Airbnb and other short-term rental companies have disrupted the hotel and vacation rental market. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. More options and more competition can lead to better service at better prices. It’s a win for consumers. But in this consumer’s case, these short term rentals are disrupting more than just the vacation market.

Noisy Neighbors

When Dara found her beautiful apartment overlooking the city of Atlanta, it was the perfect home. With a great view, great neighbors, and an up-scale building, she enjoyed her home. But recently, that has changed. Instead of an upscale building full of friendly neighbors, Dara has found herself at the epicenter of a short-term rental boom. It seems that many of her neighbors have turned to renting out their apartments through Airbnb to guests and vacationers who may be a little more rambunctious than your average long-term tenant.

Dara now has to deal with noise and mess she never got from the actual tenants. She’s even seen some fights, and now she doesn’t feel safe in her own building. But it seems like no matter what she does, no one is able to stop this prohibited practice from ruining her home.

No One Will Stop It

First, Dara notified her complex management. But even though they can see the listings on Airbnb, they claim there is little they can do to stop the practice. Next, Dara went to Airbnb directly to file a complaint, but it is unlikely anything will come of it. Dara was starting to run out of options. She thought she could go through the housing department, but they, too, said this was outside of their authority. So she reached out to TrustDALE for an answer.

What Are Your Options

Airbnb, Vrbo, and other short-term vacation rental companies have been successful in part because they operate outside the constraints on the standard hotel/motel industry. But some municipalities want to change that. In some places, local governments have banned the companies, and in others, they have required homeowners to apply for permits and pay hotel taxes.

However, in most places, including Atlanta, there are almost no limits on what homeowners can do with short-term rentals. So you end up with residential buildings and neighborhoods that were never zoned for hotel use that are now full of guests and short-term renters. But that may actually work in Dara’s favor.

The city’s planning and community development department oversees zoning and permits. If she can get them to look at these rentals as businesses operating in an area zoned for residential use, she may be able to get some traction. However, city departments move slowly. It may take ten business days for an inspector to check in on a complaint, and by then, the renters are gone. And many city departments are just not that interested in taking on these sorts of complaints. You can take pictures and videos to build your case, but it may be an uphill battle to get the department’s attention.

The next place Dara could look to is her local city council person’s office. Unlike bureaucrats, such as the employees at the city planning department, city council members are elected officials. That means that they can only keep their jobs by keeping their constituents happy. They may be more willing to intervene on your behalf to get things done in exchange for some good publicity and eventual votes. Many consumers are pleasantly surprised by what a council person can accomplish.

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