Trying to cripple Airbnbs here

I want to share this scary letter that was sent to me by a friend in my town. I was going to try to edit out the names and places, but can’t figure out how to do it, so heck with it. It’s a matter of public record anyway. But I’m wondering if I can get some help on how to address this. All my guests have cancelled through May, and I imagine most other Airbnbs in town have had cancellations, too. This is a small college town and the college is kaput until next fall, as are all town events. But the virus cancellations are not my concern. If the town feels it’s a public safety issue, fine, mandate that. But it’s the longer term things that have me worried - no fewer than 30 days? And what about hotel tax? Thanks -

trying to download or copy the letter!

Without seeing the letter, I gather that the city is mandating a minimum of 30-day stays for short-term rentals (effectively making them long-term rentals) and also applying some kind of transient occupancy tax? The tax definitely seems unfair on top of the 30-day minimum, but maybe I’m missing something without seeing the letter.

I’m also guessing this was being planned long before the COVID-19 crisis struck.

I increased your privilege level one step. You should be able to upload now. Or take a picture and upload. The tool bar is right above where you type a post on a computer.

Yes, it’s about a transient occupancy tax, and the 30-day stay business. An Airbnb has suddenly appeared next door to her, with no warning or recourse if the guests disturb the peace. I gather the owners live elsewhere, not uncommon here.
“The residents and shop keepers work tirelessly to keep the town safe and peaceful and have a right to have our privacy honored and maintained…The number of Airbnbs in Chestertown stunned me. Much to my horror, when searching if other municipalities have an issue with Airbnbs, I found major cities such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago and many, many more large and small locations across the U.S. all have stringent ordinances. In MOST CASES (my italics) the minimum stay is 30 days…The town has no ordinances for Airbnb. Furthermore, they do not receive taxes as every other “hotel” is obliged to pay…
Another potential impact was when I learned that Martha’s Vineyard sent out an alert begin property owners who live elsewhere to please stay in their primary location. MV has a limited number of beds and a limited number of emergency professionals. They are fearful people escaping from high-risk areas can quickly overload the emergency facilities. Are we equipped to handle that possibility? How many beds to we have? Now, I find that a family has relocated next door from abroad escaping the virus. Are they quarantining themselves? …I am formally asking the Town to pass an ordinance limiting rentals to no less than 30 days and that a hotel tax be paid to the town.”

She goes on to say that Dr. Birx, Task Force person, said that anyone who relocates to avoid the pandemic must self-quarantine for 14 days. “Shouldn’t we adopt Dr. Birx’s medical advice>”

OK, of course I agree that everyone should be staying home. I don’t want people renting now. But this letter has gained a lot of traction in town and I am afraid it will bode ill for the Airbnbs. If they want to enact a tax, they have that right. And if they want to enact something that says if you come here from anywhere else, 14 day Q (good luck with enforcement.) But of course the 30-day minimum is an awful idea. Any other ideas? Sorry for the long long message. But life is hard enough with the virus happening.
Thanks for the upgrade, but I already typed this!

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I, too, have the feeling that this was being thought-out in advance.

I’m afraid you are right. This is basically the same thing others have gone through in other cities for other reasons. Eventually this will ease up, be over, have a vaccine and treatment and we will go back to something more like normal, at least until the next pandemic. But it’s going to be very painful between then and now.

So this is just a letter from a disgruntled neighbor to an Airbnb instead of an actual letter from the city, and the person is misinformed about several things. Pay attention to your city council meetings, voice your opinion, and counter the misinformation with facts.

BTW, there’s no way they’d pass a 30-day minimum plus a transient occupancy tax, but one or the other is likely. It really wouldn’t surprise me if there already is a transient occupancy tax paid to the county or state.


