Lake of the Ozarks is a key battleground in a national war between vacation homeowners and the Lodging Industry. Documents published this week by the New York Times reveal the U.S. lodging industry planned a takedown of the peer-to-peer vacation rental industry for 2017. 

The document leak comes as Missouri lawmakers move closer toward passing a bill that claims to protect the ability of homeowners to rent, but that opponents say opens the door to oppressive regulations and massively infringes on personal property rights. Much of the opposition comes from realtors and homeowners at Lake of the Ozarks, where vacation home rentals are a major—and growing—part of the tourist-driven economy.

The Times published a document presented to the American Hotel and Lodging Association board last year, in which the company laid out a strategy to battle the emerging vacation home rental industry. The stated objective is to “ensure comprehensive legislation in key markets around the country” and to advance the narrative that short-term rentals need “commonsense regulation.”

According to the document, the AHLA planned the following:

  • Build on the national narrative that most of the revenue for short-term rental companies like AirBnB comes from commercial operators, rather than individual homeowners
  • “[A]ctively coordinate with state and local hotel associations” to drive legislation forward
  • “Aggressively counter Airbnb’s ‘we’re just helping the middle-class make ends meet’ narrative with a wave of personal testimonials of consumer harm”

The document shows the AHLA planned to utilize various studies to put forward the following ideas:

  • Short-term rentals are inherently discriminatory toward individuals with disabilities
  • “‘Millionaire Airbnb Landlords’ and taxes owed by Airbnb,” arguing Airbnb is not paying its “fair share”
  • “[T]he harms that short-term rental companies pose to consumers and communities”

The AHLA document also noted, “We will harness the countless stories of real people across the country who have been negatively impacted by short-term rentals in their neighborhoods,” for a testimonial campaign dubbed “My Neighborhood.”

Read The AHLA Document Excerpt Below

In speaking with the New York Times, Troy Flanagan, of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, tried to frame the issue as a battle between two online giants who play by different rules.

“We are trying to showcase and bust the myth that Airbnb supports mom and pop and helps them make extra money,” Flanagan told The Times. “Homesharing is not what this is about.”

But advocates for Lake of the Ozarks say homesharing is exactly what this is about. Many of them have been helped by AirBnB’s platform, or through local vacation rental companies, such as Your Lake Vacation, which manages and helps rent about 90 properties at Lake of the Ozarks.

Russell Burdette, owner of Your Lake Vacation, says all of those properties are owned by individuals, not big corporations. And Your Lake Vacation helps its customers by collecting and remitting the required sales and lodging taxes for each property.

Laura Martin’s family owns a lakefront house, tucked into the back of a scenic cove around the Lake of the Ozarks’ 28 Mile Marker. Her family moves out of the home every summer, living in a condo while they rent the home to vacationing families. The move creates additional revenue for the family, and Martin handles the listing and coordinating of guests, along with all of the requisite taxes.

Her family has been doing this for years, and she believes HB 608 will hurt them, not help.

Families like Martins are not the only ones who oppose the bill. Missouri REALTORS, which represents more than 20,000 realtors across the state, has taken a strong position in opposition to the bill. President Ryan Gattermeir says the Missouri REALTORS Advocacy Committee is calling a special meeting for Saturday, April 22, to discuss the bill’s progress through the Missouri House.

“Our position remains in opposition and, depending on the committee discussion on Saturday, it is possible that you will see more actions taken by our association in the coming week,” Gattermeir told LakeExpo.com.

He pointed out Missouri REALTORS is the largest trade association in the state of Missouri and The National Association of REALTORS is the largest trade association in the country with more than one million members.

The bill—with a half-dozen amendments—was perfected in the House on Thursday, April 20. It needs a final vote before going to the Senate; that could come as early as Monday.

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