Neighbor Issues When You Rent Out Your Home on Airbnb, VRBO, or Other Rental Services

Take these steps to forestall neighbor complaints and disputes when renting out your home to short-term guests.

By , J.D. · USC Gould School of Law

Most people who rent their homes or apartments on a short-term basis through websites such as Airbnb, VRBO, or Craigslist have neighbors. And these neighbors might not be thrilled by having temporary residents next door or down the hall. They might simply feel uncertainty or unease as to who's coming and going nearby. Or, they might encounter very real problems, such as guests who make too much noise, block driveways, or party at all hours.

Complaints from neighbors can make your life as a host miserable, and contribute to strained relations when you're at home. If you're a renter to begin with, your landlord might, upon receiving complaints from neighbors, force you to stop all short-term renting of your unit on pain of eviction. (This assumes your landlord allows short-term rentals to begin with; many don't, and include anti-subletting clauses in their leases.)

If you own your home, you don't have to worry about getting evicted. But you do have to worry about whether your short-term rentals violate your city's local zoning or housing laws or if short-term guests violate noise ordinances. If so, neighbor complaints could lead to fines and other penalties from your local government.

Fortunately, such problems are avoidable, by taking the steps described below, including:

  • establishing a cooperative relationship with your neighbors
  • screening guests before accepting the rental, and
  • being proactive in addressing neighborhood needs and interests.

Cooperate With Your Short-Term Rental Property's Neighbors

Typically, people who rent out their apartments or homes short term never bother to tell nearby residents about it. Your neighbors might see strangers wandering about with no idea who they are or why they're in your building, space between your houses, or next door.

The best way to avoid problems with neighbors when you engage in short-term renting is to cooperate with them. Here are some tips on doing so.

Tell neighbors about your rental plans. Let them know that you'll be renting your home or apartment on a short-term basis, and that they might be seeing strangers around the building or in your home. You could even hold a happy hour or house party to make your announcement to neighbors. Depending on how close you are with your neighbors, you might decide to email them every time you rent out your home on a short-term basis.

Be available when short-term renters are in your home. Give your neighbors a phone number they can call to report to you any problems that might occur, such as excessive noise. If a neighbor complains, take care of the problem immediately and let them know you have done so.

Provide short-term guests with your contact information. Encourage them to get in touch with you regarding any questions or about your property or neighborhood (and not to pester your neighbors).

Consider a carrot approach to help with neighbor relations. Offer your neighbors the ability to rent your home or apartment at a discounted rate—for example, when their relatives or friends visit from out of town. This will not only make your neighbors happy, it will help drum up more rental business for you. Your neighbors could turn out to be some of the biggest boosters for your short-term rental business.

Screen Short-Term Airbnb and Other Renter-Guests

The best way to avoid complaints from neighbors is to carefully screen your guests. You're asking for trouble, for example, if you rent your one-bedroom apartment for the weekend to a group of ten college students. Don't overcrowd your home.

Once you do choose guests, prepare a list of house rules. Make it clear to anyone staying in your home that they may not engage in wild partying or other disruptive activities while renting your place.

Many sites, such as Airbnb's "Become a Host" section, include guidelines for communicating with and screening guests, and collect ratings and input from their past hosts.

Respect Your Neighborhood

Consider and respect the nature of your neighborhood. Is it an extremely quiet or purely residential area? In this event, too-frequent rentals could lead to neighbor complaints, even if your guests are perfectly well-behaved. You might wish to limit your short-term rentals to just a few times a year. On the other hand, if you live in a lively area where people are constantly coming and going, you can feel free to rent more often.

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