How Do I Stop Neighbors From Using Their House as an Airbnb or Other Type of Vacation Rental?

Vacationing tenants of the neighbor driving you crazy?

Question

The people who own the house next door rent it out as a vacation place, I believe on Airbnb. 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 short-term rental? I want to be able to sleep again.

Answer

As with many neighbor disputes, it's often best to first try to resolve the matter informally. It's possible the owners are unaware of the problem, since they aren't around to witness it. Alerting them to your concerns 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, 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 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 else face a penalty, such as a fine.

Even if using the property as a vacation rental does not violate a zoning ordinance, it does not necessarily make the use lawful. Most jurisdictions have laws prohibiting nuisances and obnoxious noises. A nuisance is usually 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, among 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 is whether any private covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) prohibit short term vacation rentals or control noise. For example, if your house is a condo or townhouse in a subdivision with CC&Rs prohibiting 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's another option to consider. If the noise and partying is excessive, there may be a basis to claim "private nuisance." You can ask the court to award money damages as well as an injunction ordering your neighbors to immediately stop renting their property as a short term vacation rental.

A benefit to seeking only 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 need to file in a regular or circuit court. Before incurring the cost and risk associated with filing a lawsuit, consider mediation and talk to a lawyer.

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