Revived ‘Airbnb bill’ heads to Governor’s desk

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The Massachusetts House and Senate leaders finalized a deal Thursday night to tax and regulate short-term housing rentals through websites like Airbnb and VRBO, according to the State House News Service. The decision revived the bill that passed in July, but was stifled by Gov. Charlie Baker.

House bill 4841 puts a 5.7 percent mandatory state tax on short-term rentals. It would still allow towns to have the option to tax property owners up to 6 percent, but legislators agreed to an amendment by Governor Baker that would exempt homeowners who rent their units for 14 days a year or fewer from having to collect the tax.

The bill also includes a local option for towns to add a 2.75 percent tax on short-term rentals that would go toward a Cape Cod and Islands Water Protection Fund to create wastewater management systems to clean up nitrogen pollution.

Airbnb asked the governor to veto the newly revised bill and have it be discussed again during the next legislative session.

The bill was passed in the House and Senate back in July, but Governor Baker sent it back with amendments. Governor Baker also wanted to limit the amount of information made available through a proposed public registry of short-term rental housing units.

Island officials are preparing for the bill should Governor Baker sign it.

Martha’s Vineyard Commission executive director Adam Turner met with Edgartown in November to discuss the bill, telling the town to prepare for it to be passed.

Oak Bluffs selectman Brian Packish told The Times the bill has been on the town’s radar, but hasn’t been talked about extensively. He believes a focus on the Island’s infrastructure needs and the feasibility of the tax need to be discussed at length.

“It’s a really big thing. Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket will be the most heavily impacted by it,” Packish said. “Overall I think it will prove to be a semipositive thing for each town.”

Baker has 10 days to review the redrafted bill and choose to sign it. If signed, the bill would become effective July 1, 2019.