The people who own the house next door rent it out as a vacation place. They do not live in the house and are rarely around. That means every weekend we have new temporary neighbors. These short timers stay up late enjoying the hot tub, drinking, and playing loud music.
How do I get my neighbors to stop using their house as a vacation rental? I want to be able to sleep again.
As with many neighbor disputes, it is often best to first try to resolve the matter informally. And in a case like this, it is possible the owners are unaware of the problem, since they are not around to witness it. Alerting them to the problem and suggesting solutions, such as posting “house rules” for the renters to abide by, may be useful. If an informal conversation is not beneficial, mediation might work.
In some U.S. jurisdictions, short term rentals are regulated. For example, to limit the number of vacation rentals in a single neighborhood, a city might not allow someone to use their house as a vacation rental if there is another vacation rental within 250 feet.
To see whether vacation rentals are regulated in your area, review the applicable zoning ordinance (also called a “development code”). If the zoning ordinance is unclear, you can call the local planning department for help or hire a land use attorney to help you determine whether any regulations or restrictions apply to the use of your neighbors’ property as a short term rental.
If you discover that your neighbors are using their house as a vacation rental in violation of the zoning ordinance, one option is to file a complaint with your local code enforcement department. The code enforcement department will investigate the use of the property. Through this process, your neighbors will receive notice of the complaint and pending investigation. If code enforcement confirms a violation of the zoning ordinance, your neighbors may be ordered to stop using the property as a vacation rental or face a penalty, such as a fine.
Even if using their property as a vacation rental does not violate the zoning ordinance, it does not make the use lawful. Most jurisdictions have laws prohibiting nuisances and obnoxious noises. A nuisance is generally defined as: “something that interferes with the use of property by being irritating, offensive, obstructive, or dangerous.” There may also be noise regulations that prohibit, amongst other noises, “any yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling, singing or other human-produced noise that is unnecessarily loud.“ Noise and nuisance regulations are usually enforced by the local law enforcement agency, so you will need contact local law enforcement. A call from the police may serve as a wake up call for your neighbors.
Another thing to consider, in cases like this, is whether any private covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) prohibit short term vacation rentals or control noise. For example, if your house is in a subdivision with CC&Rs that prohibit loud noises after 10 p.m., you might be able to file a complaint with the homeowners’ association.
Although a lawsuit involves time, money, and risk, it is another option to consider. In cases like this, if the noise and partying is excessive, there may be a basis for a claim for "private nuisance." In a lawsuit, you can seek to recover money damages, as well as an injunction that orders your neighbors to immediately stop renting their property as a short term vacation.
A benefit to only seeking money damages is that, if the amount is below the jurisdictional limit in your state (for example, $10,000), you can file the lawsuit in small claims court. If you seek more than the jurisdictional limit or seek an injunction, you will have to file in circuit court. Before incurring the cost and risk associated with filing a lawsuit, consider mediation and talk to a lawyer to make sure a lawsuit is a good idea.
Excessive noise can have a negative impact on your quality of life. If informal attempts to revolve the problem are unsuccessful, you should contact an attorney to resolve the problem as soon as possible.