As a short-term rental property manager, you’ve likely heard of new regulations popping up all over the US, with Hawaii bans and Atlanta’s new planning ordinance as just two recent examples. While some regulation can be good, as it signals a greater professionalization of the industry; it can also have a catastrophic effect on the STR ecosystem when it’s too stringent.
So how do those really strict regulations come about? And is there anything you can do to avoid them in your area? Short-term rental bans are often the result of tensions between hosts and residents. City councils frequently cite neighbor complaints - including noise, parties, overoccupancy, and inconsiderate parking - when they prospect new STR regulations. The City of La Quinta in California for example identified noisy short-term rentals as a particularly big cause for concern. Interestingly, instead of introducing a blanket ban, they decided to run a Noise Monitoring pilot. If you’re interested in the results, you can read more about them here.
Not every council has the time and resources to seek out solutions that will work for both hosts and guests like La Quinta did, however. That’s why it’s best to take a proactive approach to responsible hosting. This way, you can avoid tensions rising in your neighborhood in the first place. Here’s how you can be a good neighbor even if you’re managing remotely.
Many hosts and property managers start out in their own neighboorhood. That’s a great approach, because you will already be familiar with the local culture, customs and laws. You will have a sense of the character of the area and what is likely to disturb the residents. And if there are things you don’t know, you’ll know who to ask or where to look them up.
But let’s say you’re scoping - or are already hosting - in a neighborhood that you’re new to. In that case, you absolutely need to start with research.
Once you know all about your neighborhood, adjust house rules on an individual property basis. How strict you need to be about noise and occupancy will depend on property type (is it an apartment or a detached house?) and the proximity of neighbors, as well as location. It’s important to set out your expectations clearly:
These are just some questions you should ask, but this list is by no means exhaustive. It’s a good idea to compare them with other listings in your area. So start with a set of house rules, but then update them as you go along. And when in doubt, always overcommunicate.
By being very clear in your house rules, you can make sure your guests know what to expect. You’re setting them up for success, and minimizing the risk of jeopardizing your relationship with your neighbors.
So you’ve established a good relationship with your neighbors, and set up really solid house rules. How do you know your guests will actually follow them?
It’s best if you ask them directly. Many hosts don’t accept a booking until the guest confirms they have read the house rules. They might also ask other questions to vet them, including the reason for the stay and their age.
If the booking is done through an OTA - like Airbnb or Vrbo - you should also read guest reviews to see if other hosts flagged any issues. On Airbnb, make sure to enable their Verify ID feature. If this screening process seems like too much work, there are tools out there (e.g. SUPERHOG) that can automate it for you.
Here’s another trick to attract great guests. Since the definition of the perfect guest varies by property, you should identify what type of guest is ideal for your property and then cater to them specifically. Do you prefer families? Add a play room and provide a list of available games in your listing. Want to attract young professionals who work remotely? Set up work stations and provide information on internet speed. If you adjust your photos and description to the type of guest you want, you will automatically alienate the type of guest you don’t want at your home - including those looking to party or likely to cause a disturbance.
Finally, even if you host remotely, you need to know what’s happening at your property at all times. But how do you do that without having to install intrusive cameras? There are services out there - like Minut’s STR monitoring solution - that can be your ‘eyes on the ground’ while respecting guest privacy. They usually involve a physical camera-less sensor and web and mobile apps; giving you insight into your rentals no matter how far or close you may be.
Sound monitoring is a popular feature, as it will alert you when there’s noise at your property. Some sensors can also measure occupancy to let you know when there’s a crowd assembling. Minut can also help you resolve noise issues by sending the guests an automated text message and/or giving them an automated call when it detects noise. This means that you’ll be the first to know if there’s an issue; and that you’ll be able to fix it before it becomes a problem for your neighbors.
Minut can also keep track of temperature and humidity levels - so that you can always be sure your guests are comfortable; and motion so that you can secure your property between bookings. It can even recognize the sound of other alarms going off - such as fire or CO - and notify you when it picks up their siren. So that you can act quickly in the event of an emergency.
Managing remotely doesn’t have to be risky. STR Monitoring solutions keep you informed and enable you to nip most issues in the bud. You can rest assured that your property stays safe, your guests comfortable and your neighbors happy - all without having to be on the spot.
Navigating the wellbeing of neighbors, guests and property owners can be tricky. Luckily, there are ways and tools to make that easier. Unauthorized parties, clueless guests, and accidents lead to tensions in the neighborhood. That’s how STR bans originate. On the other hand, happy neighbors usually translate to happy guests. And they also mean you get to run your business in peace.