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Short-term rental companies are still expecting tourists, despite executive orders and pandemic threat

A Michigan family of 27 people, trying to cancel their May reservation, says a local company claims short-term rentals are not affected by Governor Northam's orders.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Karen Budzinski says her extended family of 27 people was excited for another trip to Sandbridge in late May, but after reading Governor Ralph Northam's executive orders, she knew she'd have to cancel the trip.

"It's against the law for people to convene in groups of more than 10, even in their homes," Budzinski said. "Under the circumstances, I didn't think it would be any problem."

However, Budzinski said she discovered that short-term rental company Sandbridge Realty is refusing to cancel rentals and still expecting tourists.

“They’re encouraging people to break the law and go against what the Governor is trying to do to protect your state," she said.

Budzinski said inviting families from coronavirus-affected areas to vacation in Virginia Beach encourages the spread of coronavirus and feels counter-intuitive to 'stay-at-home' orders. 

“Your state is going to suffer great loss and danger if people are encouraged to come from hot spots on vacations and populate beaches," Budzinski said.

In an email to Budzinski, Sandbridge Realty said Northam’s order “does not in any way” restrict short term rentals. 

On its website, a company statement says it is "open for business," rentals are good through May 15th, and the company asks guests to have patience with reservations after that.

The company did not return multiple calls for comments.

“I feel like they are doing a terrible injustice by holding so tight to a non-cancellation policy in light of what’s going on," Budzinski said.

Budzinski said her family would break the 10-person or less rule, notes that beaches are closed for public access, and believes neighbors on the beach would want to reduce the number of people potentially carrying the virus.

“There are so many people dying in our hospitals right now, for you to open yourself up to that is just foolish," she said.

In response to questions from 13News Now, Governor Northam’s office said the 10-person ban does apply to short-term rentals, but didn’t specify when asked if rentals should be allowed or excluded from the executive orders. 

Any restrictions or clarification on short-term rental use during this pandemic would need to come from state leaders, as Virginia is a Dillon's Rule state.

“There should be a little bit of accountability and a heads up in your own state to protect your people," Budzinski said.

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