SAN DIEGO — Staff at several marinas report their jobs now entail daily whack-a-mole duties, searching websites for illicit charter and short-term vacation rentals – or STVRs – located at their marinas. Illicit overnight rentals are difficult to police, they explain. As soon as they identify one and shut it down or boot the offender from the marina, more show up.
As with STVRs, one owner reaps the financial benefits of unauthorized overnight boat rentals or charter operations, while surrounding slipmates endure the negative behavior and loss. Remember when a pleasure craft was just that, a boat used for recreational purposes? When people bought a boat or home they could reasonably afford, not one they intend to finance by renting it out for illegal charters or questionable “vacation” occupancy?
Operators of illegal charters and vacation rentals, whether on land or water, bear striking similarities.
Increasingly I’ve heard about boat owners’ intent to “maximize the profitability of my asset.”
I first heard this phrase bandied about during endless public hearings I’ve attended focused on reining in and regulating short-term vacation rentals of homes and condos. Just to be clear, I feel these STVRs are destroying the residential character of our communities in California and elsewhere just as they’re reducing our already-scarce housing stock.
I loathe how vacation rentals are ruining quality of life for hard-working residents. I’ve looked in the faces of my neighbors, young professionals, booted from their apartments to satisfy the greed of their already-rich landlord, who now receives in one week what he previously charged monthly. Opportunistic property owners have evicted families and seniors from their long-term rentals, now STVRs, leaving former tenants nowhere to go.
This new attitude towards extracting maximum profits from property assets has spread to our recreational boating community. Illegal conversion from personal vessels to charter boats or unauthorized B&Bs has become rampant.
Why not let others pay for our pleasure craft through their part-time rental? Well because it usually violates well-established laws or regulations that protect the boating public.
Regarding such “AirBnB”-type boats: I’ve endured the noise and erratic behavior of unruly dockside “vacationers” clueless about boats and marine systems – and seen the results when an ignorant crowd of drunken party-goers unbalanced and sank a houseboat. Yes, the owners lost their “asset,” but mostly such owners milk their assets without paying any taxes or regulatory fees.
It’s quite a comedy observing boat owners who’ve proclaimed their intent to “maximize the profitability of their asset,” welcome “friends,” clearly strangers, aboard their boats for paid cruises.
Are the owners licensed captains, required under Coast Guard regulations, if they’re taking paid guests on cruises or fishing trips? Do they have required permits, inspections, safety equipment and insurance? Are they paying local taxes or port fees?
Boat owners seeking to rent their boat illicitly, as with many STVR owners, assert it’s their property and they can use it as they wish. Besides, all those licenses and rules are too costly and time-consuming when they’re ready to profit from their asset. Scofflaws often dismiss these rules, regulations and zoning laws as just an irrelevant nuisance, designed to collect money for the government, even though most rules originated with a tragedy and/or were enacted to protect public safety.
For boats, marina rental contracts determine whether tenants can operate a business from their boat. Some marinas allow limited overnight rentals and charter operations, usually under special contracts with specified insurance and other requirements, designed to protect the marina, the operator and other tenants.
For this complex issue we need more public hearings and rules and regulation, not less, as well as considerably more and consistent enforcement.