Tahoe communities pen letter asking Airbnb to inform visitors of virus rules

California

(KTXL) — Tahoe-area officials are taking an added step to ensure that lodging restrictions are enforced during the COVID-19 surge. 

They have sent a letter to vacation rental brokers, including Airbnb, asking them to inform visitors about local restrictions that are in place, and that not doing so threatens their businesses. 

Enforcing those lodging restrictions can be tough, however, since the Lake Tahoe area is a vacation destination year-round. 

That’s why the letter to rental brokers Airbnb and Vrbo states — in no uncertain terms — that operating permits and licenses for rentals are at risk if violations if persist. 

The letter was signed by officials in El Dorado and Placer counties and the city of Truckee in Nevada County. 

“Our goal is not to revoke, suspend or deny an operating permit. That’s not what we want to do,” said Jen Callaway, Truckee town manager. 

Tourist communities worry about being able to treat hospital patients beyond COVID-19 infections. 

“It’s people that are ill with other sicknesses; people that are getting injured,” Callaway told FOX40. “And we only have so many beds and so much staff.” 

The communities’ greater goal is education. There are six counties in two states that encompass the Tahoe area, and they all cater to out-of-state and out-of-country visitors. 

“A lot of people don’t know or are confused about what the rules really are,” said El Dorado County Supervisor Sue Novasel. 

That goes for large outfits like Airbnb and VRBO, which can act as conduits of information to property owners and guests. 

It would help local law enforcement that are overwhelmed and not equipped to police state and local COVID-19 rules. 

Even before the pandemic, communities have gone to Airbnb to discourage large, rowdy parties at rentals that sometimes result in violence. They responded by banning large house parties. 

“Whether that’s during a pandemic or the rest of the time when short-term rentals are a vital part of our industry up here in serving visitors,” said Placer County Supervisor Cindy Gustafson. 

Both rental companies already responded to the communities’ letter of concern. 

“Both said they would send along the message on what the stay-at-home orders are, and hopefully, their owners pay attention to that,” Gustafson said. 

But there are still thousands of rentals in Tahoe that don’t go through online brokers. 

Meanwhile, officials say it’s still a welcome destination for one-day visitors. 

“We love having our day-trippers up here, and we have a lot of areas for them to enjoy themselves and get some fresh air and they should be doing that,” Novasel said.

Part of the letter also asks that those who made deposits for rentals get refunds. But there has been no response from the online booking services. 

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