Beware of Short Term Rental Address Mailing Lists

Harmari recently learned about vendors in the industry offering “lists” of possible short term rental addresses.  These lists usually come in at a lower cost-per-lead than our system.  This may seem like a good idea for a municipality who seeks compliance and is on a budget, but in reality it might end up blowing up to a much higher cost in the form of returned mail, angry citizens, and possibly litigation.  

Data collection from short term rental platforms is relatively easy to do with today’s software and online resources.  The fundamental flaw in just providing a list is that the platforms such as Airbnb scatter the location up to 0.3 miles (500 meters) away from the true location of the rental.  This is done to protect the privacy of the host, but it also means the data gathered directly is an approximation, not exact.  Finally, good luck finding apartment units and condominiums with this list.  There is no z-axis on a map, so all 500 units of a condo tower are the same pin on a map, even if you knew exactly where it was.  The “last mile” of the data gathering still poses uncertainty and must be navigated by well-trained, screened, and professional analysts.

Purchasing a list and sending a blanket mailout campaign is fraught with risk.  One small risk is the letter is undeliverable and is return-to-sender.  If you’re sending registered mail, these costs can add up to hundreds of dollars per mailout.  A second risk is the letter is delivered to someone who is already licensed to operate a short term rental.  The list of leads must be cross-checked against your existing licensees list, which is non-trivial and needs some training and experience to handle subtle changes in addressees.

Returned mail costs add up on a short term rental compliance effort

Third and most important are misidentifications, and an angry home-owner disputing the accusation that they’re operating a short term rental when they’re really not.  This can lead to very costly litigation which dwarfs the cost of the list itself and the value of the compliance program.  That is why Harmari does the job and backs it up with proof.  Supporting evidence must be required in the form of screenshots of the property, matched up with other validated public record information that substantiates the claim.

Citizens get angry if they are accused of operating a short term rental if they’re really not

Harmari has set the industry standard, where we require at least two pieces of supporting evidence for each of our non-compliant short term rental identifications.  This comes with our 95/75 identification accuracy guarantee, researched by in-house-trained analysts, and validated by our in-house senior staff.  Harmari does not separate the “list” from the “evidence” because the risk of a mistake is too high a burden for anyone to bear.

If you’re putting a short term rental proposal bid together for your municipality, consider the following important requirements:

  • An Identification accuracy guarantee with penalties for inaccurate identification of address and/or operator name
  • A sample identification by the vendor with supporting evidence
  • At least 2 pieces of time-stamped supporting evidence screenshots that corroborate the address and/or the operator information provided
  • Vendor’s analysts and subcontractors who work on the research to be trained a minimum number of hours and screened by senior staff from the vendor
  • an easy and fast way for municipal staff to edit and update the information in the database of short term rental operators
  • A feedback mechanism for mis-identification or returned mail to prevent future mistakes
  • A cross-checking system to ensure letters don’t get sent to existing licensees

Harmari stands by its position to not sell lists, but instead offer a complete package and all-in-one price for ongoing monitoring of 60 websites, identification including supporting evidence, and mobile-enabled web portal for all municipal staff and stakeholders.  This foundation grounds us and enables our 3 E’s framework to compliance.  Learn more about what makes Harmari different at short term rental compliance, or contact us to learn more about Harmari’s identification service.

Beware of Short Term Rental Address Mailing Lists
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