Skift Take

Short-term rentals are disruptive, and sometimes illegal. The battle to accommodate them or not is being fought out in hundreds of small battles at the local and state levels.

HomeAway acknowledges that legislative restrictions against short-term rentals are on the books or being discussed in about 100 U.S. communities, and the vacation-rental company has been actively prodding property owners to push back against the laws, either existing or in progress.

From New York City to Arlington, Texas, and the states of Florida and Hawaii, “over-enthusiastic elected officials,” tax officers, budget directors, and hypocritical NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) critics in the U.S. and abroad are advocating restrictive and sometimes hard-to-fathom legislation, says Matt Curtis, HomeAway’s director of government relations in a webinar for homeowners and managers posted a few months ago.

Skift has drawn attention to Airbnb’s illegal rental problem in New York City, and Amsterdam has recently gotten into the act, as well.

In its community pages, HomeAway last month posted an article outlining how property owners need to get organized early to fight the restrictions.

“We have to organize; organizing is key to this,” Curtis says in the webinar.

Advice offered in the webinar and blog post includes:

  • Form alliances at the local level with other property owners, cleaning companies, and any groups (conferences/meetings, interest groups, and renters/travlers) that are positively impacted by the rentals.
  • Make sure your arguments are data-driven. If a legislator argues that a particular property had 300 complaints for allegedly being a “party house,” find out what the real numbers were, and perhaps there have been much fewer or even no such complaints.
  • Take advantage of HomeAway resources, including email notifications and its community pages; create Facebook pages, and build websites to further the campaign.
  • When communities argue that short-term rentals negatively impact communities, emphasize that you pay property taxes, and any hotel occupancy or transient taxes that you may be subject to, and note that your payments help fund the local civic center or even the local tourism board, for example.
  • Out-of-state owners should definitely get involved and can have influence, but local campaigns are most effective when they are “dominated by a local presence,” Curtis says.

Once you have seen the implementation of “fair regulation,” stay organized and involved in case the situation requires further action.

In addition to HomeAway’s move to enlist property owners to push for advantageous local laws, vacation rental and short-term rental companies themselves are lobbying and getting involved along the same lines.

A spokesperson for Airbnb points to its public policy blog and how it recently partnered with the Bloomberg administration in New York City to provide shelter for Hurricane Sandy victims.

And, HomeAway, Airbnb,, TripAdvisor, and Flipkey are among the members of the Committee for Short-Term Rental Reform in New York City. The committee seeks to exempt vacation rentals from some of the restrictions of a 2010 New York State law designed to clamp down on short-term rental abuses.


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Tags: airbnb, homeaway

Photo credit: An Austin, Texas, home that was rented through HomeAway. Heather Cowper /

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