ProJo: My Turn: Lauren H. Carson: R.I. should address third-party rental platforms
Posted: Jun 17, 2018 at 3:00 PM
Technology keeps changing everyday life in ways that were unforeseeable only a few years ago. A decade ago, probably few people would have believed that our economy would soon be changed by apps that would let you hail a cab online, or websites that would utilize crowdsource funding for entrepreneurs or charitable causes. Or that, in 2018, a significant portion of travelers would sleep in a stranger's home instead of a hotel.
Government at every level has struggled to keep up with the dizzying pace of this development and the result is that policy has not caught up with technology. Short-term rentals coordinated through third-party hosting platforms are one example of where an entire economy has sprung up, unregulated, unchecked and very questionably taxed.
In Newport, where hospitality is the driver of the economy, the effects of this development are particularly evident. Our tax and health and safety codes were developed with the expectation that residential properties housed residents, not travelers. This new hybrid use — and the use of third-party hosting platforms that complicate the identification of the properties being used — have left Newport and other cities and towns at a loss when it comes to ensuring that hosts taking the proper steps to keep guests safe and comply with the collection of hotel and sales taxes.
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