Airbnb Legislative Update: Massachusetts’ New Rules

By: Howard S. Goldman, Esq.* –

Airbnb – you either love it or you hate it. With roughly 1 in 10 U.S. adults using short-term accommodations, their popularity is undeniable. And for the millions who vacation in Massachusetts each year, short-term rental sites offer a wide range of price points in a state notorious for its lack of mid-priced accommodations at premier tourist draws: Boston, Cape Cod, and the Berkshires.

But other populations are decidedly less enamored by the ascent of Airbnb: condominiums, abutters and the hotel industry. At Goldman & Pease we regularly help condominium associations, property managers and management companies faced with refereeing a new breed of disputes.  Additionally, abutters to the roof deck that is rented out for bachelorette gatherings each weekend and the condominium owner sandwiched between two downtown Airbnbs have had lots to complain about. In short, some are winning and some are clearly losing in this new rental accommodation landscape.

Strict Registration Requirements

Massachusetts’ new laws regulating short-term rentals became fully effective on December 1, 2019, and define short-term rentals as accommodations rented out more than 14 days per calendar year at more than $15/day. The new laws require short-term rental owners and intermediaries like Airbnb to register online with the Mass. Department of Revenue by providing proof of residency and adequate insurance through various documentation, paying certain annual licensing fees, getting a business certificate, notifying neighbors and, once an owner has accomplished all that, adding the registration number to on-line intermediary sites such as Airbnb to prove that the accommodations are properly registered.  These registration requirements make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to establish a state-wide registry. [Read more…]

Goldman & Pease LLC mentioned in Washington Post article on Airbnb

On September 7, 2018, the Washington Post published an article in its Opinions section entitled “D.C. should learn from Arlington’s mistakes on Airbnb regulations”. The article discusses short-term, Airbnb-style rentals, and notes that despite regulations by Arlington County prohibiting such rentals without a permit, 90% of rentals in the County appear to be unpermitted after rules promulgated by the D.C. Council in December 2016 required permits. Goldman & Pease LLC, who has been closely monitoring this trend and publishing articles on the subject, is mentioned in this Washington Post article in the last line of paragraph 3. Click on the words “causing insurance liability problems” to view our article on our web site entitled “The Rise Of Airbnb: What Condominium Associations Need To Know About Short Term Rentals.” Feel free to contact us if you have a question or want to learn more about this ongoing issue.

D.C. should learn from Arlington’s mistakes on Airbnb regulations

By Dusty Horwitt and Pamela J. Lee | As published in The Washington Post

This fall, the D.C. Council is expected to join other local jurisdictions in considering regulations for short-term, Airbnb-style rentals in which homes and apartments function as hotels. Council members should learn from the ineffectiveness of regulations in Arlington County, where more than 90 percent of these rentals appeared to be unpermitted a year and a half after new rules took effect requiring permits.

The rules, enacted in December 2016, replaced an earlier prohibition on short-term rentals that was widely ignored. The new standards provide that owners and renters can offer their primary residences for short-term rent after they obtain a permit. To qualify, residents must pay $63 and show proof of residency, among other requirements. Enforcement is conducted on a complaint basis against individual hosts and not against major short-term rental companies — including Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO. Short-term rental industry websites showed more than 1,000 units advertised for short-term rent in Arlington as of early July, but only 72 residents had obtained permits, down from 86 in January.

Regulating short-term rentals is important to protect affordable housing and public safety. To prevent conversions of residential units into full-time hotels, Arlington’s regulations stipulate that short-term rental hosts can rent only their primary residences. If such conversions are occurring (and they have in other cities), they could further reduce the county’s already limited supply of affordable housing. Prohibitions on short-term rentals in apartment buildings and condominiums such as ours are necessary to prevent unknown people from accessing multifamily buildings, including common areas that can be isolated, such as laundry rooms and gyms, and causing insurance liability problems. [Read more…]