On Handling (and Preventing) Vacation Rental Neighbor Complaints
Complaints from your neighbors about your vacation rental shouldn’t keep you awake at night.
Noisy, inconsiderate or simply unknowing guests might seem perfectly nice during the booking process, but there’s no limit to how much damage they can cause to your community relationships. Their behavior could even land you with an expensive lawsuit.
In this article, we bank on our years of experience in the kosher vacation rental business, as well as excerpted relevant points and tips from our rental insurance provider, for dealing with vacation rental neighbor complaints to help you diffuse conflict and prevent legal actions against you, the homeowner.
We’ll also look at what we do as a company to help prevent neighbor complaints from happening in the first place..
Let’s begin by looking at the types of actions neighbors can take against you and how you can respond.
Even before your first booking
Establish trust by meeting your neighbor in person, preferably before your first booking. Say hello. Get to know them. Hear out any concerns that they may have. Take them seriously. And explain to them how you will work to address their concerns. This preventative step can be the most important step that you take. Give them your number, and let them know they can call you with concerns.
Showing your face before any trouble arises and developing a relationship at this point changes the entire dynamic of your relationship with them in any future interactions.
What actions can neighbors take?
The actions your neighbors take will no doubt be determined by how affected they are by your inconsiderate guests.
On the one hand, a late-night party might result in a frustrated text from your neighbors.
At the other extreme, your neighbors might call the police if this happens frequently, or your guests damage property or cross property lines onto neighboring properties. This escalation would almost certainly sour neighborly and community relationships and could jeopardize the future of your vacation rental business entirely as well. Let’s have a look at the main actions neighbors can take and we as a company and you as the homeowner can deal with them.
A direct phone call or text from a neighbor is likely to be the first course of action for a minor annoyance like excessive noise. It’s obviously stressful to be ‘told off’ by your neighbors, but if you handle it right, you can stay on top of the situation and prevent it from escalating.
Taking the call or responding to the text with a call and expressing how sorry you are, can make a meaningful difference to how your neighbors feel about the incident. You can explain that you’re serious about tackling the problem and talk them through the steps you’ll take to resolve it. They’ll be more likely to come to you directly in future if you show consideration and if you fix the issue.
If their complaint is more general and about not wanting a short-term rental next door, you’ll need to employ your best diplomatic skills. Gently point out that you value their feedback, are working with a reputable rental company, and collaboratively will be doing your utmost to avoid negatively affecting their lives.
This will hopefully reduce your own stress levels too, as you’ll know you’ve taken positive steps to listen and respond to your neighbors’ justified concerns about having a vacation rental next door.
Report you to your Home Owner Association (HOA)
If your building or your street is part of a Home Owner Association (HOA), there’ll be rules and regulations governing behavior such as noise ordinances or use of communal spaces. These rules apply as much to guests as they do to permanent residents, and if your guests break these rules, your neighbors might go straight to the HOA to complain.
When dealing with your HOA, you’ll need to show that you have all the necessary permits in order plus permission from the HOA to host a vacation property. Once you’ve dealt with the original complaint, you can seek to mend your relationship with the HOA. Show them what steps you’ll take to improve your neighbor’s experience of your short-term rental property, for example:
- Guest screening
- Age limits to avoid high school and college parties
- A ban on parties
- Designated guest parking areas
- Limits on guest access to communal areas
- Check-in and check-out times restricted to daytime hours
Report you to your booking agency
Booking platforms, are aware of their impact on residential areas and aim to appease neighbors with web-based complaints forms. For example, there’s a Neighborhood Support page for Airbnb problems where neighbors can choose from a range of common complaints including excessive noise, parties, and personal safety.
When a neighbor reports a listing to the agency, the platform contacts the rental hosts to immediately investigate. At this point, it’s a good idea to show contrition and a willingness to change some rules if need be.
Use the opportunity to write a letter apologizing for the problems that led to the complaint and give some clear examples of how you plan to improve the situation. Your booking platform will typically report this back to the neighbor who made the original complaint, so be sure no to make empty claims. The neighbor who was annoyed enough to complain, must have faith that this was an isolated incident.
You’d be unlucky to lose your listing on the platform after one complaint, but booking platforms will blacklist properties for repeat violations, especially those on the part of the owner, their family members or guests who use the property during periods when the property has a vacancy from the booking agency’s side.
Luxury Kosher Villas, Florida Kosher Villas, and Lakewood Hosts all do not allow owners to rent parts of their property (such as pools, hot tubs, saunas, backyards, etc) outside of our agency at any time, to avoid the issue of parties or the like impacting neighbors.
While rare, it’s not unheard of for neighbors to take legal action against a vacation rental. However, lawsuits are so expensive and time-consuming that most people avoid them if they can.
Try to find a solution before you get to court. You could try to rebuild bridges with your neighbors by asking an independent mediator or Rav to attend a meeting with you and your neighbors. A mediator won’t have the same financial motivation as a lawyer and can help guide the discussion and give everyone a chance to express their views.
After a thorough clearing of the air, and a sincere apology from yourself, your neighbors might change their minds about moving forward with costly legal action.
If you do end up in court, at least make sure you have your paperwork in order and that the situation has been resolved. If a judge hears that your short-term rental is still the scene of noisy parties and antisocial behavior, you will very likely struggle to receive their sympathy.
Next up: How to prevent neighbor complaints