Managing Vacation Rentals in Home Owner Associations
(News Item #0217, Published: 11/03/20, Author: William Victor May, VortexManagers.com)
Vacation Rentals have become a fact of life all over the world. Guest families have learned that staying in a quality private vacation home is a better option for families and small groups then renting cookie cutter rooms in crowded inns and hotels.
Likewise, vacation home owners have discovered they can share their beloved home with guests who will help pay for the costs of ownership like taxes, utilities and the mortgage.
But not all owners rent out their places, So it is necessary to make sure neighborhoods are respected by everyone - owners of every kind and guests as well.
Associations who fail to follow proven ways of maintaining peace and quiet, later take knee-jerk reactions with overly broad and unnecessary rules and regulations. Unfortunately, those steal away the property rights guaranteed by the U.S. constitution.
Law suits can ensue resulting in years and decades of owners at each others throats, which pits neighbor against neighbor. But that need not be the outcome.
Communities that respect the rights of property owners to rent, while following rental "best practices" can maintain order, while keeping everyone happy.
Best practices are not necessarily simple, but they are easily managed by a professional management firm like ours, armed with a long list of techniques, and with great hospitality experience.
Followed closely, vacation rental guests can come and go without disrupting anyone.
Finding respectful guests, limiting noise, managing behavior, and keeping the peace is a step-by-step process. Most owners are unaware of how to be good hosts while also being good managers..
Management firms know and understand how to combine friendly guest services, while also controlling guest comportment. Having started our first office in 1964, we have researched, designed, tested and perfected steps every community can use to allow rentals without an problems.
The steps are not really a secret, but they do take discipline, commitment and extra time.
#1 Rules - Surely Owner Associations need rules about rentals, but they must clear, concise, short and reasonable to be effective. Including occupancy limits, quiet hours, parking guidelines, and more.
#2 Fair play - To be workable, rules must apply to all homes, not just rentals. Trying to restrict rentals for some, while granting greater rights to other owners, sets neighbor against neighbor. For Example:
If garbage cans must be put out on a certain day, that must be required of everyone. If there are quiet hours, then everyone must abide. If there are limits to occupancy, those must pertain to owners and long-term tenants as well. Segregating use or behavior by type of occupant creates ill-will and is probably against the law.
#3 Legal - Associations can not simply enforce any regulation they choose. For example, attempting to limit rentals by a minimum number of nights (for example, no rentals for less than 30 days) has been judged illegal in many courts.
And yet, reasonable regulations imposed on everyone, foster goodwill among all owners - renting and not.
#4 Professionals - Managing is a seemingly simple job, that works perfectly so long as the pro does hundreds of things well every day. Authorize a professional management firm to administer all rentals in the community. They know how to qualify guests, communicate rules, have sufficient staff and are trained in guest administration, and what to do if there is a problem.
#5 Rent-by-Owners (VR)s) - Hundreds of online travel websites, such as VRBO and AirBnB make it easy for far-away owners to book guests, but provide no training or help to manage guests tightly.
RBO's must be required to retain the local professional rental management company with enough employees to guarantee fast onsite services.
#6 Housekeepers - A Rent By Owner may think that employing a local housekeeper as their "Local contact" is sufficient. It is not. Only a professional management company can be relied upon to perform quickly at all hours.
#7 Renegades - Require all owners to use the same management company, RBO's may resist thinking they are somehow avoiding a cost, but they are not and they are risking the civility of the neighborhood..
#8 Advertising - Encouraging wide-ranging advertising actually increases he quality of guests, who are more likely to understand the obligations on them. Great managers get more inquiries allowing them to be pickier about who is allowed to stay.
#9 Website - Operating an information website for a community, provides an additional chance to notify guests of rules and regulations. Advanced managers can provide that technology even including online bookings.
#10 Qualifications - Although some advertising websites camouflage guest qualifications, require managers to secure complete contact information from every guest. .
#11 Obligations - Require managers to inform guests of precise written Terms and Condition. RBO's often fail to require contracts, or use terms that are vague and unenforceable.
#12 Signatures - Although giant websites discourage it, securing the guests' signature on the contract increases enforceability. Today we do that with electronic signatures which are just as enforceable.
#13 Instructions - Days or weeks prior to arrival, guests are to receive written driving directions, destination info and, most important, a reminder of the terms and conditions they are bound by.
#14 Checkin - Require guests to checkin by phone, personal meeting, or front desk where they can again be reminded of important rules and what is expected.
#15 Notices - In each home, post small nicely framed signs, called notices, to alert guest to rules like quiet hours, no smoking, no trespassing, and other important details.
#16 Cameras - It is not legal to install video cameras inside homes but if exterior cameras exist, require owners to provide the video link to the management company.
#17 Devices - Consider technical devices that can monitor sound levels, or count the mobile phone signals of phones, with telemetry given to the management firm.. They are legal and inexpensive.
#18 Electronic Locks - Consider electronic locks that prohibit unauthorized early arrivals and late departures. All access is recorded and can be investigated.
#19 Night number - Manager must have a phone line answered 24-7-365, that neighbors or guests can call for issues and fast response.
#20 Land Line - Homes should have a local land phone line that allowing the manager to call guests assuredly, and give guests assurance of help if they need it. We provide that to homes for about $100 per year.
#21Staffing - Use a manager who can send staff to properties any time day or night. Most issues can be addressed by phone, but nothing beats an in-person talk.
#22 Authorities - Managers must know the contact information of local law enforcement and be wiling to request their assistance quickly if necessary.
#23 Eviction - Under the law short-term visitors are consider "Guests" and not "Tenants." That means they can be forced to depart without notice or legal action. Employ managers who knows how to do that, even though by following this checklist, that is unlikely to happen.
#24 Legal Counsel - Require your manager to have legal counsel, easily available for advice and action, if ever needed.
If all of these steps seem daunting, they need not be.
We believe that Guests want to follow the rules, but to convince guests to follow the rules they must know the rules, and they must be reminded about the rules repeatedly. That is what we do.
No one can guarantee that all consumers will follow reasonable rules, but good managers know how to follow every step to ensure communities are well managed for the benefit of all..
Vortex Managers is a network of trained vacation rental management companies who provide property owner clients with the resources of giant lodging corporations without the cost or delay. For more information on Vortex, call 206-504-2744 or email Info@VortexManagers.com. www.VortexManagers.com