Tech service industry start-ups like Uber, Lyft, VRBO, Home Away and Airbnb are creating new challenges for states and local municipalities that have regulated lodging and taxi services for decades. These start-ups challenge the conventional regulatory framework, connecting consumers with a new, cheaper supply — the new “sharing economy.” So what is the problem? “Fairness” according to Senator John Patrick, a Democrat from Rumford.
Senator John Patrick has proposed a bill to create “fairness” between traditional hotel and motel owners and those offering their homes and apartments for short-term rentals. L.D. 436, “An Act to Require Providers of Short-term Lodging to be Licensed by the State,” revises the definition of “Lodging Place,” which currently applies to property where four or more rooms are rented out, and proposes to include property “where any number of rooms are rented to the public.” What does this mean for those offering traditional vacation home rentals for a week or their apartment or home on Airbnb? It means the potential for the following:
- A requirement to obtain licenses from Department of Health and Human Services;
- Licensing fees; and,
- Increased standards (e.g. inspections, taxes, habitability, etc.) for short-term rentals.
While support for this legislation is limited (for the moment), those leasing family cottages at the lake or on the coast and those providing short term lodging on websites like Airbnb or VRBO should keep a close eye on this legislative session. Conversely, the Governor has proposed deregulating the entire lodging industry, which means licensing requirements for the lodging industry, including potential regulations for Airbnb, could disappear in Maine altogether.