Monday, March 7, 2016

Combating AirBnB

Attached are several of the e-mails and letters that we (PAII, the Virginia B&B Association - Local Governments - Cities, Towns and Counties) sent to VA Legislators over a three week period.  Virtually every legislator (House Delegate and Senator) received over 300 or more letters or e-mails and had their voice mails filled at least once during the three weeks.  Many legislators, on key committees that were going to vote on the Airbnb Legislation, got many more messages and received personal visits from one or more of the groups that were working against the Airbnb Legislation.  Finally, multiple speakers spoke against the Airbnb Legislation at every committee that was going to consider or vote on the Bill(s).

The effort was coordinated by VRLTA (they have paid lobbyists, we don’t) with very active participation from all the other groups, especially PAII and BBAV and Local Governments.  It was absolutely essential that B&Bs were part of this effort as it instantly counters the Airbnb message that it is the giant hotel industry versus some poor Grandmother trying to make the mortgage payments by renting out a room through Airbnb.  Getting B&Bs to participate helps send the message that it is the $25 Billion Dollar Airbnb Goliath that is beating up on the real (Legal) Mom and Pop B&Bs.

Finally, get the media involved.  Initiate or respond to every article, letter to the editor, Facebook, twitter or blog post.  Don't let any Airbnb favorable comment go unanswered.

In addition to the e-mails that provided information about Airbnb and the Bills and provided the rationale needed to vote against the Airbnb Legislation, there was a parallel campaign that flooded the legislators with every possible article that told the truth about Airbnb – like that they can’t be trusted and that there is a serious problem with safety and security at some Airbnb hosts.  A few slides (from AH&LA) that show some of the headlines are also attached.  You can just do a search on “Airbnb” to find a lot more.

Airbnb runs a very effective campaign that stresses how many millions in taxes they will collect for, and pay, the state.  Not only does their approach hide the fact that the Airbnb Bill(s) clearly discriminate against Legal B&Bs, but it is a hard thing for the legislators to turn down the big check that is on the end of the hook – and that usually “hides” the “hook”.  The “hook” iis the lack of transparency into who the hosts are, where they are, the fact that the Airbnb Hosts do not have to comply with Federal, State and Local Government Laws, Codes, Regulations or Ordinances, that Airbnb will never collect and pay all the taxes really due and that Local Governments will not be able to protect their citizens, and visitors, or enforce the Laws, Regulations, and Codes, or collect all the taxes and fees due (that Legal B&Bs have to pay) because they will have no visibility into what is happening in their communities.

The lopsided vote (90-8-1) in Virginia to send the Airbnb Bill back for additional study and to require transparency, is proof that once legislators are made aware of the inherent unfairness of the Airbnb approach, learn of the potential lack of safety and security for guests because Airbnb does not mandate compliance with Federal, State and Local Laws, Codes and Regulations, and recognize that local Governments have both a need and a right to protect their communities and collect appropriate taxes, that they will do the right thing for their states, just as they did for Virginia.  

Another valuable point to “ask” your elected officials is: “Do you really want a third party, commercial company, which has had questions raised about their openness and trustworthiness[JN1] , to collect and pay your taxes.” 

As you know PAII will be happy to assist you in your efforts, Contact Kris Ullmer at PAII.Org if you need anything else.

Thanks- To Senator or Delegate

To a Senator

E-mail after Finance Committee passed Airbnb Legislation

Airbnb Statement for for VA Legislature

Virginia has Spoken

IAM Position Statement

Letter to VA Senate Finance Committee

Message to Delegates (Appropriations)

Letter or E-mail to Legislator

Response to Letter to Editor