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The Price Of Hospitality: Lawmakers Consider Registration Fee For Vermont Airbnb Hosts


If the bill is passed as written, Vermont would become the first state in the country to develop a statewide registry for people who rent out their homes with companies like Airbnb. The number of people using online short-term rental companies has been ...


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Listen Listening.. / 4:56 Lawmakers are debating a bill that would require people who use Airbnb, and other online short-term rental companies, to register with the stateIf the bill is passed as written, Vermont would become the first state in the country to develop a statewide registry for people who rent out their homes with companies like AirbnbThe number of people using online short-term rental companies has been steadily growing over the past few yearsThere were about 3,600 Vermont properties listed on Airbnb in 2016"It's a growing industryIt's growing by leaps and bounds," says Chittenden County SenMichael Sirotkin, who is one of the sponsors of the bill"And I don't think people fully understand what their responsibilities areSo I think it's something we need to address." Sirotkin says when people register, they'll get the information they need to make sure they know about the health and safety codes they're supposed to follow — though at this point the bill isn't suggesting mandatory inspectionsSirotkin calls it "self-certification." A few years ago Vermont signed a deal with Airbnb, and the company now pays the rooms and meals tax. From October 2016 through June 2017, Airbnb paid a little more than $2 million in state and local taxesVermonters who rent out their properties with Airbnb reported collective revenues of more than $20 million in 2016.  Sirotkin says the proposed law would also make sure all Airbnb hosts understand their responsibilities to pay those taxes"We have the gig economy now where people are seeing opportunities to share their homes, and that's a good thing," he says"And it's good for Vermont tourismWe just want it to be safe and we want to make sure people know what their obligations are vis-à-vis revenues for the state of Vermont."  "It's not a ton of money, but it's just one more thing that's unnecessary, in my opinionI just think it's gonna prevent folks who might think about hosting to even try it out, because it's just kind of one more hurdle." — Nanci Leitch, Airbnb host in Guilford Nanci Leitch lives in Guilford, and she's been renting out rooms in her house on Airbnb for about three yearsLeitch rents a room in her place maybe a couple of times a monthIt's busier in the fall, but this winter has been pretty quietBut for Leitch, the extra cash she takes in makes a difference"Both my husband and I work in the social services and probably everyone in my office works two jobs," she say"You know, that's just part of the facts of social services, and also living in VermontThe salaries just don't cover the costs"So, we really count on our Airbnb income to kind of making ends meet, so we can contribute to our daughter's collegeSo that's what makes me so angry about this proposal." Under the bill that's being debated, hosts would have to pay an annual fee of $130They would also be required to fill out some forms and make sure their properties meet the same health and safety standards that motels and inns have to meetLeitch says she's already paying the rooms and meals tax and that the state shouldn't ask more from the people who are renting out thier properties"It's not a ton of money, but it's just one more thing that's unnecessary, in my opinion," she says"I just think it's gonna prevent folks who might think about hosting to even try it out, because it's just kind of one more hurdle." Nanci Leitch has signs around her house that help her Airbnb guests navigate the house Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR The pending bill is supported by hotel and inn owners, and Leitch says that's because they see people like her as direct competitionRonda Berns is vice president of tourism for the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 700 lodging businesses, from small bed-and-breakfasts to large hotelsAnd every one of those, Berns says, pays an annual fee, insurance, and health and safety inspection costsBerns was in the Statehouse recently trying to convince lawmakers that now is the time to pass a short-term rental law"Airbnb and these internet platforms are not going away," she says"It's a new opportunity for the state to bring in new tourismSo we are not saying we don't want any of this business, because it's a great new industry coming to VermontHowever, if you're not all playing by the same set of rules then that competition becomes more of a challenge." A spokeswoman for Airbnb said officials were monitoring what was happening in the Vermont Statehouse, and she said the company was available to support hosts who have questions during the legislative processIn a written statement, Airbnb's head of northeast policy Josh Meltzer said: "While Airbnb recognizes that we need rules for home-sharing, we need to craft policy that works for both local government as well as our community across VermontWe are committed to finding a path forward that not only guarantees transparency and public safety, but also empowers hosts to continue using their homes to earn extra income and helps guests to visit communities across Vermont." Tags: VPR NewsThe FrequencyThe Vermont EconomyTourismTweetShareGoogle+EmailView the discussion thread Related Content As Vermont's Airbnb Scene Grows, Small Towns Struggle With Regulation By Howard Weiss-Tisman • May 19, 2017 Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR Listen Listening.. / 6:18 Airbnb reached an agreement with the state last year to collect the rooms and meals tax from Vermonters who use the online service to rent out their propertyBut in some communities, the issues raised by Airbnb go beyond dollars and cents There Are 3,600 Airbnb Hosts In VermontLawmakers Can't Agree On How To Regulate Them By Howard Weiss-Tisman • Oct 2, 2017 Wachiwit / iStock Listen Listening.. / 4:00 A newly issued legislative report says online home sharing services like Airbnb should be regulated locallyBut one of the lawmakers who requested the study says oversight should happen on a statewide level Airbnb's Impact On Vermont Tourism By Jane Lindholm & Sam Gale Rosen • Feb 7, 2017 Sam Gale Rosen / VPR Listen Listening.. / 45:50 The rise of Airbnb has led to debates over how rented rooms should be taxed and regulated, and raised concerns about maintaining a level playing-field for traditional inns and bed-and-breakfastsWe're talking about the sharing economy's impact on Vermont tourism, and whether it's helping or hurting the hospitality industry as a whole.  Lawmakers, Businesses Say Worker Visa Restrictions Will Harm Maine Tourism Industry By Fred Bever • Mar 20, 2017 Listen Listening... / Lawmakers, Businesses Say Worker Visa Restrictions Will Harm Maine Tourism Industry Summer resorts around the nation are bracing for a tough season — not because the tourists won’t come, but because the workers might notThe reinstatement of a cap on visas for temporary workers has some in the hospitality industry predicting catastrophe

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