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Will Renters Ruin Your Retirement?

Category: Retirement Real Estate

May 10, 2022 — People living in a retirement face a new and growing problem – short term renters. While the problem is more acute in resort communities, it can occur almost anywhere.

Imagine living in a peaceful community where you know your neighbors on a first name basis. Then one day you wake to see strangers dragging suitcases down the hall, not sure where they are going. Confused about which unit they are renting, they might even try to get into yours. When when you hit the hay at 10 or so, the party next door is just getting started, their alcohol-fueled voices getting louder and louder over their music. The next day at the pool you find that you can’t get a lounge chair, all of them taken up by your new neighbors as they enjoy their music, smoke, and drink beer from glass bottles. The renters, who might have crammed 3 couples into a 2 bedroom home, have helped to fill the parking lot too.

Sound improbable? Not really, this growing problem is happening in neighborhoods all over the country. Long term snowbird rentals are rarely a problem, the biggest headaches come with short term renters. Coming for a week, or even a one or two night stay, these folks have more interest in having a good time than being a good neighbor.

A double edged sword

On the flip side to the problems they cause, short term rentals have their fans. In fact, chances are you have used one yourself and loved the experience. They are a great alternative to hotels, often providing more room and comfort at a better price. Homeowners love them too. Many people now depend on Airbnb and similar services for some or even all of their income. If you can rent out your home while you travel, or a portion of it while you are there, the rental income can be considerable. For example, you could rent part of your home for 100 days a year at Florida’s average 2021 rate of $217, and put $21,700 in your pocket. In resort areas popular with tourists, home rentals can be much higher than that.

The market is so good that in many areas investors, who purchase homes with no intention of ever living in them, are crowding out other buyers. They usually aren’t looking for long term rentals either, their goal is to book as many short term rentals as they can.

Our Short Term Survey

In 2019 we had a Member survey about short term rentals. The results were interesting, and in fact we would love for you to add your opinion if you haven’t already (survey link). Although 3 in 5 respondents have used a service like Airbnb, a surprising 78% would consider renting out their home on a short term basis. Most respondents are against rentals in the neighborhood where they live now (66% are against). They also believe these rentals should be regulated, with 77% thinking that local communities should be the ones who do the regulating. Only 28% believe that short term stays should be allowed for a week or less.

Here is what one Member said about short term rentals: “Single family homeowners should probably have the right to rent their homes on a weekly basis, but not nightly. There are plenty of lodging opportunities for people who need nightly rooms. Local government and condo boards should have the authority to restrict rentals to monthly or longer because of higher density, shared walls, parking, etc. If my condo board allowed AirB&B, VRBO, etc. I would want to sell and move. Too many sellers depresses the market and results in lower sales prices and loss of equity.”

Another had an opposing viewpoint: “In a fifty-five or better community short term rentals would be a godsend waiting while trying to decide if you like it, or waiting for your home to be built, but it would also be important for potential renters to be made aware of issues with the home and neighborhood as well as a detailed expense list.”

Adding to the affordable housing crisis

Marketing Science, a journal, found that in 2021 Airbnbs often caused increased rents and sale prices, particularly in neighborhoods with lower owner occupancy rates. Investors looking for short term rentals tend to price out lower income buyers and renters in resort areas, worsening the crisis for service workers and long term residents who were already having a problem finding an affordable place to live. In addition it can squeeze out retirees looking for their best place to retire.

Cities, towns, and HOAs wrestling with the problem

No property owner wants to be told what he or she can do with their home. Yet without any rules about short term rentals, it can feel like the wild west. Regulating all of this is complex and difficult. In municipalities the discussions are usually intensely heated, with different interests pitted against each other. The same goes in HOA’s, which might already have rules in place that some people want to change. Both groups might run into opposition from their state or county. In Florida, for example, an array of competing big money interests are making huge political donations in an effort to pass State laws that would restrict local control. While the hotel industry wants to restrict short term rentals to cut down on competition, Airbnb and outfits like HomeAway want to get rid of restrictions like the number of days that homes can be rented. Without corporate clout, homeowners tend to lose out.

Your bottom line – due diligence

If you are looking to buy a home somewhere, or even rent as a snowbird, there is a new item to add to your due diligence list. You need to find out what, if any, rental restrictions there are. Talk with your neighbors to see what is happening, not just in your community, but in the town itself. The last thing you want to do is buy a home or book a three month stay, and then find out that there is a non-stop party going on next door, with a continually changing cast of characters coming and going.

If this is a problem in your town, get involved. Although short term rentals are much less likely in a 55+ active community with minimal amenities, it could. If your community is struggling to create rules around short term rentals, be careful, and do your homework. Changing bylaws and association rules is complex. The advice of an attorney is essential.

Here is what one of our survey takes said about the issue: “Our community just approved new rules for renting-only 3 rentals a year and the minimum is 30 days. No advertising on VRBO or similar sites. I wish it was a minimum of 90 days but it is a start. Buyers need to ask about these details before purchasing. We also have rules about investors owning multiple properties-they cannot own more than 3 and they have to live in one of them. During the recession investors bought up big blocks of units and that has become a problem in many communities.”

Comments? What is happening in your neighborhood with rentals? Whether they are short term or longer, we would like to hear. Please let us know in the comments section below.

