Friday, July 24, 2009

Just because it's crazy doesn't mean we have to keep doing it



There is a difference between a situation and a problem. Generally speaking, you can throw money at a situation and it will go away. Once, there was not enough hot water at my house. The solution: install a separate water heater that was plumbed piggy-back style to the existing water heater. That was a situation because it could be fixed with the $ tool.

On the other hand, if money cannot fix the situation ~ it is a problem.

You know the situation i'm talking about... something is horribly wrong with the Vacation Lodging Service escrow rules. If rubbing elbows with certain Legislators got the legislation passed that allows vacation lodging service (VLS) licensees to dip deep-down into their escrow accounts (with no ramifications), then how can tightening the rules and laws just because it's the right thing to do compete with said elbow friction?

(...sorry for the rambling sentence, but DANG ~ i get so mad when the root of the problem hits me square in the face!)

In other words: What's a voiceless, victimized sect of a population to do?

Tennessee's visitors do not have a Political Action Committee (PAC) that i can find. So far, the folks at Smoky Mountain Rental Owners Association are the only people in the entire great State of Tennessee ~ that i can find ~ helping out Tennessee property owners as a group. How are visitors' and owners' rights protected when the SoT allows ambiguous, self-serving rules and laws? Could we even have a tiny rule that licensees must publish their license number?

Just because grifting and Ponzi schemes have been the 'norm' since 2003 does not mean we can't rise up AS CONSUMERS and cry "Shenanigans!". Are the POWERS that BE afraid people won't get licensed if they give the money part of the rules more integrity? This situation is additionally unfair to the companies who sell their body parts, rather than spend the money held in trust.

The 107th General Assembly convenes in Nashville, Tennessee on January 12, 2010. Getting some ideas to a committee might be a good place to start! This means victims and concerned individuals starting the letter-writing, now. Some may view this and that and this as a Smoky Mountain situation, but it is a state-wide ~ nay, NATION-wide problem, since visitors and property owners come from all over the map. Remind the 'Legs' to budget for the public relations campaign to repair Tennessee's broken image.

CLICK HERE for a fascinating and easy-to-read wrap up of the 106th General Assembly. I hope you are as appalled as i am when you read the part about making home-schooled childrens' diplomas weigh as much as public school diplomas. Wha? They didn't already? Well ~ glad they took care of that bit of business!

It's like Tennessee needing a law that you can't marry your first cousin.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Beg your pardon


The problem: UNlicensed rental companies stealing peoples' money because it's a cakewalk.

One solution: Make it a crime* in Tennessee to operate an overnight lodging service business without a license.

Then, we tighten up the license laws and see if Dolly will write and record a public relations commercial ('specially since she has a vested interest in this stuff, now, and for some reason Dollywood even got a VLS license even though Starr Crest already has one).

The jingle could go something like this:
Come on back!
We've cleaned up our act!
Don'tcha know we've made it so's
you won't get ripped or gyped or hosed.
Forgive us for our slip ~
We didn't mean to let 'em dip ~
It seemed OK back then, you see
but now we've stopped that big parteeeeee!
Dolly might do better with the music than the blue grass tune in my head. It will take a bit to get the word out about Tennessee's accepting responsibility to create laws and rules that PROTECT the public ~ not open up loopholes for thievery.

Tightening up the license law is a different matter. May i wholeheartedly start the list of things that would help everyone ~ the licensees included:

A) Let's find a middle ground for what companies should be doing with their escrow.

We could have a great compromise that allows the companies to draw down one-third of their escrow deposits. So, it's the best of both worlds. The companies don't have to feel like they're starving in a bakery, and the guests and owners don't have to worry about the company legally spending all the money and then folding.

The auditing process will be an entire blog post on it's own. I intend to take the Tennessee Real Estate Commission to task (Surprise!) over their current auditing process, with suggestions for how to make it better, easier, and how to deal with the 'Great Compromise'.

B) Bond the rental companies. And make 'em display the bond number.

This was the intent when TCA 62-13-104 was amended in 1998 to include vacation lodging service businesses. Of the three proposed amendments, the first one required licensed company to procure and proclaim a $50,000 bond. Amendment #1 failed to become part of Public Chapter 881, but the other two passed. Amendment #2 became the new paradigm for rental companies and Amendment #3 gave it six months to be promulgated.

Maybe Amendment #1 to SB3310 was ahead of it's time. Maybe now's the time.

There aren't too many solutions for unlicensed rental companies. However, the A+ American Vacation boys would have had to think twice about giving Tennessee a bloody nose to go along with that black eye if they had to get a bond.

Sure, crooks and liars could fake a bond number on their Homeaway.com advertising, but it's a different internet today than it was in 1998 - so maybe everybody's bond number has to link off to an official site (similiar to the licensee list on the right) where the bond AND license can be verified. Or a toll-free number underneath the bond number... i know you get my non-rocket-scientist mind's drift.

Would the likes of Steve Lear and Scott Adams (the A+ boys) had a more difficult time preparing for their scheme if they'd had to get a bond to be believed? If A+ did have a bond would there be fewer totally screwed sad folks today?

If you're a traveling or vacation property owning Tennessean, help me - i'm begging you! Help me peck away at Representatives Montgomery and McCord, and Senator Overbey (and your OWN legislators) unti their sense of what's right overcomes their sense of donation pockets.

And to all of our friends in the family of states, who love the short drive into what's basically an opulant Canadian biosphere ~ please come back. Ask questions when you book. I've taught you how it's supposed to be and you can email me (hammer.feather@gmail.com) if you're not sure. Check out your rental company (you'll find a list of licensees to the right) and please, thoroughly enjoy your stay.

*Okay. I know it's already a crime in Tennessee to operate an overnight rental company without a license. The problem is no one at the state level seems to know this.