Better late than never? Nearly a year after the town was supposed to have a local registration system for tracking and monitoring short-term rentals up and running, the much-anticipated - and significantly delayed - program appears nearly ready for launch.
If all goes according to plan, Nantucket’s short-term rental registry will become operational about a month from now in late January 2024.
The registration system, which is intended to identify all short-term rental properties on the island that are rented for more than 14 days per year and less than 30 consecutive days, was approved by Town Meeting voters in 2022 and intended to start on Jan. 1, 2023. But the failure of the firm the town hired to monitor and track short-term rentals - Granicus - to deliver a workable program and software led the town to cancel its contract with the company over the summer.
A new vendor, GovOS, was hired and has been working with the Health Department since early November. Health Department director Roberto Santamaria told the Select Board last week that GovOS is finishing work on a new website that it will begin testing this week. The company will begin beta testing in January and expects to begin accepting registrations later that month.
“It’s a much faster timeline than we expected,” Santamaria said of GovOS’ work to date.
Based on the existing short-term rental registry established by the state in 2019, it is believed that there are more than 2,000 short-term rentals operating on Nantucket.
Once the new system is up and running, the town will spend 2024 in education and outreach mode, working to ensure that all of Nantucket’s short-term rental operators become aware of the new system and register as required. Enforcement will not begin until after Nov. 1, 2024.
“The regulation does say properties must be registered by Nov. 1st for the following calendar year,” Santamaria said. “Because we’re starting Jan. 1, we’re just collecting information this coming year in 2024. We’re not going to be hammering people. But everyone will be getting that first letter saying you need to be brought into compliance by Nov. 1. And starting Nov. 1, we’ll be enforcing that timeline.”
Beyond enhancing the town's ability to manage and control short-term rental properties, the registration system is also expected to provide much-needed data on the number of rentals. Town Meeting voters set the stage for the new regulations in May 2022 when they approved Article 39, a general bylaw amendment, to establish a framework to regulate and register short-term rentals on Nantucket. The proposal was sponsored by the Planning Board and was adopted on a 610-302 vote.
Following that vote, a small internal staff group of town staff members convened to prepare draft regulations for the Board of Health and Select Board to consider. The two boards ratified the regulations in September 2022.
Among other provisions, the regulations will require the following:
- Short-term rental operators must obtain a certificate of registration from the Board of Health that has to be renewed annually by Nov. 1.
- Pay an annual fee of $250 per unit for the certificate of registration.
- Short-term rental operators must provide the town with the name and contact information for an individual who can respond to the property at any time of day within two hours to address major issues (such as a fire, plumbing, etc.)
- A certificate of insurance for liability coverage to operate the property as a short-term rental with liability limits of at least $ 1 million per claim, unless the rental is offered through a hosting platform that maintains equal or greater coverage.
- Limit occupancy of short-term rental properties to two people per bedroom plus two additional people in the unit.
- Ensure parking at short-term rentals does not create a public health or public safety issue or create undue traffic congestion.
After an initial delay in implementing the new registration system in January 2023 due to staffing changes within the Health Department - which is charged with managing the new system - Santamaria and his staff quickly discovered issues with the deliverables Granicus had promised. The contract was nullified in July, and Santamaria said last week that it is a phenomenon happening with other Granicus clients.
“What’s interesting is recently the person who started the original host compliance company, the software Granicus owns, reached out to us to say ‘my apologies that this is happening, this is not the software I built or the company I started. I sold this to Granicus five years ago and they’ve completely messed this up’,” Santamaria said. “Apparently, it’s a big issue across the country that Granicus is kind of fumbling these programs. GovOS, Deckard, they’re all picking up Granicus drops. It’s an entire industry of people that Granicus is losing.”