His Excellency Charles Baker
Governor of the Commonwealth
State House, Boston

Dear Governor Baker,

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing to support H. 4841, an Act regulating and insuring short-term rentals. We ask that you sign this important measure. H. 4841 would modernize state statutes to reflect the very substantial changes to the nature of short-term stays brought about by new technologies and business practices, including the rapid proliferation of Airbnb and other web-based services.

Taxation of Short Term Rentals
The sharing economy has evolved substantially in recent years, but statutory frameworks have not kept pace with this transformation. As a result, unfair disparities have developed in the short-term rental marketplace, particularly in the treatment of properties that now operate under the room occupancy statute (Chapter 64G of the General Laws), compared with short-term rental properties that operate outside of Chapter 64G. We support the consensus reached between the House and Senate on what constitutes a short-term rental subject to taxation under Chapter 64G. We believe that H. 4841 brings much-needed parity to local economies, and we oppose any further limitations or exemptions.

Cities and towns support a tax structure that is simple to implement and easy for property owners and visitors to understand. We support the tax structure in H. 4841, as it would expand the existing room occupancy to include new forms of short-term rentals and provide new revenues for local government to help pay for some of the regulatory and other costs associated with short- term rentals.

Cape Cod and Islands Water Protection Fund
We support the provisions in H. 4841 that would 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.

Local Regulation of Short Term Rental of Property
The main lesson we learned from talking with municipal officials from all parts of the state as the House and Senate were working on this bill 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 some 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 H. 4841. The framework is not prescriptive, and would enable cities and towns to development rules that best fit their individual circumstances.

We deeply appreciate the good work that the Legislature has done on this important measure. H. 4841 will level the playing field, and bring 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. Again, we respectfully urge you to sign this much-needed legislation.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO
cc: The Honorable Karyn Polito, Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth

Written by Meredith Gabrilska