Neighbors ruining the Airbnb party

18 Replies

Just got a house under contract in Tahoe and already we're having problems. Apparently 3 of our future neighbors were harassing my agent today at the property because they found out we're turning it into a (legal) Airbnb.

Has anyone dealt with this before? Any fall out or bad reviews from neighbors harassing guests at your STR? My business partner is worried this might affect potential revenue if future guests have to deal with a hostile environment.

Please let me know how you’ve handled this situation (and if it even matters at all). Thanks in advance!

Jimmy - This is always a tough situation and there is no right answer.  We try to meet with our neighbors and explain to them how we manage and care about the community over profits.  We have tools and process to ensure that we are good neighbors and try to avoid renting out to parties and those that will cause issues.  It maybe worth a talk with the neighbors before your inspection contingency is up.

It can be an issue, even if your area is zoned for it.  Neighbors that own high-end homes and condos in exclusive resorts might not appreciate living next to a house-turned-hotel.  Of course, if the zoning allows it, there is nothing they can do to prohibit it, other than make the lives of you and your guests miserable.

Although this is certainly not your situation, I continue to be amazed at property owners who are brazenly forging ahead with a STR in an area that most likely isn't zoned for it. As if it is a mere inconvenience to them. It is against the law and completely disrespectful. I happened to be a GUEST at a house such as this in Lisle Illinois in the summer of 2019. I stayed at a house that was clearly in a residential subdivision, and I could tell from the body language, including one middle finger, that neighbors didn't appreciate it at all. I left after one night and stayed in a hotel because it was uncomfortable and I felt that the host was completely disregarding the privacy of her neighbors, if not her local zoning ordinances.

Your neighbors have three primary fears:  1)  A fear of a compromise in their privacy and quiet enjoyment of their own homes, 2) A fear of a decline in the values of their own homes because you let yours start looking like a trailer house, and 3) Ted Bundy being a guest one night.

Probably the best thing you can do is to go and actually meet the neighbors, shake their hands, assure them that you are going to keep the property top notch at all times, you are going to carefully and meticulously screen your guests out of respect for your neighbors, and, most of all, FOLLOW THROUGH and be a good neighbor.  

I have one vacation rental that is in a predominantly non-rental area, though there is no zoning restriction against my rental.  I always go above and beyond to be a good neighbor.  I keep the place spotlessly clean, yard kept, and everything freshly painted and in good repair.  I also regularly communicate with the neighbors.  That doesn't mean they like my situation necessarily, but they have come to realize that I mean what I say, and that I am no threat to their safety, privacy, or home values.

I would not buy a home as a vacation rental, where you expect the immediate neighbors to be hostile, or where the area is organizing. To start, talk with all of the neighbors (not just the 3, but all of the close neighbors). I would typically recommend taking the temperature of a few neighbors even before making an offer, unless the home is of a sufficient distance to where the neighbors may not even notice.

    While you have the right to run a rental, they have the right to grumble about it, and make sure you follow every single rule in the ordinance to the letter.  Following every inch of an ordinance is a challenge unless you've done this before and know the area well.

      I am renting a home in Tahoe (Kings Beach) this week, and lived in Incline Village for years.  I own a number of large vacation rentals in southern CA, as background.

@Jimmy Woodard I like what Jay said, you should reach out to your neighbors before your due diligence period is up. You could encourage them about some of the steps you will take to make sure things run smoothly. For example, if you’re installing cameras, providing guests with detailed parking instructions, etc, let the neighbors know to put some of their worries at ease. See if that helps.

Do you have an HOA? There may be rules that you don't pick up on.

Any rules about running a business out of rhe home?

STR is classified as a commercial business and you have to have commercial insurance.

Yes I received a 4 star review once due to a noisey next door neighbors.

Sounds like there can be problems in the future.  Your city is going to listen to the complaining neighbors before they listen to you.  I would scrap this plan and move on to Plan B.  Be glad that they are expressing their dissatisfaction now, instead of after you purchase the property.

