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Condo associations and vacation rentals: A recipe for conflict?

Florida is known for tourism and condominiums. Yet those two things don't always go hand-in-hand. The rise of vacation rental websites like Airbnb and VRBO has raised difficult questions for many condo owners associations (COAs). While individual unit owners reap a steady stream of income from short-term rentals, they often pose endless headaches for others in the condo community. Snowbirds and investors who essentially turn their units into hotels can jeopardize the quality of life for year-round residents. As a result, for many residential condo developments, setting limits on short-term rentals (or outright banning them) makes a lot of sense.

How short-term rentals cause problems

Vacation rentals can be a recipe for conflict stemming from problems such as:

  • Noise complaints and disruptions
  • Security concerns
  • Risk of damage to communal areas
  • Increased wear and tear
  • Lowered property values

Because online bookings don't allow for the background checks that factor into long-term tenancies, they make condo communities more vulnerable to crime and property damage. They can also impact the minimum occupancy requirements for FHA financing.

Considerations for COAs

Given the prevalence and popularity of vacation rentals, COAs can't afford to ignore the issue. A carefully considered policy should be clearly spelled out in the association's governing documents and, from time to time, revisited. The policy should cover:

  • Whether short-term rentals are allowed (and if so, under what conditions)
  • Enforcement measures, including procedures for monitoring and investigating violations as well as methods for resolving disputes (typically through arbitration)
  • Penalties for violations, which usually include fines

Some communities do choose to allow vacation rentals, but with restrictions. For example, they may require preapproval to limit the number of rented units and to ensure responsible management. They may also require minimum stays (commonly a week) to avoid frequent turnover.

COAs that do allow vacation rentals should proceed with caution. Consider enhancing your community's security measures to ensure that residents are safe. Make it clear that guests are expected to follow community rules, and keep those rules prominently posted so they don't get overlooked.

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