Woodford Cottge.JPG

A controversial bill in the Vermont legislature to put a residency requirement on short-term rentals, such as this cottage in Woodford, has been shelved for now.

MONTPELIER — A controversial bill in the Vermont House of Representatives to impose a residency requirement for the owners of short-term rental properties is on hold for now, according to Rep. Lisa Hango, D-Franklin.

Hango — who sits on the House General Housing and Military Affairs Committee — says the bill, H.200, was introduced to that committee in late February, but is being shelved to make way for bills that have been identified by leadership as needing to be passed over to the Senate.

“We have no plans to take it up yet. The sponsor spoke to us for about five minutes and then answered a couple of questions. As of now, that bill will sit on the wall in my committee, and we will have another 12 months to take it up, as we work in biennial cycles,” she told the Messenger.

The bill states: “A person may not offer all or part of a dwelling unit as a short-term rental unless that person has occupied the dwelling unit as his or her primary residence for 270 days of the preceding year, or if the person has owned or leased the dwelling unit for less than a year or more than 70 percent of the days that the person has owned or leased the dwelling unit.”

The Vermont Association of Realtors (VAR), who oppose H.200, as introduced, say it has the potential to eliminate the short-term rental of second homes, condominiums and any property other than a primary residence. In a legislative update sent to its members last month, the VAR says, “Airbnb has notified their clients of this potential change and there are petitions circulating to oppose the bill.”

One of those sponsors, Rep. Emilie Kornheiser, D-Brattleboro, spoke to The Messenger Thursday. She says that the bill is mostly out of her hands but it was not their intention to shut down rental businesses.

“It is narrowing the types of properties available to be unregulated as STR (Short term Rentals) and asking any property where someone is not in residence to be regulated like other hospitality businesses such as hotels and bed and breakfasts. You are welcome to continue renting your property,” she said.

According to a report released in February by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the safety of many rental homes in Vermont is not regularly monitored or surveyed, leading to uncertainty about the type and scope of problems within this significant portion of Vermont’s housing stock. About 44,000 Vermont rental homes (58%) are inspected sporadically or only upon request because they are not publicly subsidized or in a town with rental registration and/or inspection. An estimated 6,960 rental homes are likely to have quality deficits.

Diana McGarry, a dairy farmer from Berkshire, purchased her Airbnb in 2018 and started renting a few months later.

“We bought the farm for the land and decided to Airbnb the house to diversify our dairy,” she says.

She says her Airbnb is booked 91 nights of the year with a mandatory two days between bookings.

“Guests rate you after their stays and if the place is not squeaky clean — and I mean not a speck of dust anywhere — guests will let everyone know in their review. We are licensed with the state, have done water tests and Airbnb pays the rooms and meals tax on our behalf,” says McGarry.

Lawmakers and advocates expect work will need to continue for some time before all parties agree on a new system of regulating the state’s rental housing properties.

“It’s funny that they are going after Airbnbs when they help the local economy and Vermont gets it’s 9% rooms and meals tax. Seems like a win-win,” says McGarry.

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