Sunday August 25, 2019
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Sunday August 25, 2019
Posted: Apr 16, 2015

Battle between room renters and inns fizzles out

Travel Talk

It was not the first battle, and it probably won’t be the last, but the fight between inns and room renters fizzled out this week. The legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee unanimously killed L.D. 436, “An Act to Require Providers of Short-term Lodging to be Licensed by the State.”

I reported on the hearing on this bill in an earlier post, if you want to read all about the battle. I actually testified in favor of the bill, on the side of the inns and B&Bs, who are licensed, who must follow lots of rules, and who pay taxes, against those who rent rooms by the night, who don’t have to follow the rules, and who don’t collect and pay taxes. At least, according to testimony, many do not collect and pay taxes. This is both a complex issue, but also a simple one of fairness.

Linda and I are now in our fifth year of writing a weekly travel column published every Thursday in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. During that time we have gotten to know some wonderful innkeepers. If you own an inn, it is consuming; it is your life; you work very very hard. And here’s the problem.

AirBnB and other national companies are aggressively moving into our neighborhoods, representing private homeowners who wish to rent rooms in their homes. This competition is making it increasingly difficult to successfully own and operate inns and B&Bs, particularly in rural Maine. It’s especially difficult for inns and B&Bs to match the prices offered by these room renters, who don’t bear the burden of state regulations and taxes.

But legislators on the Health and Human Services Committee didn’t agree and the bill is dead, at least for this session. As AirBnB and other companies continue to grow, in and out of Maine, we’ll be hearing more about this issue, for sure.

And there is one other element yet to be determined. Holly Lusk, Governor Paul LePage’s Senior Health Policy Advisor, testified in opposition to L.D. 436, saying, “Significant new State resources would need to be secured to respond to the expected dramatic increase in regulated lodging places. Rather than attempting to create a level playing field for lodging establishments through the creation of additional regulation, the Administration is already considering deregulation of lodging establishments.

Should be interesting to see what, if anything, the governor comes up with!


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