Private Condo Rentals Under Scrutiny by Belize Tourist Board

On September 27 and 28, 1996 a series of special meetings were held in San Pedro. One meeting was with officials from the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Development and the Attorney General's Ministry and the other with some of San Pedro Hoteliers. Both meetings were in regard to Hotel/Condominium Developments. According to some hoteliers that were contacted by the BTB, problems are surfacing with the Hotel Registrar with reference to multiple licences in certain establishments. The Belize Tourist Board (BTB) in an effort to standardize and professionalize condo/hotels is in the process of setting forth guidelines and regulations for rental procedures.

Currently some condo unit owners have excluded their units from the rental pools in various establishments and are renting them through outside agents or handling the rental transactions personally. Personally renting units may be in contravention of Belize Law. All persons transacting business in Belize must have a Trade Licence, in most cases a work permit, and a Hotel Licence for the purpose of renting rooms in hotel establishments on a short term basis.

On the reverse side of the coin, some individual condominium owners maintain they are not being treated fairly by the management company in charge of their hotel complexes. They also maintain that the strong arm of the BTB is being used to make them conduct business with certain hotel managements against their will.

A letter was sent out last week to involved hoteliers outlining measures to be taken by the BTB concerning individual condominium owners. The letter indicated that draconian measures would be used such as reporting the owners to the Income Tax Department and charging owners hotel tax during their personal stays in their own units, etc.; in retrospect the letter was sent out before it had been fully reviewed and approved. The San Pedro Town Board's reaction to the initial letter was that they "do not agree with some of the items in the letter. The Town Board does agree that the Belize Tourist Board should be able to collect hotel tax properly due."

The San Pedro Sun, to date has received 5 copies of the letter and several telephone calls from "condo-owners" who are asking for a clarification of the letter and what the effect of the Belize Tourist Board's action will be on investors and condo purchasers who occupy the units as vacation homes for several months each year. Many "unit owners" do not rent their properties. They consider them vacation homes for their personal use and for their friends and families, the same as if the unit were a house. The "unit owners" also pay monthly fees for the maintenance and upkeep of the units and grounds regardless of whether or not the unit is included in the management's rental pool or used as a private residence.

A meeting is scheduled to be held on Friday, October 18th to determine how the situation will be handled. It is unknown at this point whether representatives of condominium owners will be present at the meeting. Multiple calls to Kevin Gonzalez, Director of Tourism of the Belize Tourist Board made by The San Pedro Sun have not been returned. Mr. Gonzalez' secretary did inform us, however, that Mr. Gonzalez told her to advise The San Pedro Sun that a press release would be issued after the Friday meeting.

San Pedro Sun

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