Renting your boat or yacht to someone for a few hours – or days – might help you make a little extra cash, but pay attention to the details.
STATEWIDE—Sharing is caring – such is the theme, at least in spirit, of the sharing economy, which has given rise to a variety of new peer-to-peer business experiences like Uber, Lyft and AirBnB. The boating world is not immune to the tentacles of the sharing economy, with thousands of boats listed for short-term rentals on AirBnB or VRBO. Boaters might also be aware of the peer-to-peer boat rental network, Boatsetter. Allowing others to use your boat to make a little extra cash might sound like an ideal side hustle, but what should you know before allowing someone to pay you a fee for the right to use your boat for a few hours (or days)? Should cities and counties, just the same, step in and regulate the boat sharing economy, along the same lines they have tried to do with AirBnB’s land-based rentals?
There are no easy answers, of course, though BoatUS, in a May 16 blog post on its website, listed five tips boaters should take into consideration when engaging in peer-to-peer boat renting. The tips were: know your liabilities; know your coverage; be prepared for unexpected breakdowns; going bareboat or captaining your rental; and, do your due diligence (safety training, check identification, etc.).
The Log featured a story on “Boat-and-Breakfasts” in July 2015, where tourists would look to rent a boat, instead of a hotel, on their travels. We explored whether the marketplace should allow crowd sourcing at local marinas.
But who is responsible if something happens? Is there a situation where a short-term boat rental would be considered an illegal charter? Can a boat owner double as a qualified captain should the rental indeed labeled as a charter? What about marina security – will allowing new people to regularly visit the docks pose certain risks for other boaters?
Regulating short-term rentals in the boating world hasn’t really shown up on the radar. The topic has rarely been covered in the media – The Log hasn’t covered the issues in-depth since our 2015 story; the Los Angeles Times took a look at the subject in 2016, while TechCrunch.com had a feature on short-term boat rentals in 2013. Miami Herald hailed GetMyBoat as the AirBnB of boating.
Short-term boat rentals aren’t popping up on harbor commission or city council agendas, just the same. A casual perusing of recent marina newsletters doesn’t reveal short-term boat rentals to be a hot topic discussion item, especially not in the same context as, say, copper reduction mandates, ethanol, fishing license reform and other boating issues.
The lack of attention or discussion, however, does not diminish the need to address short-term boat rentals – both practically and from a regulation standpoint. Cities, counties and states are still trying to figure out how best to manage the sharing economy – especially considering the individual liability and marina security issues at stake.
In what way, in context of everything written above, should the issue of short-term boat rentals be framed? Do we first acknowledge the sharing economy as the new norm, and if so, then whether short-term boat rentals should be an acceptable activity at all marinas and harbors? Where else do we go from there? Should we require all short-term boat rentals to have a qualified captain with U.S. Coast Guard certification? What should the insurance requirements look like, assuming we’d require the boat owner to be insured in the first place? Will marinas be given leverage to regulate or manage security issues, as part of an attempt to alleviate the potential concerns of neighboring boaters? What about a curfew, particularly for renters who might uses the boat rental for a large party?