The Rhode Island Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would require short-term rentals, such as Airbnbs, to be registered with the state Department of Business Regulation before being posted online.

Under current law, short-term rental companies provide the state with a monthly breakdown of the taxes they’ve collected in each city and town, and that revenue is passed along to municipalities. But there’s no official statewide database of all the properties that are used as short-term rentals.

Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Newport), who sponsored the legislation, said it’s especially important for coastal communities to understand how short-term rentals contribute to shortages in housing stock.

“We don't have a solid sense as to how many properties are even out there that are being taken away from providing year-round housing for individuals and families, versus being used as businesses, as an extension of the hotel and hospitality industry,” said Euer.

Euer and other Newport officials have expressed concern that short-term rentals, as well as the prevalence of second homes on Aquidneck Island, are contributing to families being priced out of the area.

Under the proposed bill, websites that are caught with an unregistered listing would be fined between $250 and $1000, depending on how many days the property was non-compliant.

Euer said the bill would also assist municipalities in enforcing their own local regulations and registration requirements for short-term rentals.

“The intention is for this to be a low-cost, low-burden solution,” said Euer. “We ask all sorts of businesses to be licensed, to be regulated, and so I don't see this as any different.”

The bill passed by a vote of 31-7. With the Senate’s approval, it now heads to the House, where Rep. Lauren Carson (D-Newport) is sponsoring similar legislation.

“I've really heard from colleagues representing different municipalities who have recognized the issues that [short-term rentals] have had in their own communities,” said Euer. “So I think that there is broad support for this.”


Antonia Ayres-Brown is the Newport Bureau Reporter for The Public’s Radio. She can reached at antonia@thepublicsradio.org