Connecticut lawmakers are seeking to stiffen regulations on short-term rental services like Airbnb, imposing new taxes and additional requirements for hosts, including state licensing and notifying neighbors who they are renting out their home to.
Unsurprisingly, Airbnb is not happy with the proposed legislation, which was subject to a public hearing in the General Assembly’s insurance committee Wednesday.
“As taxes and the cost of living continues to rise, Connecticut should endeavor to support efforts by working and middle class people to supplement their income in a way that benefits the community at large, rather than risking residents’ privacy and effectively steering them away from making a little extra money by sharing their home,” Josh Meltzer, who works in public policy for Airbnb, wrote in testimony submitted to the committee.
Meltzer was referring in part to language in the proposed bill that would require Airbnb hosts to share with their neighbors the names of their guests and the lengths of their stays.
Also submitting testimony against the proposed bill was the Connecticut Realtors. Airbnb stays are already subject to the state’s 15 percent hotel tax, but the bill would add on the state’s 6.35 percent sales tax and give cities and towns the option to levy a local tax.
“Expanding real estate taxation opportunities to municipalities on ‘rentals’ could prove extremely detrimental to those who may find they need to rent short-term including those interviewing for jobs, unpaid interns, college students, veterans, assisted living residents, home owners and renters in financial distress, and many more,” the Connecticut Realtors wrote in their testimony. “These short-term renters will all have higher rental prices as the taxes along with the cost to administer these taxes are passed on to the user.”
Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford and co-chair of the insurance committee, said lawmakers are trying to find a balance between protecting consumers and not harming a new industry.
“I like and use Airbnb, but I think it’s important for there to be some consumer protection standards on the books and today was the beginning of a conversation we are going to have on the committee about finding what a balance between those protections and not stifling a growing service might look like,” he said.
Connecticut residents who rent out their homes through Airbnb generated $35 million in revenue and hosted 170,000 guests in 2018, according to the company.
The rental numbers are up 48 percent over 2017, when 115,000 people used the service to find lodging in Connecticut. The revenue generated by those visitors was up 40 percent over the 2017 revenue of $25 million.
For the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2017, Airbnb paid the state $2.4 million in hotel taxes, according to the company. Since the company began collecting the tax in 2016, it has paid the state more than $5.2 million.