Ocean City Today

New legislation would regulate online rentals

State seeking to set terms, give locals wide latitude
By Greg Ellison | Feb 15, 2018
Photo by: File Photo Sen. John Astle (D-30) introduced SB 1081 for first reading on Monday. The legislation would establish state requirements for short-term rental operators.

(Feb. 16, 2018) Establishing state requirements for short-term rentals advertised through online hosting platforms is the intent of a House bill introduced by Del. C. William Frick (D-16) last Friday.

Tourism and Marketing Director Donna Abbott, who shared preliminary details of the pending legislation during the Tourism Commission meeting on Monday, is receiving regular updates on HB1604 from Maryland Hotel & Lodging Association CEO Amy Rohrer.

“A Senate Bill is coming, either today or tomorrow, sponsored by Sen. Astle,” she said.

In fact, Sen. John Astle (D-30) introduced SB 1081 for first reading on Monday, and HB 1604 is scheduled for a hearing on March 9.

The legislation defines limited residential lodging as use of a residential dwelling to provide accommodations for transient guests for a fee.

The bill would require property owners, referred to as innkeepers, who rent rooms, or entire homes, to be licensed by the Maryland Comptroller.

They also would have to remit applicable state and county taxes and abide by all local jurisdiction regulations.

Innkeepers would be required to maintain records for four years, to include names, property location, fees collected, as well as state and local sales tax remitted.

The bill also establishes fines for violations.

City Councilwoman Mary Knight said the Planning and Zoning Commission is  seeking legal advice regarding the definition of short-term rentals in Worcester County.

“Planning and Zoning is waiting for an answer from the lawyers and then will have a separate discussion regarding a short-term rental definition in Ocean City,” she said.

Knight said the county defines any period of time less than four months and one day as a transient use. “It looks like everybody in the world has been breaking the law,” she said.

“We’re waiting for [Planning and Zoning] to have a discussion then we will have public input.”

Tourism Commission member Michael James wondered if existing regulations would be sufficient to address short-term rental issues.

“We have laws for noise and bad behavior,” he said. “I would hate to see Ocean City become an unfriendly environment.”

Fellow commission member Todd Ferrante said the matter has come to the forefront because of enforcement challenges.

“Nobody wants property rights taken away,” he said. “As long as the town is enforcing ordinances, we have no problems.”

City Councilman John Gehrig said taxes are the crux of the issue.

“There’s all this confusion now and there’s no race to provide answers,” he said. “It’s not just Airbnb, we have a vast number of rental properties.”

Knight proposed inviting a Planning and Zoning representative to the next Tourism Commission meeting on March 12.

“We need a definition on how long the rental period should be,” she said. “They’re not saying anybody should take away that right.”

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.