PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island’s new short-term rental registry is live, and you can now search whether there are listings on sites like Airbnb and Vrbo in your neighborhood.
Jennifer McGee, spokeswoman for the Department of Business Regulation, said the registry went live Monday.
Though short-term rentals have until Jan. 1 to register, owners can start registering now. Some already are doing so. The database is available online, with registrations trickling in around the state.
The registry came as the result of a law passed by the General Assembly. Governor Dan McKee vetoed it, but the General Assembly overrode his veto in January 2022. Towns around Rhode Island, sometimes but not always in vacation hotspots, have grappled with the effect that short-term rentals have had on the character of neighborhoods, nuisance issues, and housing prices.
Under the law, properties offered on third-party hosting platforms like Airbnb and VRBO for less than 30 days at a time for tourist or transient use have to be registered with the state. The cost to register is $50 per property. Penalties for not complying range from $250 for the first 30 days of noncompliance to $1,000 for more than 60 days. People offering short-term rentals have to submit to the state the name of the owner and their address, the phone number and email address of the owner or property manager, the number of rooms and the intended use of the property, among other information.
The public-facing database has only the address and registration status.
Some towns require short-term rentals to register locally, as well.
Sarah Bratko, lobbyist for the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, said the registry is an “important first step” in regulating short-term rentals. But it shouldn’t end there, said Bratko, whose organization represents restaurants and hotels. Hotel guests pay 13 percent to stay at a hotel, between a 7 percent sales tax, 5 percent state hotel tax, and 1 percent local hotel tax. But guests at most short-term rental only pay the 7 percent sales tax and 1 percent local hotel tax, Bratko said.
“Our overall viewpoint is that these are commercial businesses that are operating as hotels, just without any of the laws or regulations that actually govern hotels,” Bratko said. “We think at a minimum, because they’re operating as hotels, they should be taxed the same way as hotels are taxed.”