The Hotel Advertising Transparency Act of 2019

A service that we provide for our Property Owners is keeping an eye on the Vacation Rental industry at large, and anything coming down the pike that may impact us as Vacation Rental Property Owners and Managers.

Something caught my eye in trade news over the summer and I’ve been keeping said eye on this as it progresses. Have you heard of, “The Hotel Advertising Transparency Act?” House Bill H.R. 4489 AKA, “The Hotel Advertising Transparency Act”  (introduced by Rep. Eddie Johnson D-TX-30) is currently stuck in a sub-committee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, with no hint of surfacing to a floor vote until 2020, but it’s worth a mention.

H.R. 4489 states, “Hotels and other places of short-term lodging often advertise a price that does not disclose any additional mandatory fees, such as “resort fees”, “cleaning fees”, or “facility fees”, that are only disclosed and added to the advertised total later in the buying process. The number of places that charge such fees continues to rise. This practice is unfair and deceptive to consumers.”

While this bill is aimed at large hotel chains such as Marriott International, it is the language, “and other places of short-term lodging” that got my attention. That’s Vacation Rentals by any other name, mark my words! 

What’s prompting this bill? In July, Attorneys General for the District of Columbia and the state of Nebraska filed lawsuits against Marriott International and Hilton Worldwide, respectively, for hiding the true price of hotel rooms from consumers and charging hidden resort fees to increase profits. This bill does not change anything regarding these lawsuits.

So what does this mean for us? Don’t worry, we’re already covered! The Bill goes on to require lodging providers to included any and all mandatory fees with the exception of state and local taxes in the initial rate quoted to the Guest on inquiry/booking. Seachange Vacation Rentals already does this. The rental rate quoted to our Guests bundles up the mandatory fees such as cleaning, linens, and accidental damage fees into the rent quoted to the Guest. Where municipalities require us to gather a tax on their behalf, that is identified separately, as required. In the back end, our Accounting system separates out the mandatory fees from the rent in order that the recipient of the fee gets the fee, and the Owner gets paid on their portion of the rent. No problem!