The idea of using Airbnb, home-sharing, or short term renting of one's condo or single family home has become popular recently. Just how good of an idea is this for the Condo Owner?
Websites such as Airbnb.com, HomeAway.com and others connect the home or condo owner with travelers looking for alternatives to hotel stays. The idea of staying in a comfortable home as opposed to a hotel room may be alluring for the traveler. This can be true especially in areas near beaches or in a major city like Boston. Hotel stays can be extremely expensive, causing a demand for these options. For the condo owner, the notion of being able to pocket some income on the side may be tempting.
However for condo owners in particular, unique problems with this concept exist because the unit owner's decision to rent to others impacts other residents AND may not even be permitted by condo bylaws, never mind state and local laws. In certain cities such as New York, renting for under 30 days is not even legal.¹ Massachusetts is currently considering regulating the short-term rental market.² In addition, those thinking about this should consider the following:
Safety in the Condominium when Renting on a Short Term Basis
When a unit owner rents their condo, the renter gains access to common areas such as walkways, hallways, lobbies, pools, gyms, etc. Is that renter paying directly to maintain these facilities? Do they take as much care and consideration as an owner would? Might they misuse anything? As vacationers, are they up late making noise? How will neighbors feel about the presence of strangers?
Speaking of safety, what happens if the renter slips and falls and is injured in a common area? Whether or not the Master Insurance will respond to a claim is a complicated question. Is short term renting allowed in the bylaws? Does the Master Insurance cover what is technically the commercial operation of renting to others? How will the insurance company react given notice of this sort of claim, and, how will that affect the other residents? The answers to these questions are highly speculative.
There may be risks for Airbnb customers as well. Hotels have safety features such as exit plans and fire systems that residential facilities simply do not have.
How Should Condo Associations Manage the issue of Airbnb and Home Sharing Activities?
According the The Washington Post, "many condo boards are taking strong steps to ensure that renters will not be renting out their unit..." The popularity of services like Airbnb are growing. Condo Associations should think carefully about taking a proactive approach to having guidelines in place as in relates to short term rentals. Many bylaws already have some sort of clause regarding renting, however, some additional items to consider:
- Any rentals to have a minimum rental period.
- Units may only be rented as a whole
- Rentals must be in writing, and must include a copy of the condo Rules & Regulations and Bylaws, to be submitted to the Board.
Other considerations may be in order. It is often best to consult with a professional management company and/or a lawyer when considering changes to the Bylaws or Rules and Regulations.
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