The Honorable Michael J. Rodrigues The Honorable Karen E. Spilka
The Honorable Ryan C. Fattman
The Honorable Aaron M. Michlewitz The Honorable Sarah K. Peake
The Honorable F. Jay Barrows
Conference Committee on House 4327 and Senate 2400
State House, Boston

Dear Senator Rodrigues, Representative Michlewitz and Conference Committee Members,

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association wishes to offer comment on the legislation before you relative to the taxation and regulation of the short-term rental of property.

We want to thank Senator Rodrigues and Representative Michlewitz for the care and good work crafting bills to modernize state statutes to reflect the very substantial changes to the nature of short-term stays brought about by changes in technology and business practices, including the rapid proliferation of Airbnb and other web-based services. We appreciate the time given to hear suggestions from local officials as the House and Senate bills were being drafted and debated. We want to recognize Representative Peake for her persistent and effective work on this issue on behalf of her towns on Cape Cod and cities and towns across the Commonwealth. As regular visitors to meetings of municipal officials on the Cape, we appreciate how important modernization of the law is to vacation and destination parts of the state.

We also appreciate the commitment of House and Senate leadership and members for moving bills forward to this conference committee. We are hopeful that differences can be reconciled in this session and a final bill sent to the Governor. In this letter, we provide comment on policy differences between the House and Senate bills (H. 4327 and S. 2400).

Local Regulation of Short Term Rental of Property
The main lesson we learned from talking to municipal officials from all parts of the state is that the level of activity and business practices of short-term rentals vary greatly and pose very different regulatory challenges, depending on where you are. Cities and towns already have some measure of local authority related to public health and safety, but it is clear that there needs to be a measure of additional general authority provided in state law.

Given the disparate impacts of short-term rental property and the varied need for regulation, we support the general grant of authority provided in S. 2400. The framework is not prescriptive, and would enable cities and towns to develop rules that best fit their individual circumstances.

Taxation of Short Term Rentals
Cities and towns support parity across the various parts of local economies that include properties that now operate under the room occupancy statute (Chapter 64G of the General Laws) and short-term rental properties that operate outside of Chapter 64G. Cities and towns also support a tax structure that is simple to implement and easy for property owners and visitors to understand. We support the tax structure proposed in S. 2400, as it would expand the existing room occupancy to include new forms of short-term rentals. We support the more streamlined Senate approach to implementation that would generate new revenues for the state and cities and towns more quickly.

We oppose the language in H. 4327 that would earmark a portion of the excise for local infrastructure and housing spending. This revenue should remain a municipal General Fund revenue, as under the room occupancy excise in Chapter 64G, and be available to cities and towns to spend for these general fund purposes, subject to appropriation, as local needs require.

Cape Cod and Islands Water Protection Fund
We support the provisions in both the House and Senate bills to create and provide revenues for a Cape Cod and Islands Water Protection Fund to assist Cape and Islands towns with water infrastructure funding that is essential to the environmental and economic sustainability of the region.

We deeply appreciate your work on this important legislation – your efforts will bring a level playing field and equal and fair treatment to the short-term rental marketplace, solving a problem that has grown in scope with the changing economy. If you have any questions about the MMA’s position on any provision in the House or Senate bills, please do not hesitate to have your office contact MMA Legislative Director John Robertson at (617) 426-7272 at any time.

Thank you very much.

Geoffrey C. Beckwith

MMA Executive Director & CEO