Things I’ve Learned as a Vacation Rental Owner and a Neighbor

My experience as a vacation rental owner and on the flip side as a neighbor to a vacation rental.

Much is in the media lately about problems with short term rentals. I own three houses in three cities and each neighborhood has handled the short term rentals in our midst differently.

Austin

Shortly after we moved into our primary residence, the house next door became a vacation rental. It’s a gorgeous home – spacious house with a pool, high on a hill above a lake, great views. No other house was a vacation rental in our neighborhood at the time. We are one one side of it and there is an empty lot on the other. There were no wild parties, but there were some groups of ladies that liked to have late night hen parties around the pool. I remember hearing them chat and laugh into the wee hours of the morning. I bought a air filter for our room in short order to block out the noise. One time, some folks brought their Harley’s and parked them on the septic field. I wish I had had the contact for the property manager – I would have called to let them know! Other than those two minor issues, we had NO problems with the guests next door. Fast forward a few years and two other homes on our street became vacation rentals. The neighborhood went up in flames over a few pretty serious incidents. Lots of lawyering and an incredible amount of money was spent. The majority of the neighbors successfully organized to change the deed restrictions to prevent any short term rentals ever. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the issue and began just pulling into my garage and closing the door. It was an incredibly sad time for me to see how neighbors treated neighbors with opposing views.

Port Aransas

About half the homes in our little beach neighborhood are vacation rentals. There was a lot of tension between renting and non renting owners when we first bought the house. So much so that we actually considered selling the house about 2 years later. The politics there also became ugly with many things said that would have been better left unsaid. I will admit, regrettably I contributed to some of it.  The end result was that the Owners Association crafted some rules that were especially punitive to the renting owners. The renting owners were able to negotiate with the Owner’s Association to reduce some the fines set in place. The good that came out of it were some specific neighborhood rules that we all abide by. I print out the rules in our rental contract and let the guests know that if I get fined for any of their behavior, the payment will come out of their deposit. We’ve never had a problem with our guests and the neighborhood seems pretty peaceful.

Galveston

Galveston is the most organized set of vacation rental owners. When the city council was looking at changing the Land Development Regulation, STROAG (Short Term Rental Owners Association of Galveston) was there to follow the developments, encourage owners to contact council members and took an active roll in the process. They worked with Homeaway to show the incredible economic impact short term rental guests have on the island. They’ve created a “Good Neighbor Brochure” to help guests understand what the expectations are for their visit.  I’ve been so impressed with this group! They are a model for what an area wide Vacation Rental Owners group should be – active in promoting the good about short term rentals and holding members to a high standard.

So, what I’ve learned:

1. Good communication is essential. Knowing and respecting your neighbors can go a long way to heading off any future trouble. Invite them into your home and get to know them!

2. Community matters. You have to be a good neighbor whether you are in the house or renting it out.

3. Expectations are everything. Don’t assume anything in your roles as neighbor, owner or guest.

4. Form an association. Get to know other short term rental owners in your area and organize before you need to, otherwise, it’s already to late. You don’t have to organize something negative – promote the benefits of vacation rentals in your area. Get to know the city council members. Share resources. The owner’s group can aid in the success of any of it’s members.

Do you have any other suggestions based on your experience? Let me know!

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