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States restrict short-term rentals in response to pandemic

  • May 4, 2020 | Jennifer Sokolowsky

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Updated May 4. Originally published April 9.

As states take measures to fight the spread of COVID-19, some have placed restrictions on short-term rentals. In many cases, officials are concerned about nonlocal residents traveling to area vacation rentals and potentially spreading the disease. All the state-level restrictions include exemptions, such as providing accommodations to health care workers.

Many city and county governments are also placing their own restrictions on short-term rentals within their boundaries. Check with your local government to see if any restrictions apply to your short-term rental.

Arkansas

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson issued an order on April 4 limiting the types of authorized guests that commercial lodgings, including short-term rentals, can accept. These include:

  • Health care professionals, first responders, and law enforcement
  • State or federal employees on official business
  • National Guard members on active duty
  • Airline crew members
  • Hospital patients and their families
  • Journalists
  • People unable to return to their home due to COVID-19 travel restrictions
  • Arkansas citizens unable to return to their home due to circumstances, such as fire, flood, tornado, or other disaster
  • People in need of shelter due to domestic violence or homelessness
  • People away from their home due to work or work-related travel

The order is effective until further notice.

Connecticut

In Connecticut, Governor Ned Lamont has issued an executive order that bans hotels and vacation rentals from renting to guests for leisure or vacation. Guests who were staying in short-term rentals as of April 2 may stay through the end of their reservation.

Otherwise, short-term lodgings may only be rented to essential workers, including health care workers, first responders, and those transporting critical materials to hospitals. Other exemptions include:

  • Vulnerable populations, including people who are homeless
  • Connecticut residents who need a place to self-quarantine  
  • People receiving long-term care or specialized medical treatment
  • Connecticut residents in need of housing as a result of property damage
  • People unable to return home due to travel restrictions

The order went into effect April 3 and will remain until the state emergency order is lifted.

Delaware

On April 6, Delaware Governor John Carney modified his state of emergency declaration to close all commercial lodging, including hotels and vacation rentals, to leisure guests.

Short-term rentals may take reservations from essential workers, caretakers, and others including:

  • People placed by a government agency or health care provider
  • People affected by domestic violence
  • Section 8 residents
  • Staff/personnel necessary to operate the lodging facility
  • Travelers stranded by travel restrictions or who are currently residing in commercial lodging
  • Journalists using commercial lodging due to their employment
  • People displaced from their homes or who are homeless
  • People in commercial lodging in compliance with a court order

Delaware Governor John Carney has not yet set a date for the state’s economy to reopen, stating that won’t begin until the number COVID-19 cases has declined for 14 days.
updated May 4

Florida

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis extended a ban on short-term rental operations under the first phase of the state’s reopening plan, starting May 4. That means short-term rental hosts are still prohibited from making new bookings or accepting new guests for check-in until the governor issues a new order.

The order includes some exemptions, including rentals to guests already staying in a vacation rental as of March 28. Rentals to guests working as part of military, emergency, government, health, or infrastructure response are also exempt, as are travelers engaged in non-vacation commercial activities.

According to the governor’s order, violators will lose their rental licenses and can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.
updated May 4

Hawaii

City and county governments are closing down short-term rentals in major Hawaii tourism hubs, wary of tourists spreading infection during the COVID-19 pandemic. Statewide, hotels and motels are considered essential businesses, so they remain open, but vacation rentals are not included.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said on April 16 that short-term rentals are considered nonessential businesses and that they are closed to tourists on Oahu.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim shut down vacation rentals and bed-and-breakfasts on the Big Island. Essential workers, such as medical personnel, first responders, or workers in critical trades, are allowed to stay in short-term rentals.

An order from Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami closing vacation rentals went into effect on April 11. The order will “continue through the COVID-19 emergency, or until terminated sooner by the mayor’s order.”

And on Maui, Mayor Michael Victorino announced that short-term rentals and bed-and-breakfasts may only provide accommodations for essential workers, effective April 10.
updated May 4

Maine

Governor Janet Mills issued an order for short-term rentals and other lodgings to suspend operations beginning April 5. Existing guests are allowed to finish their stay. Short-term rentals are no longer allowed to accept online reservations and must post a notice to guests that reservations can only be made by phone for exempt guests.

Exceptions to the order include accommodations for:

  • Health care and other essential workers
  • Vulnerable populations, including children in emergency placements, people at risk of domestic violence, and homeless individuals, as permitted by the state
  • State-arranged quarantine accommodations
  • Limited extenuating circumstances

On April 29, Mills extended the order through May 31.
updated May 4

Massachusetts

On March 31, Governor Charlie Baker issued an order prohibiting the use of short-term rentals for leisure or vacation and reserving them for essential purposes. These include accommodations for:

  • Health care workers, first responders, and other essential workers
  • Members of vulnerable populations, such as emergency shelter for homeless people
  • Massachusetts residents who are isolating or self-quarantining
  • People receiving long-term, specialized medical care and their family members
  • People experiencing extenuating circumstances such as fire or casualty
  • People unable to return to their own homes due to flight cancellations or travel restrictions
  • Workers who provide or service essential lodging

Guests staying in short-term rentals as of March 31 are allowed to finish their stay. On April 28, Baker extended the closure through May 18.
updated May 4

New Hampshire

On April 6, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu ordered vacation rentals and hotels to suspend operations. They are still allowed to provide state-approved quarantine accommodations and housing for essential health care workers, first responders, and victims of domestic and sexual violence. Current guests may stay until the end of their reservations.

New Mexico

The New Mexico Department of Health issued a public health order that tightens the state’s restrictions on public gatherings and business operations in response to the pandemic, closing businesses not deemed “essential.” While the order directs hotels, motels, RV parks, and other lodgings to operate at no more than 25% capacity, it specifically states that short-term rentals of rooms, apartments, and houses are not allowed to operate. On April 30, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham extended the state’s stay-at-home order through May 15.
updated May 4

Pennsylvania

Governor Tom Wolf has shut down short-term rentals amid concerns that some short-term rental hosts were marketing Pennsylvania properties as an escape from COVID-19. The ban went into effect March 30. Hotels and motels are allowed to remain open.

Vermont

Vermont Governor Phil Scott ordered all lodging to close, including short-term rentals. The order went into effect March 30 and will apply until April 15. Guests staying at short-term rental properties at the time of the order may finish their stays.

Under the order, short-term rental properties may provide accommodations for:

  • Health care and other essential workers
  • State-arranged emergency shelter
  • State-arranged quarantine facilities
  • Limited verifiable extenuating circumstances

The order bans online reservations, and lodging providers are required to post a notice online that reservations for lodging will be accepted by phone only for guests meeting exemption criteria. The state has been monitoring lodging properties for compliance and will continue to do so.

While some business operations in Vermont may begin opening May 4, the state has not yet offered guidance on reopening short-term rentals.
updated May 4

Get the latest tax relief information

For updated information on other local and federal responses to the pandemic that may affect short-term rental hosts, including income tax and property tax relief, see our COVID-19 tax relief roundup.


Lodging tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Avalara Author
Jennifer Sokolowsky
Avalara Author Jennifer Sokolowsky
Jennifer Sokolowsky writes about tax, legal, and tech topics. She has an extensive international background in journalism and marketing, including work with The Seattle Times, The Prague Post, Avvo, and Marriott.