How Much Should It Cost To Register A Short-Term Rental?

JohnCarl McGrady •


The Select Board and the Board of Health held a joint session on Wednesday to discuss proposed short-term rental regulations under Article 39, which voters passed at the recent Town Meeting.

These regulations would require short-term rental operators to register their rentals with the Town, paying for a certificate of registration. The money raised through this program would go into a revolving fund used by the Town to pay for the operation of the registration program, which would help determine who owns Nantucket’s short-term rentals, where they are, and whether further regulations might be necessary.

The registration program, which would go into effect on the first day of 2023, would require contact information for the operator and someone responsible for responding to any problems with the property on a 24-hour basis, a description of the premise, liability insurance of at least $1 million, and a non-discrimination statement, among other provisions.

Discussion at Wednesday’s meeting centered around the cost of registration and whether to require a certification of occupancy. Currently, the certificate of registration is slated to cost $150, which Board of Health member Meredith Lepore suggested was too low.

However, the fee has to be commensurate with the cost of operating the program, and Town Manager Libby Gibson explained that the Town intentionally aimed low to ensure they didn’t overshoot and risk legal trouble.

Director of Health and Human Services Roberto Santamaria added that the fee was the same as other housing registration fees, such as those needed by hotels. “It’s on par with every other type of housing permit that we offer,” he said. “If we up this, we might want to consider upping the others as well.”

Lepore, Santamaria, and Select Board member Matt Fee also argued that registration should require a certificate of occupancy. Lepore worried that without such a requirement, the Town could be condoning operators renting homes that are not safe.

Director of Planning Andrew Vorce pointed out that many older homes don’t have a certificate of occupancy and that “there are antique homes that simply don’t meet modern codes.”

However, Lepore was concerned that, since antique homes are exempt from some safety codes that apply to more recently constructed dwellings, the Town should not issue a certificate allowing operators to rent those homes to potentially unsuspecting tourists.

Neither of these issues was resolved during the meeting. The Select Board and the Board of Health will meet again to hash out the specifics of the regulations, after a public hearing.

The Town could use the data and information collected through the registration program to inform the short-term rental workgroup formed to make recommendations on regulating such rentals in the future. Nothing in the registration program should impact the Town’s ability to create future laws affecting short-term rentals, according to Town Counsel John Giorgio.

Violations of the terms of the registration program, or failure to register, could result in various penalties, including potentially a $5,000 per day fee—though Massachusetts’ Attorney General Maura Healey, who has to sign off on the bylaw, has expressed some trepidation about the fee. It is not immediately clear whether she will approve that particular provision, though according to Giorgio, she seems poised to support the large majority of the provisions in the bylaw.

In early May, the two most controversial warrant articles related to short-term rentals at the island’s Town Meeting - the Planning Board's proposal to codify short-term rentals by right in any island zoning district and the political action group ACK Now's petition to regulate and curtail short-term rentals by non-residents - were both tabled. Voters narrowly approved a motion to punt the two articles in favor of creating the new Short-Term Rental Work Group to attempt to find consensus.

The town is currently accepting interest forms for the three at-large seats on the work group. The deadline to apply is Friday, August 26th, at noon. Click here to learn more.

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