Condos Association Headaches: Short-term Renters

In the past half decade, the relationship between those who own property (particularly property in cities that are popular for tourists) and those who want to travel has changed drastically. While travelers used to be restricted to hotels or hostels to meet their housing needs while away from home, the advent of short-term housing sites offering stays from one night to a month or more, like AirBNB, has revolutionized how to both travel and make money. But while AirBnB and similar sites may be great for vacationers and the property owners who make money by renting their homes, there are numerous downsides of short-term rentals for condo associations and the community at large.

The Problem with Short-term Rentals

Renting out one’s home isn’t a new idea, but the problem is in the concept of a short-term rental market, which means constant turnover (guests are changing nightly, weekly, etc.). As a result–and, perhaps, because the majority of users of sites like AirBnB are on vacation–neighbors of AirBnB properties often complain of noise, rowdy behavior, and a transient atmosphere. The condo unit owners and surrounding neighbors no longer feel like a neighborhood and a community; they feel like they live in a place that conducts business.

And therein lies the issue: when a person rents their home short-term, are they using their property in a manner that is consistent with residential use rules, or are they moving into commercial use territory?

In at least one case in Massachusetts, Robert S. Lytle vs. Alana Swiec, et. al., the court sided with the defendants, who claimed that Lytle’s rental of a second dwelling unit on their property (a small summer cottage) was a violation of zoning laws, as zoning laws barred commercial use of property.

What Condo Associations Should Do

Whether or not other courts may side as the one in the case cited above did is unknown, but one fact is certainly true: without language in place in condo association bylaws that explicitly prohibits the use of properties for short-term rental (or other commercial uses), enforcement could be very difficult. As such, condo associations who do not want condo owners to be able to rent their properties out on sites like AirBnB should work with an experienced attorney to create condominium association bylaws and rental regulations that protect community interests.
For some communities and associations, banning short-term rentals outright may not be the right path. For these groups, creating restrictions or regulations surrounding rentals may be a more appropriate course of action. For example, some communities may require that renters and owners meet in person, that owners remain in the same area as short-term renters, and that renters are provided with a list of condo association regulations.

Help for Condo Associations with the Problem of Short-term Rentals

At the law offices of Deborah Gold-Alexander Attorney at Law, we have over 30 years’ experience assisting condo associations understand their rights and enforcement options. If you have questions about short-term rentals and how to regulate or put an end to them, please contact Deborah Gold-Alexander today. Deborah serves Revere, Lynn, and surrounding areas, and can be reached by phone or online today.