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How short-term rental business is shifting after shutdown
Industry puts up health workers, college students while it waits out shelter order
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Gov. Brian Kemp has banned short-term vacation rentals through April 30 to discourage travel that could spread COVID-19. But Erica Carr and CJ Greene, who operate seven vacation rentals like this home in Hall County, said that even though the shelter-in-place ban is set to be lifted at the end of the month, people are canceling travel plans months in advance. (Photo Courtesy CJ Greene)

As part of the statewide shelter-in-place order, Gov. Brian Kemp has banned short-term vacation rentals through April 30 to discourage travel that could spread COVID-19.

But Erica Carr and CJ Greene, who operate seven vacation rentals in Hall County, said that even though the shelter-in-place ban is set to be lifted at the end of the month, people are canceling travel plans months in advance. They have had more than 60 cancellations of bookings at their properties.

“Our guests come in for the rowing venue, for Riverside Military, they come in for Brenau,” Carr said. “They come in for camps and things like that. Even for the summer, we have already seen cancellations as those events have been canceled. It has had a huge impact on local tourism.”

Kemp’s executive order does not apply to rentals with fully paid agreements made before April 9. 

Carr and Greene have a few longer-term tenants staying at their properties during the pandemic. Two are nurses who typically live with elderly parents and have decided to isolate when not at work since they could be exposed to the virus at the hospital. Another is a college student who is isolating before returning home.

“It’s been a substantial loss in terms of cancellations. I do think we were lucky in that we had these longer-term tenants come in at the last minute that needed a place to shelter,” Carr said. “From a revenue perspective, we’re certainly not back to where we should have been, but it’s definitely helped to recoup some of those mass cancellations.”

Greene said vacation rentals are often booked more short-notice than hotels.

“Airbnb, you’re always looking about six weeks out. There are people that will book much further out than that, but it’s kind of a shorter booking window,” she said. “... It has affected some of our summer bookings.”

But Greene said she expects business to pick up after the pandemic.

“I do think that once they release the shelter-in-place, we will see probably more local travel. We’ve seen that with the lake houses that we manage, people that are just traveling within a shorter distance,” Greene said. “I’m hopeful that we’ll have more local travel if people are looking to vacation or just change their scenery.”

While law officers enforce the order, they are not authorized to evict people. Kemp’s order “shall not be construed in any way to prevent owners from personally occupying their own properties,” and it does not apply to leases for properties used as a person’s primary residence.

“Our agency does not maintain a listing of short-term rentals; therefore, the only way we can check compliance is through complaints. As of now, we have not received any complaints,” Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish said in a statement Thursday. “As with all of Governor’s Orders regarding this emergency, the state law enforcement has the lead. If a short-term rental did become an issue, we would work with our law enforcement partners at the state level, state and local public health, and the Governor’s Office to handle the situation. In accordance with the Governor’s Order, at no time would tenants be evicted based upon the order.”

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office had also not had any complaints as of Wednesday evening, according to spokesman Derreck Booth.

“If concerns are reported to us through Hall County Dispatch, deputies will respond and assess each situation on a case-by-case basis,” Booth said in an email. “For us, it’s much like the statewide shelter in place.  Deputies would focus on education and communication on any such call.”

Kemp’s order states that a violation would be classified as a misdemeanor.


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