FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 19, 2018
COUNTY EXECUTIVE MIKE HEIN ANNOUNCES COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO ASSIST LOCAL MUNICIPALITIES, ENSURE PUBLIC SAFETY AND PROMOTE A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD WITH THE GROWING SHORT TERM VACATION RENTAL MARKET
Kingston, N.Y. – With businesses like AirBnb, VRBO and numerous other online Short Term Rental (STR) platforms, the new “sharing economy” is a reality and local governments must continuously evolve to best address these changes. County Executive Mike Hein with the bi-partisan support of County Legislators, Town Supervisors and members of the Ulster County Lodging Coalition, outlined a new comprehensive plan to assist towns, villages and the City of Kingston in addressing some of the many challenges associated with the growing short term vacation rental market. The plan is designed to improve equity and compliance with local health and safety guidelines as well as compliance with Ulster County’s Occupancy Tax, which is used exclusively to promote local tourism. Additionally, it is designed to enhance “fairness” with traditional lodging businesses by standardizing requirements. It should be noted that the tourism sector of the Ulster County economy generates $554 million and through County promotion efforts has increased by over $134 million, or 32%, since 2009.
A growing list of online service providers, including AirBnb, HomeAway, VRBO and scores of others have turned short term rentals into a rapidly growing sector of the vacation rental market putting these largely unregulated rooms in direct competition with local traditional lodging providers, such as hotels and Bed and Breakfast facilities. The addition of short term rentals that primarily market though online hosting platforms creates a concern because not all lodging providers are compliant with local zoning, health and safety rules, as well as state and local tax requirements. In recognition of the growing short term rental market and in an effort to ensure a level playing field where all lodging providers follow the same established rules, the following are highlights of this new comprehensive plan:
Assistance to Local Municipalities in Addressing Health and Safety Challenges
Vacation rental websites have fueled the growth of short-term rentals across the United States and have left local municipalities scrambling to address health and safety concerns and quality of life issues through local zoning and code enforcement. For example, traditional lodging providers are subject to various health and safety laws and regulations that protect visitors, such as requiring smoke detectors in units, that many short term rental hosts may be unaware. To provide assistance to interested municipalities, the County will now dedicate resources to provide them with “best practices” and technical assistance to address the growing short term rental market. In addition, Ulster County, through inter-municipal agreements, will provide interested municipalities a detailed inventory of all host properties within their jurisdiction that are advertising for short term rentals. This data, previously unavailable at the local level, will provide local officials with a valuable resource to understand how the growing short term vacation rental market is impacting their jurisdiction and help inform future decision making.
Enhanced Occupancy Tax Education and Enforcement
Currently, anyone who regularly offers lodging on an overnight basis, including properties typically listed on Internet sites such as Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO, are required to register with the Ulster County Department of Finance as well as remit a 2 percent occupancy tax, the same rate traditional lodging providers collect from their guests. Unfortunately, online service providers and hundreds of other vacation rental websites do not disclose the names of clients who are providing these short term rentals making it difficult for the County to ensure that providers are compliant with the existing Tax Law.
In order to increase the resources for tourism promotion and improve the Department of Finance’s ability to enforce the existing Tax Law, Ulster County has contracted with a national service provider to identify all property owners offering short term vacation rentals in Ulster County. This will create an actionable list of short term rental operators and create a comprehensive inventory of all such properties being offered for short term rental across the various online platforms. The Department of Finance will utilize this property inventory database to enhance their tax enforcement efforts. Additionally, the Department of Finance will use this tool to help automate their administrative process and also provide an online portal for short term rental operators to easily register and ensure their compliance with the Tax Law.
Lastly, with the partnership of the Ulster County Lodging Coalition, the County will develop an educational and marketing campaign to inform those residents who may offer short term vacation rentals what their responsibilities are with regard to various municipal health and safety rules and the steps that are needed to be in compliance with the Tax Law.
County Executive Mike Hein
“The new sharing economy is here to stay with many people providing short term vacation rentals in our community,” said County Executive Hein. “Some of these rentals are full time businesses while others provide a convenient way to bring in extra income to help families make ends meet. With this plan we will not only help bring transparency and fairness to this evolving market, but also improve public safety while supporting our amazing and expanding Ulster County tourism economy.”
James Maloney, Vice Chairman, Ulster County Legislature
“This new comprehensive plan will allow the County to not only make sure that all lodging providers are contributing to our tourism marketing efforts, but provides our local governments with valuable tools that they can use to address concerns expressed by their residents about the growing short term vacation rental market,” said James Maloney, Deputy Chairman, Ulster County Legislature.
Jonathan Heppner, Ulster County Legislator
“The short term rental market is growing across New York State and until the State updates its laws, this plan strikes the right balance between transparency and the need to equitably enforce the rules among all the providers of service,” said Jonathan Heppner, Ulster County Legislator. “Through this effort we will now be able to better help our local municipalities as they deal with the health and safety challenges created by short term rentals.”
William McKenna, Woodstock Town Supervisor
“The residents of my Town are looking for action with the growth of the short term rental market and I want to thank the County Executive for providing us with actionable data and technical assistance as we work to update our zoning and code enforcement efforts with this emerging issue,” said William McKenna, Woodstock Town Supervisor.
John Perry, Hurley Town Supervisor
“Towns across the County are seeing the growth of the short term vacation rental market and are exploring ways to address the many associated challenges,” John Perry, Hurley Town Supervisor. “I want to thank County Executive Hein for developing this comprehensive plan and making these new resources available to us at the local level.”
Michael Baden, Rochester Town Supervisor
“As we review the issues of health and safety involved with short term rentals in our Town, the County Executive’s effort to provide us with an inventory of the properties that are being marketed and the help of the County Planning Department is very much appreciated, “ said Michael Baden, Rochester Town Supervisor.
Tamara Murray and CJ Hartwell-Kelly, Co-Chairs of the Ulster County Lodging Coalition
“The Ulster County Lodging Coalition has long advocated for a comprehensive solution to the short-term vacation rental market that not only supports our tourism economy, but also provides for a fair and level playing field for all lodging providers,” Tamara Murray and CJ Hartwell-Kelly, Co-Chairs of the Ulster County Lodging Coalition. “The comprehensive plan presented by County Executive Hein delivers on that goal and will go a long way towards providing fairness, equity and transparency in our new sharing economy.”