|The Easton College Hill Antique. Is hotel use permitted?|
Northampton County Controller Steve Barron has been looking at these rentals, too. In the Easton area alone, over 300 rental properties are advertised on the Internet with nightly rates varying between $10 and $400. They include a "charming stone bungalow overlooking the Delaware in Historic College Hill." You and seven others can spend six nights there for about $2000.
You can also stay at the "College Hill Antique" for $180 a night. For half that, you can stay at The Easton Bohemian, close to The State Theatre and Sette Luna and get breakfast from owner "Ray.".
“Our hotel tax ordinance says any place that is rented that has a bed and 4 walls is considered a taxable hotel room,.” notes Barron. He has fired off a memo asking Executive John Brown to direct his staff to start going after these Internet hotels for taxes.
“This places traditional hotels and bed and breakfast establishments on a more level playing field,' argues Barron. "It is not fair to ask one entity or person to pay and not another, no matter how large or small.”
According to Barron, at an average of $50.00 per night, he believes Northampton County could rake in $108,000 in additional revenue for travel and tourism, assuming they are rented half of the year. But are they? Under our tax code, an Internet hotelier must report his income once he has rented a room for 14 days. Many of these hosts are almost certainly violating local zoning laws, so they keep a low profile.
Philadelphia began noticing these hotels in the wake of papal visit last year, and is putting procedures in place to collect a hotel tax, especially with the Democratic National Convention coming to town. Barron reports that Allegheny, Montgomery and Lehigh County are all researching the matter as well.