As the popularity of vacation rental properties has grown in recent years, so have the local ordinances designed to regulate and control them. Around the country, cities are struggling to develop rules that will address the 3 major complaints surrounding vacation rental properties: noise, trash, and parking.
While these ordinances are designed to protect neighbors and communities, they can also seriously affect a vacation rental property owner’s earning potential, said Ashley Colvin, TurnKey Vacation Rentals’ Sales Director in South Lake Tahoe.
In many cities, like South Lake Tahoe, there are laws on the books threatening to ban vacation rental homes entirely.
The best way to prevent these ordinances in your community is to get ahead of the issues of noise, trash, and parking before they become problems, she said.
“If you don’t, it could threaten the entire vacation rental property industry as a whole,” said Colvin.
Here are 7 tips to help you be a good neighbor — and a profitable vacation rental homeowner.
Screen Potential Guests
The secret to finding out if the people requesting to book your vacation rental home will be problematic guests? Ask them.
“The first thing our team does is ask a potential guest what brings them to Tahoe,” said Colvin. “If they say ‘bachelor party,’ they may not be the right fit for us.”
Asking a few key questions about a guest’s upcoming trip can help you decide whether you should move forward with the booking, she said. If you want to take things further, you can also Google the guest and search for their profiles on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. You can even pay for background checks.
When engaging with potential guests, make sure to outline the rules regarding noise, trash, and parking — which should be clearly stated in your listing.
“In our screenings, we go over all rules and regulations and let guests know what the fines are so they understand the repercussions,” said Colvin.
Learn how to effectively screen your guests.
Once a guest is booked, Colvin and the other property managers we spoke with suggested reiterating all the rules and regulations in a series of messages sent before a guest’s arrival.
These should be spelled out again at check-in. Once the guest is in the home, reinforce the rules with signage and easy-to-scan instructions. Get creative. Don’t assume that the big guestbook you created with a detailed list of noise, trash, and parking regulations will always be read by everyone in the home.
“We have a refrigerator magnet containing the main details for each rental, from the Wi-Fi password to garbage disposal accessibility,” said Lindsay Bolton, Marketing Manager at Finger Lakes Premier Properties, which supports almost 300 lakefront vacation rental properties in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. “We also put up signage at each rental property that notifies guests of the appropriate places to park and clearly outlines where they cannot.”
Install Technology in Your Rental
All vacation rental homes listed on TurnKey are equipped with a noise monitor. If the decibel level inside the home reaches a certain point, the property management team is alerted and they send a message to the guest asking them to quiet down.
“We usually tell guests there was a complaint in the neighborhood,” said Colvin. “For the most part, people calm down right away.”
Some homes are also equipped with a Ring doorbell, which helps the property management team see how many people are coming and going from the home. A special router allows the TurnKey property management team to track how many devices are vying for the signal, which can also help tip off when a home’s stated occupancy may be exceeded.
If you’re self-managing your vacation rental home, many of these tools are available on the market, said Colvin. Some homeowners may also want to install outdoor cameras to monitor the exterior doors and parking areas in real time.
But remember, it’s illegal to install cameras and sound-recording devices inside the actual home.
Talk to Your Neighbors
Many of the reasons cities enact strict ordinances is because people who live near vacation rental properties get sick of dealing with issues of noise, trash, and parking in their communities. To help ease your neighbors’ concerns, simply talk to them. (Or have your property manager talk to them.)
Introduce yourself, give them your phone number, and encourage people to call you immediately if there is a problem.
In cities where there are strict local ordinances, TurnKey’s property management team will canvass the neighborhood and hand out flyers instructing residents on how to report any issues, Colvin said.
The benefits go beyond preventing the police or code enforcement from showing up at your door. Being a good neighbor could be good for business in other ways. When your neighbors have company or family in town, they may prefer to put them up at a nearby rental rather than in their own home.
“Not only will neighbors trust you,” said Bolton. “They may also become your most important influencers when it comes to growing your business.”
Get Ahead of Potential Noise Issues
When working in strictly regulated markets, Colvin always discourages property owners from providing amenities that can cause excessive noise. It’s good advice for all vacation rental home owners.
“A built-in outdoor surround system is a great selling feature, but it may not go well with your neighbors,” she said.
Another thing to think about is the time of year and how the weather might affect how the home is used. For example, in the summer, your guests may want to open the windows to encourage airflow, Colvin said. If they forget to use their inside voices, they may bother the neighbors who are sleeping with their windows open next door. Get ahead of problems like these by installing window air conditioner units or reminding your guests of quiet hours.
Make It Easy to Handle the Trash
To prevent unpleasant pile-ups and smells, make it easy for guests to throw away their trash. And, more important, make it easy for them to follow the rules.
This can as simple as displaying instructions near the trash can and ensuring your home is equipped with enough bags and receptacles. If you’re self-managing, embrace a philosophy of “the more the merrier.”
“A vacation rental property generates way more trash than a normal residence,” said Colvin.
Exterior cameras can be used to monitor the trash areas, said Megan McCrea, owner and manager of Nashville Vacation Homes in Nashville, Tennessee. You can also use them to ensure there are no pileups in the common spaces.
Most cities offer regular trash pickup services. Work with your property manager and/or cleaning team to develop a process for getting the trash to the dumpster or roadside container.
Prevent Parking Problems
McCrea has a unique approach to getting ahead of parking problems: She discourages guests from bringing a car in the first place.
“Certainly this is contingent on location,” she said. “However, we encourage our guests to use ride-share
services as they’re often cheaper than renting a car.”
When a guest does drive in, McCrea’s team makes it clear what the parking situation is. If someone needs more spaces than a home offers, she also alerts them to nearby car lots.
TurnKey lets guests know in advance whether parking is available at the home and how many cars are allowed. This gives visitors plenty of time to make arrangements in advance.
By getting ahead of problems related to noise, trash, and parking, you’re being a good neighbor. And a smart business owner.
“It’s important to have your property managed in a way that is respectful of the community. Not only is it important to protect your neighborhood,” she said. “It is also important to protect your investment.”