We are in demand - a safe haven - BlueStone Press
July 2, 2020

We are in demand - a safe haven

All short-term rentals are taken

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The international downturn being experienced by vacation rental hosts due to “the virus” seems to be working in reverse in the Hudson Valley. Instead of a deluge of cancellations, Tim Sweeney, owner of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Nutshell Realty, reported, "There are a ton of people looking to rent properties … for a month or two. But there aren’t any available, really, they’ve all been taken."

Suddenly, in the last two weeks of March, New York City became the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. People who have the means to leave the metropolitan area are doing so, and clearly many are coming to the Hudson Valley. Real estate agencies are not generally in the short-term rental business, but Barbara O’Hare, who has worked in that industry in the area for 30-plus years, currently for Berkshire Hathaway, said, “Our company is getting a ton of calls looking for rentals. People are wanting to get out of the city and rent ‘until it’s over,’ quote unquote.” One owner of a second home in Kerhonkson voiced what so many must be feeling when she said, “I’m so relieved to be here.”

Browsing the Airbnb website for Stone Ridge, Rosendale or Kerhonkson rentals reveals that higher-end properties in particular are mostly booked, for at least the first two weeks of April if not the entire month, even into May. (Sweeney said he was not aware of any price gouging going on.)

Many ethical issues are posed by the pandemic.

“One of my clients has an Airbnb in Brooklyn,” said O’Hare. “She got a request to book it for 14 days," which, of course, is the quarantine period. Was that a clue that her prospective renter had the virus? “She said ‘Oh, God, do I let him stay there? What if he contaminates the apartment?'” This raises the question: What is the responsibility of short-term rental hosts to inform clients about who was there last, how long they were there, and what kind of cleaning has been done since?

Ulster County legislator Lynn Archer, who represents District 21, said, “The governor’s protections that are in place do not address Airbnb. The host is responsible, as any homeowner would be if they were hosting people in their home. We’re in uncharted territory here. As it pertains to Airbnb specifically, there are common-sense requirements, but the reality is, everybody's on the honor system.

“The governor has put PDFs on his website about hygiene. Whether you're a farmers market or a hotel, there are guidelines. Even as a homeowner, there are guidelines about how you can do the best job you can to sanitize your home … but there’s nothing geared toward Airbnb that requires them to do X, Y or Z.”

Can hotels remain open? “Yes, they can. I don't believe hotel restaurants are open. If people want to go to a drive-through somewhere else they can get food that way.” In a sampling of local businesses, Mohonk Mountain House and Rosendale’s 1850 House are closed till June 1, the Starlite Motel in Kerhonkson till at least May 1. A couple of bed-and-breakfasts – the Country Inn and the Rosendale Inn– are open to guests but will not be serving food.

Unlike Sullivan County, Delaware and Greene county officials, Ulster County executive Pat Ryan has not tried to discourage people from coming up here to be in a safer in environment. “That’s not our values,” said Ryan. In any case, there is no way that people who own a second home can legally be prevented from occupying it.

Archer commented, “If we've got Airbnbs, hotels open, everybody has a right to come here. I would hope that they would be responsible and self-isolate for the 14 days recommended just to make sure no symptoms are presenting themselves."

To those who might wish that the “city people” would stay away from local shopping outlets, Archer said, “How do you stop anybody from going to the local market? How do you stop the local person who’s got a cough from going to the local market because there’s no one to pick up food for them? I mean, where do you draw the line?

“We all have to exercise good judgment, keeping a distance from people … This is a county that cares about people and presumes that we're all here to do the right thing,” Archer said. “Are there going to be people who are not very respectful of their neighbors? Yes ... We’re all human beings, frightened by what's happening here … and we try to put our best foot forward."

 

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