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COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION
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Be Aware of Alternative Property Uses By: Ian C. Mullenhour

When it comes to short-term rentals, Airbnb has become a household name. Whether you’re traveling and need a house, apartment, or condominium for a short period, chances are you will turn to Airbnb or similar platforms. Short-term rentals not only offer families traveling together a chance to stay under one roof but also provide property owners with an opportunity to earn extra income.

Many associations have already addressed the issue of short-term rentals by creating restrictive covenants that either ban property rentals outright or put minimum rental terms in place, typically stating that rentals cannot be for terms of less than 30 days or 1 year.

Although short-term rental platforms like Airbnb are the most common way for property owners to earn income, there are other platforms that allow property owners to leverage their property in alternative ways. Here are just a few examples:

  • Curb Flip allows property owners to list their garages or driveways for rent on an hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly basis to park extra vehicles, RVs, boats, and more.
  • Sniffspot lets dog owners rent private backyards at a host’s property to have their own private dog park for the day.
  • With Swimply, property owners with pools can post them for rent by the hour, allowing anyone to experience owning a private pool for the day.
  • Neighbor is another platform where property owners can list their basements, spare rooms, or even just a spare closet for rent on a monthly basis.

Although these platforms may seem harmless, concerns arise when property within an association is used outside of its intended residential purpose. Property uses such as those listed above can lead to increased traffic and parking violations, noise, and nuisance complaints, and have the potential to increase the association’s liability. The question is, what can an association do to stop owners from using their property in these ways?

Association boards should review their governing documents to determine if there are restrictions against commercial use or if they have the authority to create rules regulating property use. Many associations’ governing documents contain commercial use restrictions that broadly define “commercial” to include non-residential purposes such as business, commercial, manufacturing, storing, vending, and more. These provisions are in place to reduce the burden on association common elements and prevent commercial activities from becoming nuisances to neighboring owners and the community in general.

The board should consider narrowing the definition of “commercial use” either through an amendment or through rules and regulations to tailor the use restriction to the community’s needs. The board may agree that Tupperware parties are okay, while running an auto shop out of a garage is not. Like Airbnb, platforms offering alternative property uses of all types continue to grow in popularity. As a result, boards must ensure their association’s governing documents address them appropriately.