It is a battle that has been fought for a number of years. A battle over balance and power. Renting, whether short or long term, is not a new phenomenon. This game has been played well before Airbnb, VRBO, Homeway, and dozens of other short-term rental companies where around. However, the rules can change but the game stays the same. Some players adapt and learn to play the game better over time while other players find loop holes in order to cheat the game. If you live in a homeowners association (HOA) then you should not be surprised to know that there are by-laws, covenants, and rules in place that in essence list in detail what you can and can not do in your home and on your property. Are homeowners associations overreacting in order to restrict short-term renting?
“Are Homeowners Associations overreacting to restrict short-term renting?
Most governing homeowners associations in the United States rules have a regulation on the minimum length of time a residence can be rented. Historically, it is usually no less than 1-year. However, there is gray area with terminology and what defines leasing, renting, etc. Short-term renting has now allowed homeowners the ability to use their investment to supplement income. The questions is now where does short-term renting fall in the definition of governing documents. With such a game changing effect on the travel industry, municipalities all over the world are still scrambling to properly regulate this form of renting.
The legal restrictions on short-term rentals vary from place to place. Some are severe and some illegal.
New Orleans limits the cities’ short-term rentals. You cannot have a home for less than 60 days in the French Quarter and less than 30 days elsewhere in the city.
Other cities use their zoning laws to keep short-term rentals in control. For example, in San Luis Obispo County, California, a shor-term rental home may not be located within 200 feet on the same block.
However, some cities have more liberal rules towards short-term rentals. In 2015 San Francisco enacted an ordinance which allowed hosts to have short-term rentals up to 90 days per year, but it limited to people who live in the property for at least 275 days in a year.
Sandy Springs, a city in Georgia, has enforced restrictions and regulations against the operation of Airbnb and other short-term rentals in the city. The city council has now defined short-term rentals of residential units for less than 30 days.
Are they justified?
Most short-term rentals are anything that allows nightly stays up to 30 days. Some even accommodate month to month or even six-month rental agreements. However, this type of use is troubling with government bodies and local Homeowners Associations.
Some deem this use as commercial activity in residential zoned areas. While others believe renting is a fundamental property right whether it be short or long term. An owner should be able to rent for one night or one year if that is there prerogative.
Airbnb has a working model that is based around community living. It creates additional income in households around the world. But this is seen to create security and privacy concerns, as well as cause problems with the community’s governing documents by many homeowners associations. The increase of these communities has forced many common interest communities like the Homeowners Associations to consider ways to fully restrict or heavily regulate short-term renting in their communities.
Short-term rentals proved to have added additional income to residents, generate additional spending in local shops and generate tax revenue. Homeowners associations and many municipalities argue that short-term rentals can displace long-term leases permanently. It can alter the character of a neighborhood and raise parking, noise, safety, trash and other concerns.
What do the numbers look like for violations and complaints around the United States?
In New York, the same person or family must occupy the place for 30 or more consecutive days. Its illegal to have a paying guest for less than 30 days unless it is a licensed hotel or bed and breakfast. However, it’s not illegal to occupy the same unit while your home or apartment is available to the paying guest. You can be fined anywhere between $1,000-$5,000 for a first offense.
In a well-publicized case, a New Yorker who earned $300 by renting out his East Village apartment to a visitor from Russia for three nights was fined $2,400. Airbnb won the New York City appeal and overturned the ruling later on.
Complaints and violations are very few and far between. A few horror stories come out and the majority of people demand the use be regulated. There will always be a few bad actors. That should go without saying. But should those bad actors dictate to the overwhelming majority of homeowners that follow the rules? Are extremists simply striking fear into citizens to hate Airbnb unjustly?
Short-term renting is here to stay
There is no doubt that the short-term rental entry has caused a disruption in the travel industry. The physical impact of the disruption can be felt right next door. But the convenience, popularity and growth of short-term renting has been tremendous. City officials, municipalities, and homeowners associations can regulate all they want but when people want something bad enough the government has no choice but to give it to them.
Whether you or your spouse loses their job, you become physically injured, you need a parent to stay home with a loved one, or you need help supplementing retirement savings then having the choice to rent a bedroom in your home is an option that should always be available to homeowners. Adding more restrictions on homeowners is not the answer. It may seem like the right move but these types of restrictions are a disservice to homeowners and the future homeowners in neighborhoods. It is your right as a homeowner to buy, sell, and rent your property.
People are not perfect and there will be times when issues may arise. How many of you have been subject to an infraction by an HOA? Finding a balance is key but when buying, selling, or renting rights are infringed upon we should stand firm. Do not allow more restrictions to be placed on yourself, your neighbors, and future neighbors. One isolated incident should not dictate what you can and can’t do in your own home. Short-term renting is here to stay.
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