Managing your vacation rental during the COVID-19 crisis

Managing your vacation rental during the COVID-19 crisis
24 4.6

As you well know, the corona virus is significantly impacting the travel and tourism industry. Our WeNeedaVacation team is doing everything we can to provide you, our homeowners, with as much information and guidance as possible, while still allowing YOU to make your own decisions.

New questions arise each day as the situation evolves. Our goal is to provide resources and options for you to consider as you adapt to these new circumstances.

Below are links directing you to specific topics of interest, as well as helpful online resources. We will update this page regularly with pertinent news items.

Latest News

May 29, 2020: Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced this afternoon a preview of the mandatory safety standards, recommended best practices, and a checklist for operators of lodgings, including short-term rentals. View the Preview.  Depending on the results of health data between now and June 6, Baker will announce when Phase 2 will begin.

Out-of-state guests are still urged to quarantine for 14 days, but they are still not required to do so. Homeowners of short-term rentals will be required to comply with certain cleaning and other safety requirements.

May 18, 2020: Gov. Baker’s 4-Phase Plan to re-open the Mass. economy was announced today, and each phase will last at least 3 weeks. As of now, Lodging, including short-term rentals, is included in Phase 2 and may include some restrictions. Pending positive public health data trends, Phase 2 will begin Monday, June 8th at the earliest.

A Restaurant & Hospitality workgroup convened May 15 to develop procedures for re-opening, so it is expected that further guidance and clarification will be forthcoming. We will keep you updated as we learn more.

Long-term rentals, of 32+ days are still permitted, and out-of-state visitors are still urged to quarantine for 14 days.

For more details on the announcement, view Four-Phase Approach.

To attend our next Zoom Homeowner Meeting on Wednesday, May 20 at 2 PM, please Register here. (If you registered for the first one, you’re all set and will receive a Zoom invite on Tuesday.)

Due to the high volume of calls and emails, we ask you to please trust that whatever information we have is, and will continue to be, posted here on this page.

5/14/2020: We invite you to attend our second Virtual Homeowner Meeting on Wednesday, May 20 at 2:00 PM EST! Join us via Zoom as WeNeedaVacation team members discuss the latest developments and ideas for managing rentals during this unprecedented time. The simple registration is open to anyone: Register here. If you registered for the first one, you’re all set and will receive a Zoom invite the day before this one.

5/11/20: Gov. Baker announced ​​​​​that the Massachusetts economy will be reopened beginning Monday, May 18, using a four-phase approach that’s based on public health guidance. “Businesses and activities with a lower risk of COVID-19 transmission will open in earlier phases. Public health metrics will determine when the first phase of reopening begins, as well as when it is safe to move into later phases. If public health metrics worsen, the state may need to return to an earlier phase.” Vacation rentals have not yet been addressed, but more specifics are expected within the week.  View video of his latest update.

5/1/2020:  According to a new Cape Cod Times article, a local Cape and Islands legislative delegation has been created in conjunction with the region’s hospitals and chambers of commerce. Their recently-issued Guidance to Cape & Islands Seasonal Community essentially echoes  Gov. Baker’s announcement of the extension of the stay-at-home order until May 18. But it also urges all who are planning to relocate or travel to Cape Cod or the Islands to take certain precautionary measures for their own health as well as of the local community. Note: Like Gov. Baker’s ban, there are currently no local or state-wide restrictions on short-term vacation rentals after May 18.

 4/28/2020: In his recent press briefing, Gov. Charlie Baker announced the extension of the stay-at-home order until May 18. He stated, “We have plateaued, but we’ve stayed at a very high level with respect to hospitalizations around COVID-19.” He has also created a Reopening Advisory Board, headed by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, with the goal of reopening the economy in phases. No mention was made of short term rentals, although we assume that the ban on short-term rentals is extended until May 18 as well.

4/21/2020: Gov. Charlie Baker announced today that all Massachusetts public and private schools will remain closed through the end of the school year due to the coronavirus outbreak. “This is like the third or fourth quarter and we are holding our own here,” he said. “Don’t let the virus win the game. Play it all the way to the end.”

It’s highly likely that cancelling schools in MA for the remainder of the school year might result in an increase in families looking to rent a home on the Cape or Islands this spring rather than waiting until the summer. Keep in mind that the current ban on short-term rentals (31 days or fewer) only applies until May 4, although there is a strong likelihood that it could be extended further.

4/13/2020: Many of you have recently received the email notice sent by the MA DOR to all registered rental homeowners about Gov. Baker’s ban on short-term rentals. The language in the email is quite vague and has caused many to believe that short-term rentals have been banned throughout the summer, which simply is not true.  As quoted in the actual Document, “This Order … shall remain in effect until May 4, 2020 unless further extended.”

4/1/2020: We are recommending that homeowners provide a full refund for any non-essential stays during the short-term rental ban, which currently runs until May 4th.  Cancellation policies for any bookings for stays AFTER May 4th are at the homeowner’s discretion, but we urge you to relax your policy as much as possible.

