One of the biggest threats to your Vacation Rental business is the fact that neighbors and local governments are only one complaint away from trying to legally shut down the VR’s in your area. But there are things you can do to help make sure this never happens to you. It’s much easier and much less costly to prevent these laws from even being considered than having to fight an expensive legal battle in the courts. Please be proactive!
1) Be a Good Neighbor! Get to know your immediate neighbors. Give them your phone number and let them know you are on their side, and are willing to do anything that will help avoid issues with your renters. Let them know to call YOU first about any problem renters (not the police or county…this is how legal problems start!) Some ideas to “win over” your neighbors over? Invite them over for a happy hour. Send them a letter explaining your willingness to be a good VR owner and actual steps you have taken to back that up, with your card. Offer a half off discount if they have friends or relatives that want to stay to turn them into an ally instead of an opponent. Oh, and you might as well be up front about it. Your neighbors will know what you are doing, so being sneaky won’t work either.
2) Know your surroundings! What you can allow your renters to do depends on your specific location and proximity to your neighbors. The goal here is to avoid conflict before it starts! For example if you live in a quiet neighborhood with other houses 20 feet away you should probably have different rules (how many guests, pets or not, are parties ok?) than if you have the same VR on a secluded 10 acre lot.
3) Consider NOT allowing dogs. The problem with allowing dogs is two fold. One is barking. If your dogs bark it can be just as loud or louder than a party. If your neighbors have dogs, it tends to multiply the barking by a large factor, as dogs tend to bark at other dogs and it starts a never ending chain reaction.
Secondly, some dogs will leave smelly gifts on your neighbors property. Not fun. Your renters may not know or care if their dogs droppings are on your neighbors property. It’s just one more thing that can cause an angry neighbor to finally snap and report your VR to the county.
The other benefit of no dogs are that it makes keeping your place clean much easier. It also eliminates damage or “accidents”, which WILL happen sooner or later if you allow pets. And for those thinking you will lose lot’s of business? There are just as many people who want to stay in a clean “no pets” VR than those that want to bring them along. If you can allow dogs and it won’t effect the neighbors, then go for it, but if it will, think long and hard about that decision. Personally, switching to a no dogs policy was one of the best things I ever did, and I’ve never had stronger bookings.
4) Limit the number of guests. There is a big difference from the neighbors perspective if there are 8 people and 3 cars in the driveway of your 3br Cabin versus 15 people and 7 cars parked everywhere.
Being vigilant about this will not only save you lots of wear and tear on your VR, but also eliminate most neighbor relation problems. I had an unauthorized large group cause all kinds of problems – loud, they made tons of trash which overflowed the bins and spilled into the street. My solution was twofold: First, step up the screening process. Make sure you stress to your renters what you will and won’t allow. Secondly, I installed security cameras at the entrance so I can monitor the entrance and driveway. I also clearly mention the cameras in my Rental Agreement. This deters renters from trying to sneak in extra people. Pro Tip: Put this in your contract EVEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE A SECURITY CAMERA! Once again, it’s easier to avoid a conflict than to try and fix it as it’s happening.
5) If you have a Garage, encourage your renters to park inside. The less “activity” your neighbors see, the better. Get an extra door opener or two and let them use it. Plus, it’s a higher level of service and security for your guests.
6) Pay your Garbage person extra to come pick up your trash from the side of the house (so you don’t have to rely on the renter to drag it to the curb). I use Waste Management and it’s only about $12 a month extra. This relieves the trash overflow problem, keeps the neighborhood clean, and provides better service for your renters who are on vacation, not garbage duty.
7) Pay your sales taxes! This is absolutely mandatory if you want to have any leg to stand on. One of the real arguments those in the Hotel industry will use against VR owners is that they pay taxes and some VR’s don’t. Obviously the very powerful Hotel industry lobby wants to see VR’s go away, and are fighting our industry. Since all local governments are hurting financially, we need to be paying our fair share. And remember, it doesn’t cost you anything! First of all, it’s very easy (10 minutes a month) to do your sales taxes, see my Video Here.
8) Start a VR Association like the Anaheim Rental Alliance Banding together with other VR owners is one of the smartest things you can do. Not only does it give you a forum to raise funds for any legal issues, but you can also organize and set some local standards for your area. Additionally, this is a great way to meet and network with other owners. Share your excess rental leads, your favorite handyman or house cleaning service. It may be a counterintuitive strategy at first, but working with your “competition” actually helps everyone succeed.
9) Police our own industry. Usually, it’s just one or a small handful of bad owners who don’t care about anything but making money and are thinking only about short term profits. As a VR community, we should strive to work with those owners to either be a better neighbor or if they refuse, to let them get sued or banned while the rest of the VR Association sides with the city/county to have them removed. This also strengthens our standing with the community as we are also saying we don’t want those bad apples either.
10) Get Involved in your Community and/or HOA. Being an active member is the best way to know what the word on the street is. You will know if issues are brewing so you can take steps to fix them before the courts and lawyers get involved. While it’s obviously harder when you don’t live in the same area, try to stay abreast of any new developments.
11) Visit Stradvocacy.org The Short Term Rental Advocacy Center. This Organization is built to help and prevent rental bans and restrictions.
12) Join NextDoor.com This is an online social network specifically for neighborhoods. This allows you to be part of the community even if you live far away. You can “listen in” and be aware if people are complaining about vacation rental activity, as well as make friends and offer to help. For example if you live in the big city 3 hours away, offer to pick up supplies on your next trip in. Getting involved is always better than having your head in the sand. If you start a brand new neighborhood you get a Free $25 Amazon Card here.
What other ideas do you have to help prevent neighborhood issues before they start? Please leave your answers in the comments below!