New Worry for Home Buyers: A Party House Next Door - The New York Times

AUSTIN, TEX. — The houses are often among the nicest on the block, or at least the biggest. They may be new construction where a smaller structure once stood, or an extensively renovated home with cheery paint in shades of yellow or blue.


But then the telltale signs appear, including an electronic touch pad on the door that makes it easy for people to get in without a key. The ads on HomeAway or Airbnb eventually confirm it: A party house has come to the neighborhood.


Some neighbors have warmed in recent years to travelers dragging suitcases through their residential neighborhoods, and they are happy that the visitors spread their money around. But when profit-seeking entrepreneurs furnish homes they do not live in to make them attractive to big groups and then rent out those houses as much as possible, parties and noise are nearly inevitable.
And so it goes here in Austin, where a group of enraged and occasionally sleepless residents have taken their complaints to the city. Austin made rules in 2012 that were meant to keep short-term rentals under control, but the neighbors argue that many of the rules are unenforceable.

This week, I rented one of the most notorious party houses in Austin and invited some of the neighbors over for a chat to ask a few questions. Where do the rights of property owners to rent out their homes end, and where do those of quiet-loving neighbors begin? Do all home shoppers now need to be on the lookout for nearby problem properties? And if so, what might happen to home values when revelers can bunk up next door on any given night?


These are not new questions. In resort areas in particular, people have been renting out investment properties for ages. What’s new is how easy it has become for people to make money by listing rooms or homes and for visitors to save money by staying there. This is particularly true in good-time destinations like Austin, Nashville, New Orleans and other bigger cities.


When Austin tried to bring some order to the proceedings three years ago, it limited the number of unrelated people who could stay in one place at one time to six. (It also capped the number of certain listings in many neighborhoods, albeit with a loophole that has allowed many unregistered properties to hit the market.)
Nevertheless, listings began appearing all over the city advertising beds for 10 or 15 people, or more. Austin has become a popular bachelor partydestination, and the website Thrillist described one Airbnb listing as “the perfect place to bed down for a bonkers bachelor party, as it’s a short bike ride from downtown, just the right blend of weird & huge, and not at all unaccustomed to rowdy entertainment.”
Emmy Jodoin lives next door to that house with her family. “It is loud, and there is live music and karaoke stuff, and it’s all done outside because of the pool,” she said. “They’re out in front at 4 in the afternoon waiting for their Uber to come, drunk on the front lawn.”


Homeowners had other complaints about guests, including trash bins overflowing with beer cans, public urination, catcalling, foul language, racist remarks, companies throwing events and the appearance of arainbow-colored painted pony. “Sometimes, when they are outside, they’re playing beer pong just wearing their underwear,” said Hazel Oldt, age 11, who can see them next door from the third-floor rooftop garden of her house. Many of the complaints result when there are well over six people staying at these houses. So how do owners get away with renting to more people than city rules allow? “Determining how many are occupying versus just visiting is almost impossible,” Carl Smart, who is the director of Austin’s code department, said, chuckling as he did so.

What was so funny? Had some of the guests been coached to say that they were related? “I think so,” he said. “There is no way for us to disprove or to prove it. We could ask them to, but they don’t have to, so we have to take their word for it.” KVUE, a local television station, tagged along with code enforcement officers who heard from guests at one house that there were triplets inside and that someone else was related to a fifth guest by marriage.


The neighbors would prefer that the city simply cap guests at six people — or, better yet, stop allowing what they describe as rogue hotels to operate in residential neighborhoods. (They have no problem with people renting out their entire homes occasionally or renting rooms more frequently, while the owners themselves are in residence.)


At HomeAway, which is based in Austin and also owns Vrbo.com, executives did not want a ban and said that renting out one’s home on a short-term basis was a fundamental right. Nor do they think that it is a commercial activity. “It’s a residential use of the property,” said Matt Curtis, who runs its governmental relations efforts. “It’s no more a business than someone renting it out long-term would be a business.”
Even if no one, in this instance, is doing any actual residing? HomeAway’s contention is that the visitors coming for the weekend are the residents in this context. Mr. Curtis questioned how widespread the problem was. Airbnb provided some statistics about its customers, noting that from Oct. 1, 2014, to Oct. 1 this year, 87 percent of trips to Austin involved four or fewer people and 97 percent involved eight or fewer. The average age of Airbnb guests in Austin is 36. According to the research company Airdna, of the 1,414 Airbnb listings in Austin as of Aug. 31 with three or more bedrooms, 33 offer lodging for four or more people per bedroom while 618 sleep over two per bedroom.

