In many communities located in popular vacation destinations, short-term rentals can pose long-term problems. The residents that come and go are more interested in having a good time than helping the community thrive, and that often means that they host loud parties, leave behind trash and can even pose a security threat. Concerns like these and more have motivated many communities to amend their governing documents to ban short-term rentals – but some homeowners still want to cash in, and they break the covenants to do it.
That’s why it makes sense for your board to be prepared to enforce the rules on short-term rentals if necessary. Whether homeowners are aware that they’re committing a violation or not, handling this issue correctly can encourage them to comply with the rules they acknowledged when they bought property in the community.
Step one: Summon the homeowner for a hearing. The hearing should be in reference to a clear violation, like noise complaints or trash if you don’t have proof that they’re using the residence as a short-term rental. However, if you find the home listed on popular vacation rental websites, you can reference that when you call for a hearing as well. Don’t forget to document this by taking screenshots. You can also pay for short-term rental monitoring services and receive notifications if a property in your community is posted on a popular rental site.
Step two: Inform the homeowner of the violation. If you only suspect that the homeowner is using their property as a vacation rental based on recurring noise and trash violations, now is the time to ask – not accuse them of something you can’t prove. If the homeowner says that they’ve rented out the home, or if you already have proof that the home is listed as a vacation rental, inform them of the rule in the governing documents that prohibits this and make it clear that they’ve violated it.
Step three: Take action. Now is the time to decide how the board will proceed. In some cases, homeowners are apologetic and express that they’re willing to stop because they simply weren’t aware. Occasionally, boards are even willing to let the homeowner host the last booked reservation as long as that’s the last one, and this is an option your board can consider as well. However, other homeowners are willing to fight the rule. In either case, you’ll have to decide whether to assess a fine for the violation or let them go with a warning.
Step four: Involve your attorney. If the homeowner refuses to stop renting the home or won’t pay the violation, it’s time to involve your association’s attorney. They will take on the enforcement from there, all the way up to taking the homeowner to court if necessary. However, most disputes never go this far.
Enforcing rules isn’t always a comfortable experience, but as a board member, you have a fiduciary duty to put the needs of the community above your own. By working with homeowners to show them why rules restricting short-term rentals are in place and enforcing them appropriately, you can fulfill your duty and keep your community a pleasant place to live for everyone.