How to tell the new neighbors you’re running an airbnb

44 Replies

So my girlfriend and I just bought a house with incredible mountain views and are planning on turning the property into a vacation rental.

The problem is, the new neighbors suffer from various mental illnesses and are very low income. They are far too nosy and intrusive to operate a relaxing mountain getaway. They’ve already requested we remove trees obstructing their view and to take down a large light on a power line pole. The previous owner had legal and personal feuds with them too. Just trust me...they’re way too close for comfort.

Ipso facto the decision has been made to build a 6 foot privacy fence in between the properties to separate our business and these neighbors. There are no restrictions on fence height. The big issue is going to be that the fence will mostly block the deranged neighbors’ view of the mountain range.

How do I prevent an atomic meltdown from the neighbors on Saturday when they see us outside building a 6+ foot fence in front of their view?

Second question: How do you break it to the neighbors when you buy a new property that it will strictly be vacation renters living there? Obviously people don’t want a new person staying next door to them every night.

All ideas and advice welcome!

This sounds like a NIGHTMARE. I have no constructive advice to give - sorry you are in this situation. It sounds like you already know that this is going to be a major problem for you.

Make sure its all legal you already know they will go that route.

Since you say low income.  Try offering $25 a booking go straight in their pockets.  Tax Free. What low income wouldnt go for that .   

This sounds like a huge problem in the making. When they start irritated your guests that is going to wreck your possible business.

Sounds like you need to sell and find another location.

@Cameron Calvert I would try to buy the neighbors out, if at all possible. If not, then switch to a long term rental strategy and carefully pick tenants who will be able to get along with the neighbors, or sell. It doesn't sound like building the fence is really going to solve the problem, and may potentially make it worse unfortunately. Having a good relationship with any close neighbors is pretty critical in operating an STR successfully. They can make your life miserable and have a big negative effect on your business rather easily.

You're in a popular STR area. Build the wall, don't skirt the issue, and say as little as possible. But be friendly and polite and do not come to any judgment about their perceived income. It has nothing to do with you. Maybe their blocked view will cause them to move.

Originally posted by @Max T. :

@Cameron Calvert

You could wear a disguise while you build the fence. Then they won’t know it was you.

 or you could disguise the fence...

I would tell the neighbors your building the fence to ad to their privacy because you have decided to make your new place a short term rental.   You don't want your renter bothering them so your decided to put up a fence.  If they complain about it being too high just say you went 6ft. instead of 8 to preserve their view.  During the conversation throw in if you ever decide to sell you would be interested in looking at their place.  Good luck.  Fences make good neighbors.  

This is beer talk with the babes.

An owner has a right to a view.  You cant just willy nilly build a tall fence cause you feel like it.   

Maybe quiet enjoyment or some kind of legal beagle concept.

Just food for thought.

Unfortunately sounds like a tough situation for a successful STR. Once a few people leave bad reviews "house itself was great but neighbors were very noisy etc" it will deter people from booking. I know the first thing I look at before booking on vrbo or airbnb is recent reviews

Are you able to pivot and sell this place (would a light cosmetic rehab help you sell for more? This would become an unintended flip more or less) and roll the $ into a different deal? If the regulations/law allows you to build a fence, I'd build the fence. You're not doing it for no reason or out of spite to reduce the neighbors view, you're doing it to improve your renters experience during their stay by increasing privacy 

@Cameron Calvert I fear you are underestimating the gravity of the situation. A fence in this case could make the situation much worse, since you know their view is important to them. You are worried about losing $25 a booking, when in reality you should be worried about negative reviews destroying your business and zero income. The thing you need to understand about mentally unstable people is they don't react rationally. You may put up the fence and it could be laying on the ground when you come back the next day. When guests are staying, they may intentionally make noise, throw garbage over the fence, yell at guests or even do damage to their cars. Anything is possible and even if you involve police, it is hard to prove they did it. 

You need to talk to them and explain it is a short term rental. Offer the fence as a way for privacy on both properties. If they don't like it blocking the view, maybe there is a compromise to keep their view and only put up part of the fence. I like the suggestion of $25 per booking, but maybe add the caveat of 5 star review and a minimum booking time. I respect the fact you don't want to lose income, but you bought a property with unstable neighbors so it will affect income. If the previous owner ended up in court, you have a serious situation. It is not as simple as putting up a fence. 

Before you do anything, I would put up security cameras. Even before you talk to them about the fence. You can get 8 camera hard wired systems for $500 and install yourself. Get the hard wired cameras that are always recording, not the batter operated motion activated type. At least then you have proof if they cause trouble.

Good luck. I have a feeling this is just first of many posts on this story...

@Cameron Calvert I have dealt with a crazy Neigbor next to a long term rental. It was very challenging and difficult with many calls to local authorities but I basically waited them out and now their house has is on the market and already sold. We did install a ring video doorbell and ring video which helped with a sense of security for the tenants. Hang in there, it will be with it in the long run!

