Takeaways from our conversation with Laurie Poole regarding short-term rentals.
Regulating Short-term Rentals- Laurie Poole
Short-term rentals have become a big business allowing many people to supplement their income or quit a job altogether. It may be a positive for the homeowner, but for HOA communities it has begun to plague neighbors and the association managers alike.
The Nuisance Factor
Short-term renters are there for just that, a short period of time. Often, they are there on vacation and to let loose or party. This commonly presents itself with ignorance or complete disregard for the rules set in place by the HOAs leading to potential damage to common areas. Short-term renters also create parking issues as they caravan in and preventing community members from using their own spots. Ultimately, short-term renters cause more issues to HOA communities than any benefit they could bring.
How to Address Short-term Renter Issues
- Language in Governing Documents (CC&Rs): Require lease minimums of 30 or more days and include a prohibition of transient use.
- Policy Enforcement (strict but flexible): Create a policy that allows you to skip ahead of usual protocol so you can nip it in the bud. Raise fines for transient violations including those homeowners that are using the home as a business. Create a nuisance clause in your policy.
Excuses Are Hard to Prove False
Excuses are endless and getting caught violating the CC&Rs will bring out every excuse in the book typically ranging from claims that tenant was a family member to claiming the person was there to watch over the dog while the usual tenant was on vacation. Unfortunately, it is hard to prove that the homeowner is being untruthful about their excuse. What is important to do in these situations is to always follow protocol and due process.
Who is Responsible?
Homeowner is always the responsible party. If they lease their home to someone they need to make sure they understand the community rules and verify that they are following them. If their long-term renter are listing the home on short-term renting sites like Airbnb, then the homeowner is responsible for the short-term renter violation. Always.
What Are Your Options?
Other than following through with protocol and policy enforcement, you can monitor the homes in your community through the help of neighbors and by checking websites that list properties for short-term renters.
- Cities that ban short-term renting usually have a hotline number to report short-term renting violations
- Monitor websites for a listing in your community.
- CC&Rs should include a minimum lease term and a no business clause
- Include fines in your rules and regulations
- A flexible policy enforcement will allow you to go straight to a cease and desist
Enforcement Policy Sample
- Hold a hearing and apply a fine
- 2nd hearing and a larger fine
- Take to legal- cease and desist letter, internal dispute resolution, alternative dispute resolution, and lawsuit.
When a Lawsuit Happens
The greatest hope for an HOA or a property manager is to avoid taking legal action against any of their community members, but sometimes we have no other option. The question then moves to, what are the best things to have on your side when a dispute goes to legal?
What to Have:
- Get copies of listings and reviews. When people write reviews they typically disclose how much time they spent at the property and what common areas were used during their stay. Always print listings and reviews before you send any letters to the homeowners.
- Get witness testimony from neighbors; they are your biggest allies when handling a dispute. A witness that comes forward to you should be advised to keep a log of activity and, if they feel comfortable, take non-invasive photos. Often these witnesses will want their names kept out of the dispute, but needs to be informed that they might need to testify if the case goes to trial.
- Short-term renters can become witnesses in these cases too. If a witness/neighbor wants to get involved, they can ask for contact information from these renters. However, this can get a little dicey.
Short-term renting is an evolving market in travel but can become an issue for HOAs and property managers. Adjusting the CC&Rs and the rules & regulations to support your efforts in properly managing and regulating this issue. Your governing documents will be the rule of the land when it comes to stopping homeowners from engaging in these activities. Contact your legal representatives to consult on what is the best way to handle short-term renter issues for your community.