For further reading:
2021 Snowbird Survey Results
Take our Member Poll: Short Term Rentals

Villages_News: Renters Can Ruin a Retirement Community

Posted by Admin on May 10th, 2022


  1. This is a problem no one in our 46-year established community expected to have, but it showed up suddenly and badly. Even with large, heavily wooded lots, one decision to rent short term resulted in excessive short term renters (even exceeding septic limitations), loud overnight parties, and renters angrily refusing to cooperate. Even calls to the sheriff had minimal results. Our community is now embroiled in costly and devisive efforts to limit or eliminate the concern. For our part, we are far separate from that major disruption, but long-term renters next to us have breached our peace and quiet and allowed their dog to run free threatening wildlife and peace. We are on the fringes of the Research Triangle area of NC which, while not a resort, is a burgeoning tourist area. We had thought renting out our home or mil apartment might be a source of income , but no longer. Unscrupulous or uncaring investors can seriously impact a quiet community.

    by RichPB — May 11, 2022

  2. In our 55+ condo community in SE Florida, rentals of six months or less have never been allowed. And if the renter leaves before the six months has ended, the owner is not allowed back in until the end of the six month period. This is to prevent the owner from beginning a six month lease with the intent that the tenant will only stay a week or so. Consequently, we don’t have an issue with short-term rentals and tenants. As the article indicates, due diligence about rentals in the community you’re considering is essential to avoid the issue of short-term rentals spoiling your peace and quiet. Of course, some buyers want to make sure short-term rentals are available, because they want the rental income when they’re away, Many choices for what your needs are, but know before you buy. A lot of buyers receive the HOA rules before closing, but never read them or have a lawyer review them. Not a good idea if you want to avoid unpleasant surprises.

    by Clyde — May 11, 2022

  3. I live in a town that is a tourist destination. There are many STRs in our town; one is next door to me and the house across the street will soon be one. Our residents tried to put a cap on the number – a committee was formed, many hours went into coming up with a reasonable plan, several meetings were held. But the very short-sighted town council made no move to limit the numbers. Now it seems nearly every house being purchased becomes a STR. It is not pleasant for those of us who live near them. There are constantly new people in and out and it prevents the sense of community we seek. I will leave this area as soon as I can figure out how and where, and I will not be moving to a tourist destination. I’ve learned my lesson.

    by Jes — May 11, 2022

  4. Jes, that is very helpful information; what area/region do you live?

    by Sally — May 12, 2022

  5. Welcome to Arizona with no local municipality control over short term rentals thanks to Gov. Ducey. Once again property prices have soared like the last real estate bubble but “this time it’s different” thinking continues. We own two non HOA properties in tourist destinations and they are being snapped up by short term rental buyers. Paradise Valley has an ordinance against timeshares which also destroy neighborhoods. Pacasa was scouting properties recently in our community but now claims “at this time” to look elsewhere. “Homes not hotels” is a forum where residents in Scottsdale recount their hellish experiences with short term rentals. In Sedona, the local population dropped below 10,000 resulting in different local government interface. Very few long term rentals are available and vital community jobs are open without workers living nearby (nearby Cottonwood rent rates are up dramatically.) The municipalities are trying to get owners to register their rentals to collect the correct taxes. Crime rates and police calls increase disproportionately in short term rental areas. Who cares about the white van staking out the neighbor’s home? Just another service van for a house where you don’t know who lives there? A thief can search “short term rentals near me” and find a bunch of short term rentals and target your neighborhood. And, as others mention, lobbyists for the short term rental industry claim they are just helping mom and pop survive and keep their family home. Marriott just entered the market. Don’t kid yourself. This is a business and not about individual homeowners rights. It’s a mess and hopefully the next Governor and State legislature will reverse the statute.

    by Ksw — May 12, 2022

  6. Sally – Beaufort, SC

    by Jes — May 12, 2022

  7. As has been noted, this is a problem affecting many, many communities. Most communities with HOAs have limits on short-term rentals in their documents, but those that do not are often over-run with them, particularly if they are close to the beach, a major city, or other desirable attractions.

    In Sedona, Arizona (Arizona has very friendly short-term rental laws), it’s severely affected the community: “In 2019, the school district closed one of three elementary schools. The high school
    graduating class is down to about 50 students, about one-half of what it was five or six years
    ago. The district has now added 7th and 8th grades to the high school so the building can be
    fully utilized. Little league baseball and football programs are no longer organized because
    young families are leaving the city.”

    This is the future if this trend continues unabated. This is what happens when local control is removed, and this is the thrust of many laws that have been proposed.

    Read this:

    You need to question your local representatives about their stance, and show up at meetings and protest the proliferation of short-term rentals. Be sure to read any HOA documents, and ensure they are clearly spelled out. Many people (and I’m one of them) wanted a community that is just that – a community – and not rotating groups of nightly or weekly groups without ties to the community.

    And, check your governing documents if your community has them. They can be changed, but it’s difficult, because you need a lot of votes to overturn existing documents.

    Jan Cullinane, author, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life, 3rd edition (Wiley, May 2022)

    by Jan Cullinane — May 13, 2022

  8. Short term renters can definitely be an occasional problem. We had someone rent our unit and used it to host a big wedding party at the condo pool – we found big chafing dishes in the closet! Neighbors complained about the music.
    The worst offenders come home drunk and then continue to have a loud party when they return, slopping their drinks in the elevator.
    In our condo association you cannot rent for less than a week, and even then you have to have a transient license from the town. I cannot imagine the chaos if one or two night stays were permitted.
    That said, my wife and I often stay at Airbnb or VRBO properties and really love most of them. And most renters are very pleasant and well behaved. The few bad apples create big problems.

    by John Brady — May 15, 2022

  9. We like to leave our SE TN home and rent for the month of February near Venice FL, to enjoy the beaches. Most of the developments require a 3 month minumum. Due to my health issues, a 3 month stay is impossible. I’m not certain if it is an ordinance or just a preference of the various developments. If anyone knows of rentals in that area by the month…..please let me know whom to contact. We have been homeowners in tourist areas all of our lives, and wouldn’t dream of causing a raukus! We always try to leave a rental better than we find it. Thank you kindly.

    by cap — May 15, 2022

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