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Short-Term Rentals: Are They Helping or Hurting Your HOA?

Online short-term rental brokers (think AirBnB, VRBO and HomeAway) are here to stay. While the new sharing economy has opened up lots of opportunities for homeowners to generate additional income, these peer-to-peer business models can create headaches for homeowners associations. This is an issue that many San Diego, Inland Empire and Orange County HOA management companies must help communities handle, since Southern California is such a desirable area for both residents and short-term visitors.

While this article can’t solve all the challenges associated with short term rentals in one sitting, it can start to outline some of the issues that might be facing your HOA and give you some perspective on how to manage these changes.

Look at the big picture

It might be tempting to zero in on all the ways that short-term rentals can negatively impact a community, but there are lots of advantages to this setup, especially if you’re the one renting out your house. Areas that swell in seasonal popularity, like many of Southern California’s coastal communities, benefit from the influx of tourists in certain seasons, enabling part-time homeowners to offset the cost of their homes with additional income. Many homeowners feel that they have the right to use their property as they see fit. They argue that it’s their personal prerogative to share their space with renters who have been verified through a short-term rental service. For certain associations, an open approach to short-term rentals might make perfect sense.

On the other hand, many association members take issue with the fact that they have bought into the HOA and are legally bound by its rules, while short-term renters lack the same level of personal investment and aren’t subject to the same standards and repercussions. We hear common complaints like: How can I be sure that this renter will respect our community? Why should they get to take advantage of the community pool that I pay for? What are the consequences if they violate the rules? These are all valid concerns.

The main thing to keep in mind is that yours is not the only point of view. Seeking to broaden your perspective and understand neighbors with differing opinions will help soften the process.

What role does your homeowners association play?

In all things, the purpose of a homeowners association is to protect property values and increase the membership’s enjoyment of the community. This should be the single guiding principle that informs all decision making, not just decisions related to short-term rentals. Therefore, every association will be tasked with carefully weighing the desires of the association members against what is best for the community as a whole, in both the short and long term. San Diego, Inland Empire and Orange County HOA management companies are aware of the issues facing communities throughout Southern California. Ask your management company to keep your board updated on laws and best practices as they unfold.

Tips for navigating these uncertain times

There are no hard-and-fast rules for short-term rentals and HOAs, but there are a few ways to stay sane during the process of sorting out this debate. Here are some tips for association members:

  • Recognize that there isn’t going to be an immediate solution. As local, state and federal lawmakers weigh the legality of short-term rentals, laws will likely change. Individual associations are also grappling with these issues and may be in the process of updating your community’s governing documents. Have patience.
  • Trust your board and management company. If you have submitted a complaint to your board about a violation from a short-term renter in your community, the issue will ultimately play out between the homeowner and the HOA. Privacy laws restrict the sharing of violation information, so your board and manager will not be at liberty to discuss details.
  • Participate in association governance. As a member of your HOA, you have the right to participate in board meeting public forums to make your voice heard. If you feel strongly one way or another about this issue, show up and speak out.

If you’re a homeowner who is thinking of (or currently) listing your property on short-term rental websites, here are some tips for you:

  • Review the law and your association’s governing documents. Look for restrictions against short-term rentals in your city, to make sure you are not inadvertently breaking the law or the association’s rules. If you’re not sure where to look, your community manager can help you find answers.
  • Print a clear set of house rules for renters. Be sure to include important information about what happens outside your house, such as common area hours and rules, trash collection guidelines, parking restrictions and noise regulations. Mentioning that these are established community-wide rules (not merely suggestions) may help with compliance.
  • Strengthen your relationship with your neighbors. Enlist your neighbors in keeping an eye on your property while it’s being rented. Ask them to notify you if your renters are breaking community rules so you may address it immediately with your guests. If you demonstrate that your neighbors’ peace is a priority, they may be less likely to immediately escalate the situation to management.

Ultimately, it’s up to each association to set guidelines and boundaries that work for their community. Such an emotionally-charged issue can cause tempers to flare and frustration all around. However, by keeping a level head, maintaining a clear perspective and taking a more active role in your community and with your neighbors, you can make the process proceed more smoothly for everyone involved.

Want to talk more about how your homeowners association is handling short-term rentals? Our HOA management experts can help.

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