The new Short Term Rental Association (STRA) is working with its lobbyist to advocate a reopening plan for short-term rentals in Michigan. The reopening plan includes four phases to be implemented over time to allow for a return to 100% normal operations by August 15. The Michigan REALTORS Association (MAR) is joining the STRA to advocate the opening.
Phase one of the plan would allow anyone from within the state to travel to and stay at a short-term rental where the short-term rental is a single unit and accessible without going through another shared space (like a hallway). This phase would also implement a 48-hour delay between guest to allow for cleaning and disinfection to protect both cleaning personnel and guests. May 28 is the proposed start date for phase one.
Phase two would allow out of state guests and include multi-unit properties where egress is not from a common indoor area.
Phase three would include all properties regardless of the number of units but reduce the time between guests to 24 hours.
Phase four would allow the return to normal operations and start on August 15.
All phases would also include adherence to any other current executive orders at the time, e.g. social distancing, food service restrictions, etc. Dates have been proposed for all phases but STRA and MAR are leaving room for flexibility for those dates during negotiations.
Some short-term rental owners have asked STRA why it is that hotels, motels and bed and breakfast can still operate but short-term vacation rentals can’t. The Governor’s office has explained that these businesses can operate but only under all the other guidelines per executive orders. Some of the amplifications provided include:
Travel for recreation purposes is limited under the stay at home orders, i.e. no resident of Michigan is allowed to travel for recreational purposes and stay in another location unless it is in a second home. If a guest of a hotel, etc. is staying at the hotel for recreational purposes, they are in violation of the stay at home order.
Short-term vacation rentals, hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts are allowed guests that are essential or critical infrastructure workers.
Travel is allowed for those that are attending a funeral and those that must travel, accompany someone that is in need of critical medical care or other such emergency travel. These individuals may stay in a hotel or motel but not a “vacation rental.”
Hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast accommodations may not provide dining, spa, pools or other amenities of that nature. Bed and breakfast cannot provide breakfast in a dining area.
Some guest at hotels and motels are actually short-term residents for emergency housing needs.
As a point of clarification, the executive order states this:
“No one shall rent a short-term vacation property except as necessary to assist in housing a health care professional aiding in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic or a volunteer who is aiding the same.” The latest order reiterates that no one can travel to a “vacation rental.” The use of the word “vacation” is the key to this directive, i.e. under the order the unit cannot be rented for vacation purposes nor can a unit normally used for vacation purposes be rented for anything other than those purposes allowed.
The Governor’s office appears to be creating a fine line between what is allowed and what isn’t when it comes to providing accommodations—trying to meet the most essential needs of the public while dissuading unnecessary travel—especially travel for recreational purposes.
The STRA position recognizes the needs to protect the public from unnecessary risks, hence the phased in approach. However, the STRA has made it clear that orders disallowing travel and staying overnight for recreational purposes will be devastating to Michigan’s tourism industry, including short-term rentals. Changes must be made to the existing order to allow Michiganders and others to travel for safe recreational purposes.