Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lawmakers Looking at Online Ads for Rentals; Hoteliers Say Property Owners Avoiding Taxes, Health Inspections

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lawmakers Looking at Online Ads for Rentals; Hoteliers Say Property Owners Avoiding Taxes, Health Inspections

Article excerpt

Byline: Walter C. Jones

ATLANTA | Representatives of two of the largest vacation-rental marketing companies said Tuesday they welcome government regulation as long as it's simple and fair.

They laid out their position during the first hearing of a House committee appointed to see whether the state should play a role in addressing complaints over the growing trend to use online listings to market houses or spare bedrooms for rent to tourists. The hotel industry complains that the property owners are undercutting their business by skirting required taxes, insurance and government health and safety inspections. The neighbors of many properties complain about the noise, parking and rude guests near their homes.

The chairman of the study committee, Rep. Terry Rogers, R-Clarksville, said he's not sure whether the issue should be addressed by the state or local governments.

"We're like Switzerland. We're going to be totally neutral and open-minded," he said.

Representatives of the two booming online services said they encourage the property owners who list with them to comply with local ordinances and to collect required taxes.

"We believe smart, simple regulations are both welcome and needed," said Jillian Irvin, public policy director with Airbnb.

The California-based company has agreements with a handful of states to collect sales and hotel taxes on transactions, and she said it would be willing to establish one with Georgia. But Homeaway lobbyist Ashley Hodgini said the 30-year-old Texas-based website she works with leaves all of that up to the property owner.

"I like to think of it as the advertisement in the back of the newspaper," she said.

LEVEL OF TOLERANCE

Lobbyists with the Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association and with the Georgia Innkeepers Association acknowledged that they want to crack down on people operating a business, not Athens homeowners who rent out a spare bedroom for the half-dozen University of Georgia home football games or Augusta residents who rent their homes during the Masters. …

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