As if vacation rental management was not difficult enough, keeping up to date with your community’s regulatory discussions can be another daunting task to deal with. This is amplified when you represent properties in multiple jurisdictions. There are two acts you can take to help you keep up with what happens in your community: following local government agendas and building relationships with local officials. These tips can help you focus your efforts and stay informed with public discourse regarding your business interests.
Following Local Government Agendas
In most states, open meetings laws require that a community post an agenda at least 72 hours before a meeting. While this does not provide a lot of time to digest what is being proposed, it still provides a warning if there are specific regulation proposals regarding vacation rentals. It also can provide you warning on other issues you may be interested in that could affect your business. This could be anything from parking restrictions in a downtown business district, updating a local park or other beautification efforts, a redevelopment plan for a neighborhood, or even something more robust, like the communities masterplan.
These issues can be something that may only partially relate to your business. However, items like can set a weekly reminder with a link to the agenda page on the community’s website. On most days, this will be less than a five-minute exercise.
Following agendas for public bodies (such as a city council or a planning commission) can be time-consuming and require nearly weekly vigilance. However, most of these bodies have set schedules and meetings that occur on a regular cadence. You can set a weekly reminder with a link to the agenda page on the community’s website. On most days, this will be less than a five-minute exercise.
Following agendas can be a lot of work, especially if you operate in several communities. We are proud to announce that the VRMA Advocacy Fund is providing funds for a new local agenda tracking and news monitoring service for VRMA members.
The news monitoring and agenda tracking will provide you with direct links to local agendas and news articles that relate to short-term rental regulation. This tool will allow you to sort through dynamic spreadsheets of previous meeting minutes, past agendas, and future agendas.
Developing Local Official Relationships
Developing relationships with local officials is one of the most important activities you can do as a business owner. This can be as simple as setting up a meeting to discuss your business and concerns about local regulations. Local elected officials are eager to meet business owners and to have access to your business connections. Depending on the size of your community, this can be more difficult as the community’s population gets larger. In larger communities, many elected officials have staff.
Do not underestimate the importance of staff to disseminate information. A staff member’s job is to learn more about a community, make connections, and to synthesize what they see to assist in formulating policy.
If a meeting cannot take place, think outside of the box. Look up local political fundraisers or major community events. A small contribution can go a long way and will provide you a few minutes of face time with the public official. Other opportunities like festivals, parades, and public meetings can assist in sparking a simple introduction, asking to meet in the future, and exchanging business cards.
In addition to elected officials and their staff relationships, it is also important to get to know city staff members. Communities have a building department, planning department, and some type of code enforcement department. These relationships will help you navigate regulations, get clarification on current rules, and potentially an open ear regarding proposed rules. When your local city council discusses regulatory changes, these city staff members are providing input and often writing the new rules. This type of relationship can also be expanded to board members of the planning commission, tourism board, historic review board, or any other group you think may affect your type of vacation rental.
Building relationships with local officials and following local government meeting agendas are very helpful in maintaining a pulse on local regulatory discussions. However, this is not foolproof. Keeping up with the every changing local government regulatory discussion is time-consuming. Just remember to remain vigilant. The more you keep up with these discussions and make relationships, the easier and less time-consuming it will become to keep up to date.
Greg Holcomb is the government relations director for VRMA.