Short-term rental regulations are swiftly spreading around the world. There is a misconception that rules for vacation rentals, as pertains to the vacation rental industry are the main issue, but the real problem lies with the current trend to ban non-owner occupied homes. There is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all plan to protect the industry, but there are uniform strategies and tools that are being implemented to assist in the fight. The Vacation Rental Management Association (VRMA) is dedicated to helping the industry work with policymakers to fight off burdensome rules that are greatly restricting the ability to rent vacation homes. Over the last year, the VRMA has significantly expanded its role and advocacy efforts to defend the greater marketplace.
During the first half of 2016, the VRMA developed a comprehensive approach to fighting off restrictive regulations nationwide. This approach was compiled into a strategic plan that develops cross-organizational relationships and addresses our public policy agenda with engagement tools, enhanced member and non-member communication.
The first step in creating a uniform strategy to combat over-reaching regulation was to develop local and state issue tracking tools. These tools allow members to become informed on rental regulation proposals that may impact their states and communities. This tracking also allows the VRMA to notify members of larger scale impending regulations and better engages members and the public with our advocacy tools.
When issues arise, the VRMA notifies members and others who have signed up to receive advocacy alerts on the VRMA website. Posts are also shared on social media, @VRMAadvocacy on Twitter and Facebook. As needed, advocacy tools are deployed that allow the public to sign a petition or write letters directly to their public officials. These tools convey a unified message within the industry. The advocacy also easily provides users a forum to add their own arguments to the message. Thus far, alerts have been deployed for Seattle, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Arizona, and two dozen other states and communities. These alerts produced several thousand responses from members and allowed the VRMA to contact over 2,700 public officials in 2016. Responses from these alerts also assisted VRMA staff in conducting follow-up meetings with the offices of Senator Feinstein (CA) and Senator Schatz (HI) to discuss their requests for a Federal Trade Commission investigation into the vacation rental marketplace.
The second phase of the VRMA Advocacy Toolkit saw the release of new educational offerings. These included a webinar, new sessions at all VRMA in-person conferences and an advocacy video library. These offerings feature industry and political experts that provide you with a variety of perspectives on how to get involved locally and regionally to fight restrictive short-term rental regulations as well as communicating with policymakers.
In addition to the expanded educational opportunities centered around advocacy, the National Policy Agenda was unveiled at the 2016 National Conference. This document, which is publically available in the advocacy center on the VRMA website, is the official policy platform of the VRMA on issues related to short-term rentals and other national policy considerations that affect the vacation rental industry. The policy tenets conveyed in the National Policy Agenda are based on best practices that members and the VRMA staff have identified throughout the world. These include the protection of property rights, a reasonable registration program, the collection of appropriate taxes, and penalties for those who do not comply. The National Policy Agenda is designed to be shared with policymakers to demonstrate solutions that are reasonable and enforceable. It also demonstrates that the industry is not opposed to regulation but rather believes in solutions that protect property rights and the tourism economy.
Moving forward in 2017, the vacation rental management industry must continue to organize itself. There are several state-level opportunities in the US that protect property rights and prevent outright bans. The only way to make these efforts successful is to organize into groups with other property managers, local business communities, property owners, and the guests who utilize vacation homes. Our efforts to organize will complement the efforts of other organizations who are fighting on behalf of the industry, including the Beacon Center, Goldwater Institute, NetChoice, and the Travel Technology Association.
Looking ahead, the VRMA is working to build lasting relationships with other industry associations and public policy groups. These connections will assist ongoing efforts to create statewide standards to protect the rights of property owners by prohibiting communities from outright banning short-term rentals or creating overly restrictive rules.
The vacation rental industry has seen its fair share of setbacks over the past few years. However, as the marketplace continues to evolve, there are signs that policymakers are starting to recognize the changing nature of private accommodations and their impact on their state’s travel and tourism sector. An organized strategy to fight short-term rental bans and push for economic opportunity and protection of property rights is essential to allowing the vacation rental marketplace to grow.