The Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association is launching a new certification exam in January, available online. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

KISSIMMEE – In  a move designed to give the vacation home industry a stronger ethical foundation – and to allow the industry to essentially police itself – the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association is ready to launch a exam that members will take to get certified to work in this field.
Known as the Vacation Home Managers Certification, it will become available early next year, said David Leather, a member of the CFVRMA, the trade association that represents the business owners who manage vacation homes. 
“We’re starting on January 7,” said Leather, who chairs the association’s certification committee.
This is a project that the association announced at its annual Trade Show in November 2010, and a special committee spent the past year creating the exam, which will be available online. Members will be asked to read modules that outline the rules and regulations that vacation home managers are required by state and county rules to operate under, and then pass an exam at the end.
“There will be five modules, and after you read them, there will be an exam, and you are expected to get it 100 percent correct,” Leather, adding that if they get one wrong, they can go back an re-read the modules and try again.
“Everything will be done online,” he said. “You will enroll online and pay online and take the exam online. The course is less than $300 for the entire exam.”
In the meantime, Leather said, the CFVRMA will devote every monthly meeting in 2012 to special education sessions, to help bring members up to speed on the rules they need to abide by. The association meets on the third Thursday of every month at different venues across the region.
“As far as education goes, what we’re planning is that at each monthly meeting, we will have an education session on the modules,” Leather said.

David Leather discusses the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association's new certification exam during the association's monthly meeting, held at Falcon's Fire Golf Resort. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

Over the past decade, vacation homes have been one of the fastest growing segments of Central Florida’s hospitality industry. The field as gotten larger, despite the national recession, as more and more people put their fully furnished Central Florida home on the market — not as a long term rental to a single family, but as a vacation home available to tourists and business travelers on a short term basis.
The industry has proliferated, particularly in Osceola and Polk counties along U.S. 192 and U.S. 27, and appealed to families that come to this region for extended stays and want to rent a fully furnished house with multiple bedrooms, a kitchen, game room and private pool. Even theme park and hospitality giant Walt Disney World is a member of the CFVRMA, has hosted its monthly meetings, and is getting into the vacation home business.
But the association also has faced some embarrassments in recent years, including people who market their property as a vacation home, but who fail to follow health, cleanliness and safety standards, attracting negative publicity to their properties and giving the entire industry a black eye.
That dilemma prompted the association to create a certification program, asking all its members to take the exam and get an official VHM certification. The concept, Leather said, bring legitimacy to the industry, and also ensures that everyone involved in operating a vacation home will make sure they are managed properly and according to state and county rules.
“There’s been a lot of work involved in this,” Leather said. “We hope to see you all registering by the end of the year.”
Leather outlined the new certification exam during the CFVRMA’s final monthly meeting of the year, held at the Falcon’s Fire Golf Resort in Kissimmee.
Colin Young, the outgoing president of the association who will serve as its vice president next year, said the certification will help the industry enormously by ensuring everyone working in this field knows what’s required of them by the state, and obeys the regulations.
“It has been a lot of work,” Young said.
To become a member of CFVRMA, Leather noted, a vacation home management company needs to have at least 10 houses that they rent. But in that instance, he said, “What licenses do you need from the state?”
Often times, he added, managers have no clue. And failure to get properly licensed, he said, means they could face penalties or even get shut down for operating illegally.
Another challenge, added Marilyn Pullen, who chairs the CFVRMA’s new membership committee, it’s not clear who does need to get a license, and who doesn’t.
“It’s all down to interpretation, and it’s impossible to make a statement of fact,” she said.
Pullen, who helped draft the new certification exam, said the exam will clarify these issues for members. She also said the exam is needed because the association is growing and attracting new members.
“We have a lovely list of new members,” she said.
One of them was Don Rousseau, the manager of sales and marketing at Old Town, the theme park on U.S. 192 which is now celebrating its inaugural “Old Town Christmas” through Dec. 23.
“We’ve got a lot of exciting new things going on at Old Town,” Rousseau said.  “We’re bringing families back to Old Town. Our Halloween event was a home run, and our Christmas events have been a blow out. And for New Year’s Eve, we’re going to have a car drop at midnight.”
“We’re always looking for new members,” Young said. “It makes for better networking for people. We have to market the industry and get our name out there, as well as market the entire industry. The more people who come to stay in this area, the better for all of us.”
To learn more about the association and its certification exam, log on to CFVRMA.

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