With Airbnb, Housetrip, and other companies making it easy for owners to cash in on the rental value of their properties, it’s no wonder this has become a hot topic. Short-term rentals (STRs) are a win-win for property owners and vacationers. But they aren’t always a win for HOAs, condo associations, and the communities they serve. So, the big question is:  should HOAs allow short term rentals.

Common Issues with Short-Term Renters

Many guests who rent properties for a weekend or a vacation in a master-planned community are courteous and respectful. They may be friendly and gracious, or so quiet that neighbors hardly notice their presences. After all, the STR industry wouldn’t work if every rental arrangement turned into a nightmare. But it only takes a few unpleasant and inconsiderate renters for a community to be negatively impacted. Because these guests are not about to put down roots, they may feel little responsibility for how their behavior affects others. They won’t be around to deal with the backlash from angry neighbors.

Some commonly reported problems are:

Noise Disturbance and Other Nuisances.

When booking, vacationers or spring breakers may be traveling to what they think of as a “party town”. And they think the party can come home from the bar or club to continue on the lawn or balcony. Add in some really loud speakers, extra vehicles lining the street, and trash left everywhere, and the neighbors can’t help but notice.

Property Damage.

If a STR guest breaks something inside the rental property, it’s the homeowner or unit owner’s problem. But if they break glass in the swimming pool or set a fire to the property, that’s a different problem. Someone has to pay for the cleanup or restoration, and the insurance claims and legal wrangling may get ugly.

Criminal Activity.

It’s hard for HOA or condo association members to rest easy when they have no idea who is coming and going in their neighborhood. From drug use and public intoxication to vandalism or even outright burglary, there is always a risk that renters may enter a community with less than honorable intentions.

Can an Owner’s Right to Rent Be Restricted?

That depends on many different factors. Short term renting (at least at the current scale) is a fairly new phenomenon. Not many HOAs or condo associations have specific guidelines to prohibit or restrict these arrangements. In some case, local ordinances forbid some or all short-term rental arrangements. But often, STRs are allowed—especially for standalone properties. Even with condos or townhomes, most property owners’ associations only have general guidelines in their governing documents regarding guest occupancy, long term leasing, and nuisances. The language may not cover rental stays of a few days to a few weeks.

If board members (and the community) decide that STRs do more harm than good, prohibitions to short term rentals need to be spelled out in detail in the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R) documents for the community. Make it clear what types of arrangements are being restricted.  Also ensure the board has the right and ability to enforce any penalties.

Of course, that’s assuming the board can pass such restrictions in the first place. Making changes to the permitted use of homes or units may require 90% of the community members to agree. The agreement will also include those who are already benefiting from renting out their properties. For these members, being able to rent out a property is one of the perks of staying in a great community. Being told they can’t access a rental income stream because of HOA rules is like finding out they don’t own the water rights to drill a well on their own land. They won’t want to give up that extra money. And understandably so.

Striking a Balance That Works for Everyone

At the end of the day, most people in a master-planned community don’t begrudge their neighbors bringing in some extra cash. They just don’t want STRs to disturb their quality of life. Collaborating with community members to come up with reasonable guidelines to reduce the disruption and inconvenience from short term rentals may be the best path forward.

This might include:

  • Limiting the total number of days per year that a property can be rented (to avoid the community turning into a resort).
  • Requiring ID to be submitted for all guests staying at a property so that the board, property managers, and security personnel know who is in the community.
  • Assessing fines or suspending use rights for nuisance, parking, and other violations to hold owners accountable for how the behavior of their renters affects others.
  • Having owners ask their renters to sign a policy form agreeing to respect community guidelines during their stay.
  • Instituting a formal complaint and resolution process for owners to address issues with their neighbors’ rental decisions.

As with any contentious issues, your property owners’ association board needs to communicate early, often, and courteously with everyone impacted by STRs in your community.

Need help navigating STR and other complex issues? Reach out to the Atlanta HOA Management Company that can show you how professional property management can help your community maintain a great quality of life.