Check laws too. I do not own there in Tahoe but I've spoken to others who do. There is active legislation against short-term rentals in South Lake Tahoe. Not sure about your area specifically. I have been to HOA meetings where one of my short terms is located and every year someone brings up the proposal to ban short term rentals — and that is in an area that allows them! Take you very seriously if you cannot make peace with the neighbors. Better to find this out before you purchase than after. You need to go the extra 100 yards with due diligence. Take seriously all that @Collin H. said above. 

@Jimmy Woodard I have dealt with hostile neighbors in my long term rentals different times. I have tried two different approaches. First approach is the "not my problem" approach, where I basically tell them to pound sand. The second approach is befriending the neighbors. You can probably guess which approach is more effective.

My advice is stop by and talk to them. Reassure them that you will take better care of the property than an owner occupant. Offer them a cash bonus if they refer people to stay. See if they want to mow the yard for extra money. Give them your cell phone number and tell them "any problem, any time of the day, I will fix it". After you move in, bring a welcome gift like a gift card to a restaurant or store. Tell them it is an advance thank you for them watching out for your property. Anything that buys good will is helpful.

Hostile neighbors could affect the enjoyment of your guests. They will call the police when noise gets out of control or they will be rude to guests. You don't need the neighbors messing up your investment.

You can also tell them to pound sand, but that has never worked out great for me.

Define "harassing my agent"? As a real estate agent myself, I know agents can sometimes be a little dramatic haha.

I wouldn't even look for reasons to back out yet.. That is the beauty of real estate, there is usually a solution.

Agree with what most people say on here. Talk to your neighbors. Be a responsible property manager and be pro active reaching out with your contact information should there be any issues and explain that you'll take care of it right away. When I started my 2nd Airbnb rental, I had a bad guests at the beginning playing loud music. Neighbors complained. I ended up talking to them, tightening up my rules and expectations and things have been way better with no issues. Set your expectations and be neighborly with you neighbors. That can go a long way. Best of luck!

Originally posted by @Marcus Johnson :

@Collin H.

Put up security cameras everywhere and record any encounters. Put up large fences to enclose the area and no trespassing signs. Document everything.

I am sure the neighbors will love all of that.  Imagine a once lovely home that is now a fenced compound with "no trespassing" signs all around it, with cameras everywhere.  Why not go ahead and chain a couple of rottweilers to the mail box while you are at it?

@Jimmy Woodard

Each of them will have certain concerns - try to compromise with them on security, screening, being available, professional management, and noise sensors to ensure their peace will not be disturbed. I recommend planting trees or doing what can be done to make your unit as “private” from theirs as possible.

@Jimmy Woodard

The main concerns with Vacation rentals here are always the same. Trash, parking, and noise.  An external camera to make sure your guests aren't leaving trash outside the bear box or parking on the street isn't a bad idea.

You should also go and introduce yourself to all the neighbors in the immediate area.  Tell them how you are really excited to have a second home here and you want it to be a positive experience for everyone in the neighborhood.  Give them your cell phone number and tell them to call you if there is any problem with the vacation rental guests.  If you can't get it solved right away, you'll call and report the guests yourself.

Being proactive about the situation can go a long way in preventing problems down the road.  You will also have to be very clear with guests what the rules are about parking, trash and quiet time.  Screening and setting expectations with guests is key.  

I’d second the caution some of the people have mentioned. If you’re investing in a new home, how much work do you want to put in to deal with difficult neighbors and situations? Is the stress of having the neighbors call noise complaints or dealing with potentially changing Airbnb regulations for that area what you want to get into?

Sure there’s likely profit in it, but how hard will it be? Some cities have ADDED outright bans, or limitations on the number of nights per year (Palm Springs, cat city, and others), or more. I had dinner last week with a friend who is fighting $30,000 in fines from the city on his STVR. If the neighbors are already active, use your judgement if there aren’t places with higher returns for you and your partner’s time. 

I was talking to one of my friends yesterday; he lives across the street from one of my LTRs. He was complaining about the house 3 doors down that is now being used as an STR - he said airline employees rotate in and out of there, so my guess is it's like a crash pad. Too many cars there and the yard is being let go. One neighbor called the cops about the cars and at least one parking ticket was issued. This is in a suburban neighborhood with an HOA. I imagine the HOA will in future ban STRs if they're able to.

If they ban your rental from being an STR, will it survive as an LTR? That would be my plan B. Plan C would be to look elsewhere.