By Roberto C. Blanch / Published October 2019
Condominium associations and HOAs throughout South Florida as well as across the country are seeking effective responses to the problem of short-term rentals that are in violation of their rules and restrictions. These unauthorized rentals, which have become prevalent with the growth of Airbnb and other online home-sharing platforms, can create a revolving door for guests with none of the prior screening and background checks that are typically performed for new residents and tenants.
As many associations have already realized, enforcing rules and restrictions against short-term rentals can be very challenging. Savvy unit owners have been known to sneak their transient guests into properties by advising security that their visit is authorized.
As such, enhanced vigilance and guest-screening measures have become necessary, and many associations have developed and implemented new registration forms for use with guests and tenants, along with written assurances and noncompensation statements indicating they are not paying for their stays.
That may not go far enough for some associations, with owners who are highly determined to rent their units. For some, it has become necessary to retain a private investigator to gather and document incontrovertible proof that restricted rentals are taking place.
Licensed private detectives can effectively investigate homeowners and tenants in violation of association bylaws and CC&Rs that prohibit turning units into short-term vacation rentals. Also, court actions may become necessary against some unit owners who flout the rules, and the evidence obtained by these investigators as well as their testimony can be very helpful in these proceedings.
Another option is offered by several service providers who have sprouted up to help associations and other landlords monitor and detect listings for rentals of their properties in the leading home-sharing websites as well as Craigslist. These companies use automated and proprietary search applications and algorithms to find and report listings in their clients’ communities and properties. Once the listings are identified, some offer additional investigation and enforcement services to help associations and landlords take the necessary steps to stop the rentals. Look for short-term rental monitoring and compliance in all the major search engines to find and research these options.
In addition to these monitoring and enforcement measures, the implementation of a clear fining or suspension policy, if permitted, is also essential for associations to address unauthorized short-term rentals. This will typically entail the adoption of a new rule in which all the fines and other consequences are delineated.
Some associations are responding by taking a more lenient approach and adopting new amendments, bylaws, or rules to limit the number of nights a residence may be rented, which can offer a level of flexibility for owners while also avoiding the possibility of creating a constant flow of unfettered short-term guests.
Unit owners partaking in short-term rentals of their units need to be mindful of local laws or ordinances that may further restrict or govern the practice at their location. Condominium boards and management have also identified violations of such laws/ordinances as the basis for enforcement actions against unit owners.
The growth of Airbnb and its competitors in today’s sharing economy appears to have no end in sight. By working with experienced association counsel and utilizing these strategies and services when necessary, community associations can effectively enforce their rules governing short-term rentals.
Roberto C. Blanch
Partner, Siegfried Rivera Law Firm
Roberto C. Blanch is a partner with the Siegfried Rivera law firm and a regular contributor to the firm’s community association blog, www.FloridaHOALawyerBlog.com. He focuses on community association law and represents associations throughout South Florida. The firm maintains offices in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, and its attorneys focus on construction, real estate, community association, and insurance law. For more information, visit www.siegfriedrivera.com or call (800) 737-1390.