consent of the property owner it affects. This bill came about when a short-term rental business, that had been operating for years, faced being shut down. The home owners’ association passed new rules that prohibited short-term renting. Eventually, enforcement actions lead to a court case on the matter. The business owner contacted his state legislator and explained how this rule was detrimental to his business and the state’s tourism economy. The legislator understood the predicament and introduced HB 511.
It is expected that the 2017 state legislative sessions will have a greater number of states addressing vacation rentals than in past years. There are numerous accounts of efforts to replicate Arizona’s short-term rental standards bill, SB 1350. This bill passed, overwhelmingly, with bipartisan support. The Arizona model will prevent communities from outright banning or overly restricting the use of homes for short-term renting. It establishes some basic uniform standards, but also allows communities to develop health, safety and quality of life rules.
Most importantly, it provides the means for the collection of occupancy taxes. The 2016 bill is now being offered as model legislation by various property rights and free market groups. This model can be replicated but only when the vacation rental industry, home-sharing advocates, property owners and property rights groups organize and communicate with their state officials.
In the coming months, you will receive VRMA advocacy alerts about issues like state short-term rental standards bills. Your response to the alerts will help VRMA and industry allies to communicate with public officials on the importance of the industry. In addition to the tools, you are highly encouraged to contact your state legislators and begin a conversation about your business and the vacation rental marketplace.