The abundance of attractions and businesses throughout California ensures that there is never a lack of travelers needing lodging. And with websites like Airbnb®, VRBO® and HomeAway®, it is easier than ever for people offering lodging and people needing a place to stay to find each other.
If you are on the board of a homeowners association (HOA), chances are you have already faced questions about how to handle short-term rentals in your community. Regardless of whether you consider them to be a nuisance or a differentiator, your HOA needs to have a policy that is clear and enforceable. Here are nine tips to help ensure that your HOA is on top of this growing trend.
1. Review your governing documents. Many HOAs were formed before short-term rentals became popular. As a result, their governing documents do not include a policy about them. Determine how well your governing documents address short-term rentals (or if they address them at all) and whether they specify rental length terms. If your policy is lacking, raise the issue at your next board meeting.
2. Survey residents. Before proposing any changes to your governing documents, survey the attitudes and opinions of residents to see if there is a consensus about short-term rentals. A well-equipped community management company can provide guidance and communication resources. Changing governing documents requires positive votes from a large majority of the owners, and it is often difficult to reach the required quorum.
3. Know the local laws. Regulations regarding short-term rentals vary widely among cities and municipalities in California. For example, Ojai and Anaheim ban short-term rentals completely. Some places, such as Laguna Beach, prohibit them in residential zones. Other areas require a business license. Many towns are still playing legal catch-up as the popularity of home-sharing websites increases. Make sure you are familiar with current and pending laws. Keep in mind that if your HOA’s regulations are less stringent than those of your town, the town laws take precedence.
4. Educate residents. Use a variety of communication channels to remind residents about regulations and the consequences of illegal short-term rentals. Some ways to reach out to your residents include holding special meetings and leveraging communication resources from your community management company to send email blasts or letters, post articles in community newsletters and make phone calls.
5. Conduct training sessions. Train board members, residents and staff about community awareness and how to handle suspicious or unauthorized guests. You may want to turn to your community management company to conduct this training or to provide resources.
6. Empower staff to enforce the rules. Community staff should have the authority to forbid unauthorized guests from entering the community. Depending on how your regulations are written, guests might only be allowed to enter if the owner is present or if they have written authorization.
7. Look for violators online. Periodically check sites like Airbnb®, VRBO®, and HomeAway® to see if any homeowners in your community are listing their homes in violation of your HOA regulations. Your community manager can then notify the owners of their potential violations and resulting fines, and request removal of the listing.
8. Document violations. Keep detailed records of violations and the steps you have taken to address them. You may need this documentation if legal action becomes necessary.
9. Impose fines and penalties. If you discover any violations, impose a fine or penalty on the homeowner, as per your governing documents. Speak with your community management company and HOA attorney to determine if and when you need to take legal action. Above all, be consistent in how you enforce your short-term rental rules.
Love them or hate them, short-term rentals are here to stay. HOAs in California need to be prepared in order to reduce potential problems.