Airbnb offers a hotline for neighbors having problems with hosts anywhere it operates and is building tools that will try to recognize parties before they happen, say when someone books a large house and that listing is immediately viewed by many other site visitors.

Since October 2012, Austin has received 266 complaints about the type of registered properties where the homeowner is generally not present. Twenty percent of the properties have at least one complaint, with an average of 2.4 complaints among those. Seventeen percent of the complaints were about over-occupancy.

The house where I stayed has received 15 complaints, and the city has suspended its license once. The walls have “Dumb and Dumber” and “Anchorman” movie posters, and the three bedrooms are full of bunk beds and futons. “Our neighbors understand that your group is here to have a good time,” the listing says.
But not too good a time. Each door to the outside has a framed copy of Austin’s noise ordinance nearby, and Jason Martin, a limited partner with partial ownership in the property, sends an extensive list of house rules to guests urging them not to disturb the neighbors. “It is extremely professionally run,” he said. “Any word of a bachelor party or fraternities is an immediate no-go.”

In fact, house parties and “organized social events” are not allowed on the premises, a rule I thought I was not breaking when I invited the neighbors over. There’s another rule noting that “all persons entering the premises are counted as chargeable guests.” I should have reread the rules and reviewed my original communications with Mr. Martin once I decided to hold the gathering in the days after I made the booking.


Those visitors were especially concerned about their property values. For many of them, their homes are their largest asset. Jessie Neufeld, who bought her home right before the local rules changed in 2012 and now has a 2-year-old child, put it most bluntly. “We did not buy our house to be living next to a hotel,” she said. “Would you buy a home if you knew a hotel like this was operating next door, if you wanted to set your life up and raise a family?”

I put the question to two real estate professionals whose names I saw on for-sale signs for homes that were next to or close to some of the party houses. Were the properties going to sell for less because of the problem properties nearby, and did they have a duty to disclose these houses to any and all buyers?
Katie Brigmon of Dash Realty did not want to answer many questions about her listing, a house that is very close to one problem property, and my call to her quickly went dead.


Jeff Grant from Saddle Realty said that he wasn’t aware of the short-term rental several homes down from the house he’s trying to sell on Hidalgo Street. “But my philosophy has always been disclose, disclose, disclose,” he said. “I don’t think it affects property value in the least.”


It probably won’t if the buyer simply wants to rent out the home every weekend. But every other home buyer ought to be searching Airbnb, HomeAway and similar sites for listings that are close to a home that they’re considering buying.

Ms. Neufeld said she resented the fact that people making a living from renting out homes for the weekend have put her own home’s value at risk. “They are leveraging our neighborhood for their profit, telling people to come stay in this beautiful place where you would like to pretend that you live,” she said. “And they are making people miserable.”

 

San Diego, CA: The local war on websites like Airbnb hits close to home

San Diego, CA: The local war on websites like Airbnb hits close to home
Airbnb causes cancer!
Well, not really, but the vilification of short-term rental companies, such as Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway, has become so heated that a comment like that doesn’t seem unimaginable. That’s not to say I don’t believe all the stories: the orgy in Manhattan, the rape in Barcelona, the vomit on someone’s front lawn in Pacific Beach, small children hearing foul language in Pacific Beach, broken glass in the street in Pacific Beach. Wait, wasn’t PB like that before Airbnb?

East Hampton, NY: board again considers registry law for summer rentals

East Hampton, NY: board again considers registry law for summer rentals

A draft of a new rental-registry law targeting overcrowding and other problems at shared summertime rentals was presented Tuesday during a work session of the East Hampton Town Board.

The proposed law is among the latest measures town officials have initiated to get control over young rowdy summer visitors, who were particularly disruptive this past summer, especially in the hamlet of Montauk.

A rental-registry proposal considered by the board last year was scrapped after opposition to what some considered an "intrusive" plan. In the wake of the hamlet's disruptive July Fourth weekend, board members decided to revisit the idea.

Chicago, IL: Aldermen seek crackdown on Airbnb scofflaws

Chicago, IL: Aldermen seek crackdown on Airbnb scofflaws

A group of Chicago aldermen is calling on the city to crack down on people who rent their homes out through Airbnb without a license.