@Cameron Calvert

I don't know if it is a good idea or not to give the neighbor some or any money per booking, but I do know that if $25.00 a booking affects your bottom line this deal is way too thin. Throw in the difficult neighbors and you are in for some expensive lessons. 

@Cameron Calvert it sounds like you are the problem not the neighbor. Why would anyone welcome you putting up a hotel in a residential neighborhood. Even if it’s your legal right what benefit is it to your neighbor? Now you want to complicate things by putting up a fence to satisfy your fears yet blocking his views.

The previous owner alerted you to a possible problem with neighbors yet you went ahead and purchased property. Bad decision and now you are making it worse.

I'm surprised everyone is complaining about you being the problem.  #1. If zoning allows for a rental you are doing nothing wrong.  #2 It your property.  If you choose to put up a fence thats your right.  If both of these make your neighbor even harder to deal with cross that bridge when you get to it.  I didn't want a 60 unit motel one block from my house.  However local codes and zoning allowed for it.  Am I a jerk to the owner... no.  Its allowed plain and simple.   

@Joe Splitrock I agree with you 100%. In my sort term rental business, neighbors are a key deciding factor to onboard a new client or not because they can so easily cause bad reviews and it doesn’t even have to be extreme. I had a property in a residential neighborhood and the neighbors were all up in arms about it because “stranger danger”. Keep in mind that my guests had caused zero issues, were very respectful, and we lived in the house as well (just renting rooms). One day a guest parked a little too close to the neighbor’s driveway, neighbor came out and told the guest he wasn’t welcomed there and to move the car. Another day, guest was walking around the neighborhood and the neighbor walked behind them making them uncomfortable. That was enough to cancel operations because guests were uncomfortable and that wasn’t going to change.

I suggest you build a good relationship with them. Here are a few things I've done that have worked well. When the house is ready, invite them to tour the property (offer some snacks) and tell them you are very excited to turn it into a short term rental. You will make sure guests don't bother them and if they ever see something strange to call you so you can resolve it. Offer to have their lawn mowed and snow removed... small acts go a long way. Regarding the fence, you need to find a happy medium with them. Unfortunately you have to work with them for your STR to be successful. Good luck!

@Todd A DeJong the problem with this approach, and the "I'm within my rights I'll do what I want on my property" approach that @Nancy Bachety recommended earlier is that the end result of going down the Hatfield-McCoy road is inevitably stricter STR laws in this area. The neighbor, who was there first and has a right to quiet enjoyment of their property, just has to make a complaint about the vacation rental next door and the local governing body can decide overnight that vacation rentals are commercial businesses which shouldn't be allowed in residential areas, like so many other places have already determined, and poof now the issues between these two neighbors have ruined it for everybody else. Sounds like this area has few STR regulations for the time being but that could change with the stroke of a pen at the whim of the local council, which is usually made up of local homeowners. Let's not pretend vacation rental owners have the upper hand here when it comes to property rights; they're on shaky ground in most places where they're not already banned as the precedent has been set many times by now that local governments don't have to allow commercial activity in residentially zoned neighborhoods. Just look at the end result where this same feud has played out across the country over the past 15 years: STR owners have lost almost universally. All the neighbor has to do is mess with a few guests who then leave bad reviews, or take the issue up with the local rule makers, and they probably win. Making nice with neighbors and flying under the radar for as long as possible is the prudent approach in any of the few places left that STR's are still allowed.

@Steve K. is right. Having done STR in the past, your neighbors determine the success of your business. One ugly review means you have to reduce your prices. I would forget about STR and do LTR or section 8 instead. this is why you have to be careful when choosing location for STR purposes. and stay away from class C & D areas next purchase.

Updated about 1 month ago

Plus to build a STR, you have to fully furnished your home. Besides building fences on top of furnishings & crazy neighbor, you’re already in negative cash flow.

@Cameron Calvert

Could you plant trees instead of a fence? Could you somehow divert the views of the house by building a deck on the opposite side of the house away from the neighbors? You want to create the diversion from the neighbors to the Mountain Views. There’s a lot of doomsday comments on this, I believe there’s always a solution.

I’d just tell the neighbors it’s going to be a rental and leave it at that, they may not understand the nuances of a short term rental.

Rereading your question, here is an answer to #2, which hasn’t received an answer yet. Don’t. Why use severe words like strictly a vacation rental? That’ll arm them with too much information. Back to number 1: Be nice. Be polite and tell them you’ll consider their requests but not right now. 
You didn't say where your new STR is but you're from Asheville so if that's where it is, you know that there are so many single family homes used as STR's and so far, you're within your rights.
While it’s true your seller told you about the neighbors, the assumption here it was your call to walk away from the deal, as if you had a choice. 
You got more than what you asked for here, and lots to consider. Dismiss what you want but it’s likely everyone is speaking from their experiences and wants you to know about them.

And good luck on Saturday. Let us know how it goes. You’ll find some support here.