General Assembly overrides veto of bill to register all
short-term rentals offered by third-party hosting
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today voted to override the governor’s veto of legislation sponsored by Rep. Lauren H. Carson and Sen. Dawn Euer to require every short-term rental property listed for rent on the website of any third-party hosting platform that conducts business in Rhode Island to be registered with the Department of Business Regulation.
The legislation (2021-H 5505A, 2021-S 0501B), which originally passed the General Assembly July 1, will create a statewide registry of basic information about each property to ensure compliance with safety and tax regulations, with owners’ contact information in case of an emergency. The bill now becomes law.
“Short-term rentals have become a thriving industry. In places like our districts in Newport, investors have been buying up housing to rent in this way, and the state is not tracking where these businesses are operating. It’s impossible to ensure safety or compliance with laws when we don’t even know where the rentals are. Rhode Island needs to keep up with the evolving rental industry and adopt a statewide registry,” said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown).
The sponsors have been working for several years on efforts to address identification and taxation of third-party hosting platforms, which have created new challenges in public safety, housing availability and equity issues pertaining to the hospitality industry.
“Absent much-needed state action, the communities on Aquidneck Island — where short-term rentals are widespread in neighborhoods -- have been paying a vendor to operate a local registry so they can track down property owners when there are issues,” said Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport). “In a state as small as Rhode Island, it doesn’t make any sense to leave this job to our overburdened municipalities. It would be simpler and less expensive to have single statewide registry, and it would allow uniformity. This is an issue for every community, because anyone anywhere can list a room for rent. A statewide registry isn’t a heavy lift for anyone, and it would give the state and the municipalities the information they need to keep everyone safe and sound.”
The anonymity fostered by the third-party platforms and a frequent lack of on-site management reduces the sense of responsibility between renters and property owners, and sometimes results in renters using properties for out-of-control gatherings, the sponsors said. A University of Rhode Island student was murdered on Memorial Day weekend at a party held at a short-term rental on Thames Street in Newport.