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Vacation Rentals in a Pandemic: COVID-19

Short-Term rentals are included in Phase 2 of the reopening as part of Lodging.

Phase 2 is slated to begin three weeks after Phase 1. Phase 1 started yesterday and last three weeks, which means Phase 2 is scheduled to start June 8, 2020.

When short-term rentals are reopened, there are likely to be additional restrictions. We will provide an update when those restrictions are released.

Leases Prior to Phase 2 Reopening

If you have a lease in place for a short-term rental (31-days or less) beginning before Phase 2 starts, you may not provide occupancy unless the tenant falls within one of the exceptions. Follow the terms of your lease and consult with your attorney as needed to best address this issue with your clients.

If using the MAR short-term rental lease, you will need to refund prorated rent until you are able to deliver occupancy as the owner can not perform on the lease.

If you used a hosting platform for a rental during this period, review their service terms as many have issued their own guidance on how they will assist clients for bookings impacted by the pandemic.

Permitted Short-Term Rentals During Reopening Phase 1

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health lays out limited purposes for which short-term rentals are permissible during Reopening Phase 1 and as such can be provided occupancy prior to Phase 2. These purposes are:

  • Housing and accommodation for health care workers, first responders, and other workers constituting the COVID-19 Essential Workforce as specified in Exhibit A of COVID-19 Order No. 13 (as amended);
  • To the extent not already included in (a), housing and accommodation for out-of-state workers engaged in transportation of materials, logistics, and construction associated with the delivery of health-related services, such as the development of COVID-19 alternative care sites
  • Housing and accommodation for members of vulnerable populations, for instance when serving as emergency shelter for homeless individuals and families
  • Housing and accommodation for Massachusetts residents (i) who are isolating or self quarantining; and (ii) families or roommates of individuals who are isolating or self quarantining; but (iii) in each case, for no longer than the period required to complete the necessary period of self-isolation or self-quarantining
  • Housing and accommodation for individuals receiving long-term, specialized medical care from a physician located in the Commonwealth, and for accompanying family members
  • Housing, accommodation, and shelter when required by extenuating circumstances such as fire or casualty to ensure the care and safety of Massachusetts residents and to accommodate other persons unable to return to their own homes due to flight cancellations, border closures, or other direct and material constraints on travel.

Short-Term Rental Cancellation Addendum

To assist our members brokering short-term rental contracts for permitted stays, MAR has developed a short-term rental cancellation addendum that may be attached to those lease agreements. This form is not mandatory, but is suggested for members looking for guidance in this area.

​This addendum addresses deposits placed on those rentals, and what happens in the event the landlord is unable to provide occupancy or the tenant is unable to travel to the property to take tenancy as a direct result of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

While the form could be used for existing contracts previously signed, it would have to be agreed to by the lessee and the lessor and for that reason is why we suggest using it for new leases moving forward.

Guidance on Cancellations

In the circumstances where you are able to legally provide tenancy after Phase 2 begins, each real estate brokerage should refer to their own lease (and attorney who wrote the lease) for their existing cancellation policy for leases. The brokerage and homeowners, in consultation, should decide whether to grant a more lenient cancellation. Factors that may weigh into that decision include; customer service practices, availability of funds for refunds, and other business factors.

If you are using the MAR Short-Term Rental Lease, there is no provision that mandates refunds for cancellations; however, that does not preclude you from being more generous with a refund.

Cleaning of Short-Term Rentals

In light of the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), there has been a focus on when short-term rentals are allowed again (and for those that are currently exempt from the ban), what cleaning standards will need to be in place. We will continue to provide CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines and advisories for cleaning standards as it relates to short-term rentals.

Watch a recent webinar with Durk Johnson, the executive director of the Vacation Rental Housekeepers Association

Travel Insurance

The Massachusetts Division of Insurance is directing travelers to guidance from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners related to information about travel insurance and COVID-19: Travel Insurance Information.

Frequently Asked Questions

These frequently asked questions are at the time of publishing the best guidance that has been given by the DPH. For a complete listing of the FAQs published by DPH, click here. We have summarized and added in the most common ones we have received from members below:

Yes. The DPH directive only applies to stays that begin during the Stay at Home and during Phase 1 of reopeningory; however, Phase 2 could be delayed based on health data.

Lodging operators should inform prospective guests of the limitations on lodgings and provide them with or direct them to the list of allowable exceptions.

Lodging operators should reach out to individuals that book reservations on a third-party party website to be certain that these individuals are aware of the restrictions on lodging in Massachusetts.

Lodging operators are required to accept a general self-certification by individuals or families that they fall within one of the allowable exceptions without asking prospective guests to identify the specific exception that applies to their situation.

No. Lodging operators must accept self-certification by individuals or families that their occupancy falls within one of the allowable exceptions. However, they must inform prospective guests of the limitation on lodging and provide with or direct them to the allowable exceptions.

Individuals and families may consider themselves part of a vulnerable population if they have no other residence within or outside the Commonwealth to which they can safely return, or if they would be at risk of homelessness if forced to vacate the lodging unit.

For the purposes of this guidance, the presence of the COVID-19 virus in the community where an individual or family normally resides is not a circumstance that would mean it is unsafe to return.

No.

Yes.

Moving in of itself is not included in the exemptions; however, there could be scenarios involving moving that would make a short-term rental stay permissible under the allowable exemptions.