Hotel-backed bill threatens short-term and vacation rental industry in Maryland, presents data privacy concerns

Hotel lobby seeks competitive protections from the state at the expense of local short-term rental homeowners

ANNAPOLIS, MD – The Travel Technology Association (Travel Tech), the national trade association for leaders in the online travel industry, including short-term rental innovators Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO and FlipKey, today will testify in opposition to Maryland SB 463 in front of the Senate Finance Committee.

“SB 463 could decimate the tourism economies of Maryland’s popular vacation rental destinations like Deep Creek Lake and Ocean City,” said Steve Shur, president of Travel Tech. “A hotel-industry backed bill, this legislation is clearly intended to suppress short-term rental platforms and Maryland homeowners with onerous regulations. By limiting short-term rentals through burdensome regulations, the hotel industry seeks to preserve its ability to raise room rates during peak times.”

Short-term rentals are nothing new to Maryland. For generations, local homeowners and travelers alike have used vacation properties to make ends meet and explore the uniqueness of Maryland destinations. SB 463 is a wide-ranging, regulatory assault on that long-standing and thriving marketplace. The bill is vastly overreaching and includes platform liability impositions, data privacy intrusions and a severe infringement on personal property rights, all of which will inhibit the ability of thousands of Maryland homeowners to rent out their private properties.  SB 463 includes selective “commercial-type” provisions, such as sprinkler installation, that unfairly and selectively target homeowners who choose to rent out their residence on a short-term basis.

SB 463 proposes to hold short-term rental platforms liable for the actions of their users – a stipulation that likely violates federal law. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects internet platforms from being held responsible for user-generated content, a provision that has allowed internet services – such as social media, online reviews and forums – to flourish.

“Not only do the platform liability provisions conflict with federal law, expecting short-term rental platforms to determine the status or legality of a specific property listing is virtually impossible to achieve with any accuracy, which renders the proposed legislation practically unfeasible,” Shur continued.

As far as data privacy is concerned, SB 463 requires platforms to disclose records and information about hosts and guests to local law enforcement without first obtaining a warrant or subpoena. This very type of requirement has already been challenged and defeated at the United States Supreme Court, which deemed warrantless searches of hotel records unconstitutional in The City of Los Angeles vs. Patel – a legal battle waged (and won) by the hotel industry.

“Marylanders who own property in the state, as well as those who enjoy renting a beach or lake house in Ocean City or Deep Creek Lake, should be outraged by this legislation,” Shur concluded.  “Our industry is ready and willing to work with the state of Maryland on a reasonable and practical regulatory framework for short-term rentals. Unfortunately, SB 463 is simply an anti-competitive tool of the hotel industry, and cannot even be considered a starting point. Smart short-term rental policies need to start with all stakeholders at the table.”

 

ABOUT THE TRAVEL TECHNOLOGY ASSOCIATION

The Travel Technology Association (Travel Tech) is the voice of the travel technology industry, advocating for public policy that promotes transparency and competition in the marketplace, encourages innovation and preserves consumer choice.  Travel Tech represents the leading innovators in travel technology, including global distribution systems, online travel agencies and metasearch companies, and short-term rental platforms.

 

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