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What California’s Hotel and Rental ‘Junk Fees’ Mean For You

What California’s Hotel and Rental ‘Junk Fees’ Mean For You

Last May, Samir Bhavnani, a 47-year-old tech executive from San Diego, was planning a trip to Palm Springs, Calif., where he planned to propose to his girlfriend. He found the perfect spot on Vrbo: It offered a “spa in a grotto,” a slide and a swim-up bar and had plenty of five-star reviews.

He decided to book two nights, at $595 a night. But somehow, the total came to about $2,300.

“And $595 plus $595 doesn’t equal $2,300,” Mr. Bhavnani said. “Taxes, host fees and service fees basically doubled the price. I asked the owner what the fee breakout was, and they said it was $300 for cleaning and $300 for ‘air-conditioning.’ This is Palm Springs. I expect every place to have air-conditioning like they have running water.”

Soon, if you’re booking a place to stay in California — whether you live in the state or not — this kind of sticker shock from hidden, or “junk,” fees will be far less likely to spoil your trip.

On July 1, a sweeping new state law will ban hidden fees on purchases — including event tickets, hotel rooms and food delivery services — by requiring businesses to include all mandatory fees or last-minute charges in their advertised and displayed price.

In short, “the price Californians see will be the price they pay,” Rob Bonta, the state’s attorney general, said in a statement in October, when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill.

A second law, also taking effect July 1, specifically targets the sometimes hefty hidden resort and cleaning fees at hotels.

“Earlier this year I was charged a destination fee at a hotel,” Marc Berman, the California state assemblyman who wrote the second bill, said in a statement. “It’s a hotel. Being a destination isn’t a special add-on; it’s literally the essence of a hotel.”

Mr. Bhavnani spent his proposal getaway at a hotel that cost about $600 a night, which included a $25 nightly resort fee. Despite the change in plans — and even though he forgot the ring and had to propose with “a big, gaudy fake” one that he picked up at a T.J. Maxx — she still said yes.

Here are a few things to know about how California’s new junk fee law will affect hotels and short-term rentals.

Some hotels are still trying to figure that out, said A.J. Rossitto, the advocacy director at the California Hotel and Lodging Association.

But all resort fees, destination fees and facility fees — either the ones that appear on the list of…

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