I think the 30-day minimum is a non-starter because of the college. What parents are going to come to graduation and stay for a month? But you’re right, this is no time to be passive. This person is known to like to stir the pot, so we’ll see. She has sent the letter to lots of movers and shakers in the town, some of who have responded positively. It seems that what underlies it is panic. But I’m curious, does a municipality have the right to ban guests from hotels? I assume the powers that be can make a strong suggestion along those lines, but to actually do it?

i reckon a city can revoke the hotels’ business licenses, if they want to hurt their own financial interests. but airbnbs are largely unregulated in areas where hotels or disgruntled neighbors haven’t lobbied for regulations, or like our area where there aren’t really hotels but rather cabins and guest ranches.

so … pondering “how to counter this?” the city cares about money. the neighbors care about their quiet enjoyment of property. what would the city lose if the recommended proposals were adopted? they have to be shown what they stand to lose. how many workers would lose jobs if the proposals were enacted and how will that hurt the city? hoe much will it cost the city to implement and administer new regulations? you need a contingent of supporters who can tell the city that it’s a bad idea. if a city council member has a connection with an airbnb, is it a bad one? neighborhood nusiance? that would be bad news. you can ask to meet with your rep to discuss all the great things airbnb brings to the city that hotels don’t provide for. like, you mentioned families visiting college kids. what do you offer them as an airbnb unit that a hotel can’t? explain that to them.


Great responses from @LoneStar

Another important aspect - that I feel strongly about - is that STR accommodation means that money stays within the community. The fee for the accommodation goes to a local person - the host - rather than Mr Hilton or Mr Holiday Inn. Hosts give guests personal recommendations to local businesses; guests are likely therefore to go to locally-owned coffee shops for example, rather than Starbucks.

We’re also supplying work for plumbers, electricians, cleaners, gardeners and other workers when large hotel chains often use contract labour from equally large nationwide companies. Plus, we bring in revenue to the local authorities as we pay the same TOT as hotels and other accommodation providers.

Legislation often does a great job of weeding out the illegal businesses - people who try to go under the radar and don’t have business licenses, insurance and so on. That’s all to the good for proper hosts and much safer for guests.


These are both great responses. It’s a small town and I know most of the shop-owners, restaurant and bar owners, etc. So I can say, Make sure you talk to So-and-So at the wine store, and definitely don’t miss out on the wood-fired pizza at Such-and-Such. The list is pretty endless of things I can personally vouch for and tell guests more about. And I can echo Jaquo’s comment about the local workers I’ve employed - I put a bunch of money into making my little upstairs apartment nice, and it was just starting to bring in a profit! Snif. I don’t think the Airbnbs here pay the TOT - that will probably change. I confess I haven’t asked about it. Is that tax levied by state or county?

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Here it’s called the ‘tourist development tax’ and I think it’s currently 6%. In some areas (here for one) Airbnb will deduct it at source and pay it directly to the authorities. That didn’t happen here when I first started, we had to sort it out ourselves, so it will vary from place to place.

Locally we all have to pay it - hotels, motels, B & Bs, guest houses, STR - so it’s a level playing field. Everyone has to allow for it when doing their sums.

Here’s a quote from our county:

The total rental charged every person who rents or leases any living quarters or accommodations such as a hotel/motel, apartment, rooming house, mobile home/RV park, condominiums, timeshare or single family home rented for a period of six months or less is subject to the tourist development tax. The tax shall be charged by the person receiving the consideration for the lease or rental and collected from the lessee, tenant or customer at the time of payment for the rental. The person collecting the consideration should receive, account for and remit the tax to the Broward County Tourist Development Tax Section. Rental records are subject to audit by Broward County Records, Taxes and Treasury Division.

I feel strongly about we STR hosts being local small businesses bringing work to the area and money that stays in the locality. And I suspect that it’s an issue that could become even more important in the future.

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Same in our county but they call it HOT … hotel occupancy tax. We pay 6% to the state and another 6% to the county. For stays over 30 days, the State of Texas defines this as residency vs ‘hotel’ occupancy and no HOT is payable (and tenant rights would apply, i.e one would have to spend at least 3 months going through formal eviction process and required legal notice periods if someone refused to pay and refused to leave).

Other than the tax requirements, VRs and homeshares are entirely unregulated in our county.