Short-term rentals can sometimes lead to long-term neighbor problems

The number of people who rent a home or condo while on vacation – instead of a hotel or motel room – is skyrocketing. This can be a great thing for a vacationer, who may get a lot more space and convenience at the same or lower cost.

But it’s not necessarily a great thing for neighbors, particularly if several homes in a neighborhood are rented on a frequent basis. On a quiet residential street, short-term rentals can create a variety of noise, parking, congestion and trash problems.

Increasingly, the issue is resulting in disputes and even court cases.

Many communities have laws on the books that ban or severely restrict rentals of less than a month or even less than a year.

The explosion of vacation rentals is partly due to the weak economy. Owners of vacation homes often decide to rent them rather than try to sell them in a soft market. And struggling homeowners may rent their own homes to make ends meet, particularly if they live near a vacation area or the location of a local festival or event, such that for a few weeks a year a rental may be very profitable.

The trend has also been driven by the Internet, where websites such as HomeAway, FlipKey and Airbnb.com allow homeowners to advertise their property to a worldwide audience at a relatively modest cost.

But the trend often irks neighbors, who complain that vacation renters play loud music, take up parking spaces, generate garbage, and otherwise lower property values and disrupt the character of the neighborhood.

These neighbors often have a legal point. Many communities have laws on the books that ban or severely restrict rentals of less than a month or even less than a year.

Often, these laws were enacted many years ago and were aimed at rooming houses and at people who took advantage of immigrants and transients by offering substandard, unsafe accommodations. But the laws are still on the books, and while many communities haven’t bothered enforcing them recently, some are starting to take another look at doing so.

Also, many condominiums and homeowner’s associations have rules that prohibit or restrict short-term rentals.

Some communities are rewriting their laws as a compromise, allowing short-term rentals but requiring homeowners to get business licenses, submit to regulation, and collect and remit the same sorts of taxes that hotels do.

If you’re thinking of offering your home as a rental, be sure to talk with an attorney first to find out what the rules are and what you’re legally required to do.