In a recent video and accompanying article on CNBC, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber described the short-term rental industry – which includes professional property managers and property owners – as “predatory.” It is unfortunate that Mr. Gelber feels this way and completely maligns an industry that is a major driver of revenue to the area.
Let’s be clear and up front: there are bad actors in the short-term rental space, as there are in any industry. As the leading voice for advancing professionally-managed vacation rentals as a safe, reliable lodging option for travelers, the Vacation Rental Management Association does our part to clean up the industry. We continue to be disappointed that elected officials like Mr. Gelber use these bad actors – a small portion of the industry as a whole – as the face of all professional vacation rental managers.
The vacation rental industry is one of the fastest-growing markets for travelers in the United States. Especially after the 2008 economic downturn and housing market meltdown, many second homeowners began working with vacation rental management companies to rent out their otherwise-vacant second properties as a way to offset the costs of their second home. This allowed them to maintain their ownership of the property and stay out of the cycle of foreclosure that impacted many areas around the country – including many homeowners in Miami Beach. In so doing, they continued to support local communities through property taxes, increased consumer spending by their guests, and other indirect economic impacts.
Many second homes are used by their owners from time to time and they keep these homes for a variety of reasons. The ability to rent the property helps defray costs and maintain an asset. These homes would not be part of the long-term housing market and sit unused for part of the year. In many communities, the homeowner would not have bought a property and invested in the area without the ability to rent it out when unused.
Mr. Gelber has described vacation rental property managers as “predatory.” For professional managers, this could not be further from the case. While the members that VRMA represents handle all aspects of a short-term rental, including booking, guest check-in, cleaning, residential upkeep, landscaping, and cleaning, among other tasks, professional managers hold themselves to a higher standard with a focus on increased education, advocacy, and professional services. They set the bar high, continually elevate the industry, and articulate best practices for others to follow.
Mr. Gelber has also ignored the fact that most vacation rental management companies are traditional “Mom and Pop” businesses. Responsibly managing properties and ensuring that their guests have the best possible experience while traveling is their full-time job and their number one priority. Vacation rental managers come from a variety of backgrounds. Some were born and raised in the hospitality industry, while others found professional property management to be their true calling later in life after other careers. They truly enjoy the experience of helping their guests from reservation to goodbye.
In traditional vacation destinations like Miami Beach, a significant number of residences are second properties where the homeowner primarily lives elsewhere. More than half of secondary residence renters purchased the property for personal use or enjoyment, which is a far cry from Mr. Gelber’s portrayal of all rentals as stemming from companies “trying to commercialize our residential communities in ways that are damaging to our citizens and our residents and our quality of life.” When not using their second residence, they rent it out to other travelers. Some stay for a weekend, some stay for a week, and some stay for longer periods of time.
In 2017, Greater Miami and the Beaches remained one of the world’s most popular destinations, welcoming nearly 16 million visitors. They spent an estimated $25.97 billion in direct expenditures here. For the past five years, the share of visitors who rented a residence has steadily increased from 1 percent in 2013 to nearly 5 percent in 2017. While that number is small, the amount in direct revenue it generates for local businesses and that it contributes to the local coffers is significant.
We are disappointed that Mayor Gelber has chosen to use a broad brush to malign the professional short-term rental properties and the vacation rental managers that are acting in good faith to comply with regulations and serve the community. They are a healthy and vital part of Miami’s tourism economy, and we ask that they are recognized and respected as such.
Mike Copps, Executive Director