During the height of COVID-19, reports of short-term rentals (STRs) being used as house party venues resulted in a sharp 250% increase in complaints against STRs, as compared to the same period in the previous year.
Although STR platforms have since implemented measures to help prevent STRs from being used this way, any complaints against STRs–including those around parking, trash, and noise–can contribute to a loss of community support. If complaints go unaddressed, communities may resort to passing local ordinances that prohibit STRs from operating in certain areas and lose out on potential tax revenue and tourism appeal.
Addressing these concerns effectively is pivotal to maintaining harmony and satisfaction within a community. Here are 10 best practices to guide municipalities in expertly managing and resolving STR neighbor complaints.
1. Implement Robust Regulatory Framework that Meets Your Community's Needs
Before responding to complaints, it can help to have a solid regulatory foundation in place. For many communities, this means clear, detailed, and enforceable regulations governing STR operations. Whether that's about permissible noise levels, parking rules, maximum occupancy, or waste management, clear rules help set expectations for both STR operators and neighbors.
2. Empower the Community with a 24/7 Complaint Hotline
It’s safe to say that STR complaints don't always occur inside the 9-5, Monday through Friday window. Whether it’s an after-hours noise complaint or a visitor’s car parked in the wrong spot during the weekend, the unpredictability of issues arising from STRs necessitates an always-on response mechanism.
A 24/7 hotline offers community members an immediate avenue to report disturbances. This allows for issues to be quickly addressed and also reinforces trust within the community by assuring them that their concerns are a time-sensitive priority. Plus, every call logged provides a systematic record, helping municipalities identify recurring problems or repeat violators. This documentation becomes essential for any escalatory steps or policy revisions.
3. Provide Transparent Communication Channels
When it comes to STR complaints, communication is critical. Once a complaint is received, both the individual filing the complaint and the STR owner should be kept in the loop. Informing both parties about the complaint's status, the steps toward resolution, and any resulting actions being taken can go a long way. This helps to foster greater trust and ensures clarity of the complaint process.
4. Implement Clear Escalation Pathways
For those instances where gentle reminders don't suffice, having a clear escalation mechanism becomes critical. Depending on the municipality, this can range from formal notifications to increased inspections or even fines, depending on the violation. It is important that these escalation pathways are communicated clearly to both the community and the STR owner so there is greater transparency.
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5. Maximize the Insights Pulled from the Data
Utilizing software and platforms to manage and analyze complaint data can provide invaluable insights to municipalities. Understanding peak complaint times, areas of high disturbances, or patterns in violations can help municipalities fine-tune regulations and deploy resources more effectively to address community complaints. Apart from addressing complaints, technology can also be employed to gather feedback about the resolution process. Understanding community satisfaction levels and areas of improvement can guide training programs and policy adjustments.
6. Effective Prioritization of Complaints Assessing Urgency
Just as not all tasks can be outsourced, not all STR complaints are as problematic as others. A car blocking a driveway at night demands more immediate attention than a minor landscaping issue. Being able to swiftly assess and act on complaints based on their urgency ensures the efficient use of resources and leads to better community satisfaction. Implementing a prioritization checklist and using a system to track complaints can enable municipalities to identify the properties with repeat offenders to help determine the next steps and whether intervention is required.
7. Consider Hiring or Training a Dedicated STR Employee for Complaint Responses
Some municipalities opt to have a dedicated or trained point person to help address STR-related complaints. This role might specialize in handling these kinds of calls and the person is likely familiar with local STR regulations, steps to resolution, and efficient communication methods. Having dedicated response personnel on the ground is helpful, as they often have knowledge of local neighborhoods and STR hotspots. This familiarity can help in providing quick resolutions with a strong contextual understanding of complaints.
When a complaint arises, having someone deeply knowledgeable of your municipality’s STR ordinances, such as an STR compliance officer, can make all the difference for an effective response.
8. Regular Review and Revisions for Dynamic Regulations
Just as the STR landscape is continuously evolving, so should the regulations governing them. Some municipalities reconvene to regularly review and update policies to keep them aligned with current challenges, insights pulled from the collected data mentioned above, and community expectations.
9. Provide Community Education and Outreach Workshops and Seminars
Organize informational sessions to educate STR operators about regulations, best practices, and community expectations. Such proactive measures can significantly reduce the number of potential violations as well as improve community trust. Encourage STR operators to maintain open communication channels with their neighbors. Sharing contact details or setting up neighborhood WhatsApp groups can aid in resolving minor issues amicably without formal complaints.
10. Collaborate and Partner with STR Platforms
Lastly, municipalities should consider collaborating with popular STR platforms directly on ways to avoid complaints. These platforms can be instrumental in disseminating requirements to STR operators and renters from the start of the listing and booking process. This type of collaboration can include providing regulations and important rules, outlining tax obligations that are specific to certain municipalities, or conducting joint training sessions.
Is your municipality handling STR complaints effectively?
Managing neighbor complaints related to STRs isn’t merely about finding a fast resolution but rather about fostering community trust, promoting harmony, and facilitating a thriving local economy.
By embracing these 10 best practices for handling STR complaints and leveraging a trusted STR management platform that comes with a 24/7 complaint hotline, municipalities can strike a balanced approach, ensuring that the rise of STRs translates into benefits for all community members.