Airbnb, the fast-growing vacation-home rental agency, advertises more than 3,000 vacation rental houses, condominiums and rooms in Chicago, but the city has issued fewer than 200 vacation rental licenses, according to a letter that Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Brian Hopkins (2nd) sent to Maria Guerra-Lapacek, commissioner of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

A license requires people who rent their homes out for short periods to pay a fee to the city, obtain insurance and meet certain health and safety standards.

Berkeley, CA: Housing Advisory Commission passes recommendations regulating short-term rentals

At a Thursday meeting, the Housing Advisory Commission passed a set of recommendations regulating short-term rentals and including listings on platforms such as Airbnb and Flipkey.

 

The commission passed six proposals that are in accordance with seven of nine guidelines referred to it by Berkeley City Council. It chose to take no action on whether a unit may be rented for more than 90 days without a host present or how to penalize hosts for regulation violations. Before returning to the council, the recommendations will come before the city Planning Commission on Oct. 21.

NY: New draft of Greenport's short-term rental code calls for owner occupancy, sparks ire

The controversial short-term rental issue continues to spark heated debate in Greenport. The Greenport code committee has developed a new draft of the short term rental legislation, stating that all short-term rentals must be owner occupied and operated, with non-owner occupied short term rentals not allowed. Only one short-term rental per unit or structure at a time would be allowed. In addition, under the proposed code, the short term rental period is defined as period of less than 30 days. A period of more than 30 days is covered under the village’s rental permit law. Homeowners would need to apply for a $500 short-term rental permit; and if, when properties are inspected, they are found to be in violation of village code, fire code, or building code, the permit could be revoked.

 

Austin, TX: Ride Sharing Rules, Short-Term Rentals, and More

On Thursday, the council will revisit new rules for short-term rentals. Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo wants to phase homes operating as full-time hotels out of neighborhoods. Tovo says those types of rentals belong in commercial areas. Council Member Leslie Pool also wants to suggest reducing the permit fee for owner-occupied rentals. If approved, final rules would come back before council toward the end of the year.

GA Lawmakers Still Weighing Rules For Airbnb, Rental Sites

As Georgia lawmakers continue to weigh possible regulations for short-term rental websites like Airbnb, they're finding the issue to be a complex one.

Should laws distinguish between units available year-round and those people rent out for special events, like the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta? Should cities follow Savannah’s lead and implement their own laws, or should the state set the policy? And is the state prepared to implement a tax?

San Francisco Proposition F: Regulating Short-Term Rentals

Airbnb, HomeAway and similar businesses have made it easy and profitable for homeowners, or even long-term renters, to use their living spaces for informal bed-and-breakfasts, hosting visitors for days or weeks at a time. This unmonitored industry has ballooned.

Greenport NY: Code committee poised to send draft short term rental law to village board, public

Controversial new short term rental draft code could soon be up for public review in Greenport. Yesterday, the code committee met to discuss the most recent draft, and to discuss changes.

GA: Concerns over short-term rentals grow locally and across state

Monitoring and enforcing Hall County codes regulating short-term vacation rentals on Lake Lanier has proved a growing challenge, according to some local officials and residents.

And a study committee of state lawmakers is reviewing regulating and taxing Internet-based travel accommodations such as Airbnb, VRBO and other rental websites.

 

Rockland, ME to reconsider short-term vacation rental rules

ROCKLAND, Maine — The City Council is preparing to consider for a third time regulations for short-term vacation rentals.

The council will consider a preliminary vote on the proposed regulations at its meeting beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14, at City Hall. If the measures are approved, a public hearing and final vote would be held in November.

The council considered approving short-term rental regulations in March and in July. Both times, councilors agreed to hold off on a vote to conduct further discussion in the wake of concerns by residents who rent out rooms and homes.

Essex County, NY expands bed tax to vacation home rentals

ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County lawmakers have approved extending the county lodging tax to vacation home rentals, along with giving part of the money for town promotion and the County Fish Hatchery. The 17-1 vote of the County Board of Supervisors on Monday amends the County Occupancy Tax Law to add vacation rentals such as second-homes and condominiums.

 

Tahoe vacation rental lawsuit claims equal protection applies

Tahoe vacation rental lawsuit claims equal protection applies

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Attorneys in a lawsuit are arguing that revamped city of South Lake Tahoe fees and rules are unfairly targeting vacation rental owners and property managers.

The new fee structure includes increases in annual permitting, along with fines.

Rules also solidify noise limits, set occupancy limits based on house size, and distinguishes between vacation rentals in tourist zones and residential neighborhoods.