3/31/2020: In order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, MA Gov. Charlie Baker extended the state’s closure of physical workplaces and facilities of non-essential businesses through May 4. Those facilities should be used only in a direct effort to fight against the coronavirus, such as housing for front-line health care workers, residents otherwise displaced by the virus, or to house essential workers.

Governor Baker said, “Hotels and Airbnbs can no longer be booked for vacation or leisure purposes. People should really be using common sense on this one, and should not be going on vacation right now.”

While the governor did not specifically mention those people who are coming into MA from out of state to shelter from the virus, he did emphasize the other day that anyone coming from another state must self-quarantine immediately for 14 days.

3/27/2020: MA Governor Charlie Baker’s latest announcement that anyone coming into the state (from anywhere, not just NYC) must self-quarantine for 14 days.  This would apply to vacation rental homeowners who are renting their homes out now. Read more

Managing Your Rental

Find tips and guidance on managing your rental in light of these new circumstances:

Resource links

CDC re: COVID-19: Read more

CDC re: cleaning: Read more

MA Information on the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Read more

Cape Cod COVID-19 Visitor Info: Read more

About the author

Joan Talmadge

Joan Talmadge - My husband Jeff and I created in 1997, shortly after buying our Cape home. My background includes teaching fifth grade for 8 years and writing and editing educational publications for 15. I get great joy from helping fellow homeowners successfully rent their homes. Jeff and I are proud to have two of our three grown children working for, truly a family-run business. For me, the Cape and Islands are magical all times of the year -- whether it's walking on Nauset Beach, playing golf, or enjoying family and friends. Email Joan


  • So based on today’s announcement from Gov Baker it sounds like Phase 1 will be in place for at least 3 weeks and then re-evaluated before deciding whether we move on to Phase 2 and a restricted opening of lodging and short-term rentals – Joan and Jeff, is that your understand too, and do you have any further insight regarding timing and what those restrictions are likely to look like for Ptown? I’ll be listening in on Wed, thanks for your help!

    • Yes, Jacalyn, that’s right. We’re hoping to get more information specifically about Cape and Islands short-term rentals before the end of this first phase (June 8th), but no mention was made of a date. We’ll keep you posted just as soon as we hear anything else.

  • Hi Joan are you interpreting the Cape Cod article and the Governor’s orders to mean that the 14d quarantine and “bring everything with you” instructions to be carried forward during the summer (ie beyond May 18?) if so that means out of state renters will be house bound. Not an appealing summer vacation option!
    Thank you Karin

    • Hi, Karin, NO, the shelter-in-place ban and quarantine for out-of-state visitors is ONLY through May 18 at this point. It may be extended, but currently it’s only until then. And yes, there are a lot of unappealing realities for this season, but the key for us is to remain flexible and be prepared for whatever happens.

  • Thank you very much for this important information. As always, reliable and on point. I have a question about the governor’s barring vacation rentals. Is this through May 4? And if it is, under the order is booking summer rentals (July and August) before May 4 permitted?

    • Hi Donna,
      You can certainly contract with renters for occupancy in July or August. The ban at this point is for short-term rentals taking place now and up until May 4, although that date might be extended.

  • Hi Joan,
    Love the cleaning recommendations! My cleaning company sent me a letter stating all the ways they will be upping their cleaning process, I’m forwarding, and keeping it posted in the house, to all my clients. I had not taken into consideration bedding, pillows and comforters specifically. I don’t supply sheets and towels, but do supply comforters and pillows. It’s impossible to have my cleaning people wash all the bedding on turn over days, so I guess I could have my clients bring their own, which seems to be a lot to ask to bring. I have 8 beds!!!
    I’ve had one family that is fully paid for a week in August 2020, they have some health issues with a few people in their party, and wanted to defer to August 2021, which I did. My rentals start late June, and I only rent my house for 9 weeks in the summer. I’m hoping all this virus impact will be lifted somewhat by then. I believe you’re right about people wanting to get away, and a private secluded home is a safe bet!
    If you want to make God laugh, tell him you have plans!!
    Jan Homans

    • You’re right, Jan. It’s pretty challenging to make any plans at this point. But let’s hope that things improve early enough so that we can salvage this rental season. We’re hearing from a lot of vacationers that they are as committed as ever to get their annual fixes! And probably even more so after this worrisome time.

  • How to address this situation

    Thinking about this pandemic and effect. For all of us it’s cleaning for the safety of our guests.
    I’ve talked to my housekeeping and thing we’ve discussed.

    Here are some thoughts to share:
    • All hard surfaces must be disinfected- wood tables, chairs book cases, hardwood floors, etc.
    • Soft surfaces Beds, couches, upholstered furniture, carpet somehow disinfected
    • Kitchen cabinets inside and out.
    • Removing plates and dishes- go to paper products
    • Pots and pans- limited and all disinfected every turn over
    • Towel’s and bed linens – bring your own
    • No bed spreads or comforters

    Check you rental insurance

    Just some thoughts to share.

    Please chime in.

  • Hi Joan, I’ve never reviewed a blog in the past. Is this something that will come to me automatically via FB, email or the WNAV site. Thank you. Debbie Bastien

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