Handling (and Preventing) Vacation Rental Neighbor Complaints
Complaints from your neighbors about your vacation rental can literally keep you awake at night. Noisy, inconsiderate 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’ve put together a list of tips for dealing with vacation rental neighbor complaints to help you diffuse conflict and prevent legal action.
We’ll also look at how you can prevent neighbor complaints from happening in the first place and the tech solutions you can use to keep a closer eye on the people coming to your property and how they behave when they get there.
Let’s begin by looking at the types of actions neighbors can take against you and how you can respond.
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 your guests damage property. This escalation would almost certainly sour neighborly and community relationships and could jeopardize the future of your vacation rental business.
Let’s have a look at the main actions neighbors can take and how you should 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.
Establish trust by meeting your neighbor in person. Showing your face. and expressing how sorry you are, can make a meaningful difference to how your neighbors feel about the incident. In this meeting, 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’re following all the rules and have the necessary permission for the rental, but you also value their feedback and will do your utmost to avoid the rental 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 platform
Booking platforms, like Airbnb and Vrbo, 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 platform, the platform contacts the rental hosts to investigate. At this point, it’s a good idea to show contrition and a willingness to change some rules.
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. You can use the same points listed in the previous section on introducing guest screening, age limits, and banning parties.
Your booking platform will report back to the neighbor who made the original complaint so they must have faith that this was an isolated incident.
You’d be unlucky to lose your listing on a platform after one complaint, but booking platforms do occasionally blacklist properties for repeat violations.
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 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 might struggle to receive their sympathy.
How to prevent neighbor complaints
The best way to deal with complaints is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Knowing you have preventative solutions in place to avoid neighbor complaints will improve your emotional state and reduce the risk of any more unpleasant confrontations. Here are our tips for keeping your neighbors happy.
Establish clear lines of communication with your neighbors
Start your relationship with your neighbors on the right foot by talking with them before you list your home as a short-term rental property. Take them a gift, like some homemade brownies, listen to their concerns, and reassure them you have a tourist permit and the permission of the HOA.
At this point, you can tell them that you won’t allow parties and will set clear house rules so your guests know they have to respect the neighbors and the residential area.
To keep each other updated on any issues, swap contact information. And, depending on the proximity of your property to theirs, you could send your neighbors a quick message a couple of days before each new guest arrives so they know what to expect.
Set clear house rules
You’d like to think that everyone knows how to behave, but it doesn’t hurt to set clear guidelines on what you expect from your guests. At least, you’ll be able to point them to the rules if they end up breaking them.
In particular, vacation homeowners should be clear on any issues that could upset neighbors like:
- Appropriate times for coming and going
- Quiet hours
- A ban on excessive noise levels, especially at night
- Parking spaces and rules
- Instructions for using communal spaces like the pool or gym
- Information about taking out the garbage
- Limits on the number of people allowed in the property one time
Your guests often appreciate knowing the boundaries before their stay, and your neighbors certainly will.
Screen your guests
Guest screening will help you avoid troublemakers and reduce complaints. You can establish your own screening criteria and reject guests that don’t communicate clearly or have bad reviews on their Airbnb guest profile. But appearances can be deceiving, and it’s not difficult for guests to create a new profile to get past your filters.
Using screening software from Safely is a more reliable way to vet your guests. It uses criminal background checks and Safely’s own database to alert you to visitors who have caused problems in the past.
Safely’s objective scoring system also means you’re protected if you cancel a booking, and don’t risk losing your Superhost status which can happen if you can’t show a good reason for rejecting a booking.
Key features of Safely guest screening
- PMS integration. Set up guest screening to sync automatically with your property management system
- Easy-to-use process. Rental hosts just provide a name, birth date, and address
- ID verification. So you know your guests are who they say they are
- Objectivity. Safely cross references your guest’s details with multiple databases and gives them a risk score so you can make an informed decision about which bookings to take
- Legal protection. Safely follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). They handle communication with guests if you decide to reject them for having a low-risk score
- Community relations. The ability to reject guests with criminal records and a history of causing damage to vacation homes will reduce the number of complaints you receive
Market to a certain crowd
Obviously, you should never judge a book by its cover, but some groups of guests, like teenagers and bachelors or bachelorettes, make more noise than others.
You can try to avoid this type of group by setting limits on guest numbers or designing your short-term rental property to attract families with guest rooms tailored to couples with children. You can also arrange furniture to limit the chance of your guests turning your living space into a dancefloor.
Use noise monitoring tools
There are smart solutions available to help you keep track of noise levels and make sure your guests aren’t having parties or inviting people over who haven’t paid to be there.
Minit offers a smart home sensor that automatically alerts you if it detects noise or crowding in your property. You can set decibel thresholds for day and nighttime, and a duration limit which will help detect a party.
Party Squasher is another guestnoise monitoring system that uses a sensor synced to a mobile app. When the number of devices connected to your WiFi exceed your pre-set thresholdsdecibel thresholds are breached, it sends you an SMS or email to warn you.
Both systems give you the chance to catch the increasing indicatorsnoise of a party before it escalates, so you can gently warn your renters before your neighbors start to complain.
Airbnb has officially banned parties in all its property listings. Obviously, there are civilized parties that don’t involve loud music, bad behavior, and damage to your vacation rental property, but the easiest way to avoid problems caused by rowdy parties is to ban them completely.
Most booking platforms let you choose the ‘no party’ option when you set up your preferences. Then, if a guest gets in touch to ask if they can use your place to celebrate their mom’s 80th birthday, you can use your discretion to allow it.
Check-in Check-out times
Limiting the times when guests can check in and check out will reduce the noise they can make with wheelie suitcases, car doors slamming, and excited chatter during nighttime hours. You can even limit check-ins to the weekend, which will have the added bonus of encouraging longer stays.
Standard–and civilized–vacation rental check-in times are 3:00 PM-10:00 PM with check-out between 10:00 AM-12:00 PM.
Getting into a long-drawn-out conflict with your neighbors over your vacation rental is terrible for stress levels and might even land you in trouble with the authorities.
But, as long as you’re complying with local and HOA rules and show a willingness to compromise, you should be able to deal with most issues as they arise and continue to grow your vacation home business.
Even better, you can avoid most complaints from happening in the first place by screening renters, setting clear house rules, and using smart tech like noise monitoring tools to stop a party before it gets going.
And when you use Safely for guest screening, we’ll assign every guest a risk score to help you decide whether you want them in your home.
You’ll get peace of mind that your property is safe. And you’ll know your neighbors are getting a good night’s sleep.