Online Rental Platform Needs Monitoring

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The Town of Ocean City and the rental companies in the resort appear to be doing just what they should be doing with the recent explosion in popularity of the Airbnb booking platform and the associated concerns that come with it.

Airbnb has been around for many years, but its presence was largely unfelt in Ocean City until the last year when property owners in growing numbers began listing their prospective rentals on the website for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact they can manage their properties themselves and not have to subtract out the rental agency’s significant commission.

For the town, the challenge lies in ensuring the properties that are listed on the site are licensed to be used as rentals. The $141 annual fee is a significant revenue generator for the town and the associated noise permit attached to the rental license allows for some accountability for condo management companies as well as law enforcement should the need arise.

For the rental companies who make a lot of money on the commission charged on every rental booked, an adjustment will need to be made. If you can’t beat them, join them is one approach, and it seems that’s at least getting minimal consideration. Airbnb has reached out to local rental companies to determine their interest in becoming a part of the popular online booking tool.

Airbnb is one of the biggest innovations in the rental industry marketplace, but it’s not alone. There are several other websites that operate in the same fashion. While concerns on traditional rentals abound, the hotel industry could also be seeing a major impact from Airbnb should it decide officially to enter that market, as is currently being considered.

Private industry will need to adapt to this growing booking trend, although it doesn’t appear to be as much of a game changer here as it has been in other places, notably New York City.

As for the public arena, Ocean City government needs to be on the alert and continue to monitor listings to ensure the proper licenses are being secured so as to prevent a black market of rentals from growing without any sort of enforcement and interaction. Additionally, there are room rental tax considerations involved in all this as well.

It’s an issue that merits public and private purview over the winter months as the warm weather season approaches.

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