Pennsylvania Property Owners Are Defying Wolf’s Ban on Coronavirus Getaways

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By Kimberly Lawson

April 8, 2020

The administration is seeking voluntary compliance but warned of “significant consequences” for short-term rental owners if they don’t stop advertising availability.

Short-term rental property owners in Pennsylvania continue to advertise lodging in defiance of Gov. Tom Wolf’s coronavirus shutdown order, administration officials said Wednesday.

Wolf banned short-term residential rentals last week after state lawmakers in the Pocono Mountains complained that property owners had been trying to entice travelers from virus hotspots New Jersey and New York.

But owners are continuing to advertise availability using Airbnb, VRBO and other platforms, “unnecessarily putting the health of the public in even greater jeopardy than is already the case,” wrote Dennis M. Davin, secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development.

Davin wrote to Airbnb Inc. and Expedia Group, which owns VRBO, asking them to tell hosts who are violating the shutdown order that they are not allowed to operate.

Davin said the administration is seeking voluntary compliance but warned of “significant consequences” for short-term rental owners if they don’t stop advertising availability.

Airbnb has said its hosts may not reference “COVID-19,” “coronavirus” or “quarantine” in listing titles, advertise themselves as virus-free or encourage guests to ignore travel advisories. Expedia has offered similar guidance. Both platforms say violators can have their listings removed.

Airbnb said it has already informed hosts to check for local restrictions on short-term rentals.

“Airbnb is working with local governments in real time to both address these orders and ensure short-term rentals are an available resource for frontline responders and those sheltering in place during this crisis,” said Josh Meltzer, head of Northeast policy for Airbnb.

The Associated Press emailed Expedia seeking comment on the Wolf administration’s allegations.

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