Can you still rent out your property on Airbnb if you association says no?
Airbnb has become incredibly popular and is even working on going public and opening its own branded hotels. Many real estate investors and brokers swear by the great profits short term rentals can offer property owners. However, just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t always mean that you can too.
Despite how common buying property and renting it out on Airbnb and other short term vacation rentals websites may be, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is legal or allowed. The consequences of even unintentionally breaking these rules can be severe. At a minimum you may face additional taxes and very heft daily fines. In other cases, associations can become even more of a pain to deal with.
Renting Your House Out On Airbnb
Airbnb and similar short term rental sites have become so popular in investment and Realtor circles for their higher rents. In many cases they can generate 2-3 times the rent the same units would rent for on an annual basis. Realtors also enjoy the higher property management fees they can get from these units.
Although there has been a big outcry over how Airbnb may be destroying housing affordability and culture in some communities, it can be appealing. It may be helping some to afford their homes by renting out extra units, or to offset the cost of holding onto homes with mortgages when moving and waiting to sell a previous home.
There may be additional taxes, commissions, maintenance and management costs, but many seem to be excited about the pay off. In many cases these properties may rent for more than local hotel rooms on a nightly basis.
The Secret Superpowers of Associations
It is important to remember that Airbnb and short term rental of under 30 days are not legal everywhere. NYC is one of Airbnb’s major opponents. You can be found to be illegally renting your property or operating as a hotel without a license. In addition to the extra taxes, your city or county may have huge daily or per infraction fines. In the case of lower cost properties, these fines may quickly exceed the value of your property.
It’s obviously not hard for authorities to find out if you are renting out your home in this way. If they haven’t already automated the process, it only takes them 5 minutes a month to check the major short term rental sites and Craigslist and start mailing out fines to boost their revenues.
Even where there may be no specific law against it, individual condo associations and HOAs can have their own rules. They are incredibly powerful. Perhaps one of the most powerful organizations we have in the country.
Many may have created special rules to ban Airbnb style rentals. Even if you see your neighbors trying to get away with it.
There are many other association rules which can effectively block these rentals too. If you aren’t careful when buying and carefully read the fine print in those big stacks of condo by laws, you might be surprised at what you can’t do with your property.
There can be rules preventing you from renting out your property at all for the first 1 to 3 years. They may even try to put deed restrictions on reselling your property in the short term. You may even have to get special permission to have visitors or overnight guests.
Even in the absence of these regulations, virtually every association is going to have the ability to screen and approve any renter or buyer of your unit. This can be a long process. It can cost hundreds of dollars for a renter to apply. The approval criteria may be even tougher than for getting a mortgage or getting into a traditional rental complex. Make sure you know this process very well in advance of contracting to buy any units in an association. Know that these rules can be changed by the board at anytime too.
What if You Bought the Wrong Property?
What do you do if you bought a house or condo with the expectation of renting it for big money on Airbnb, and now can’t?
It’s probably not worth the risk of just trying to get away with it. It’s too expensive. Besides the fines, it can really cause a lot of friction with your association. They might stalk every visitor you have to the point it even turns off potential buyers and forces you into foreclosure.
Alternatives may be to:
- Rent it out on an annual basis
- Rent on a longer seasonal basis (6 months or more)
- Resell it conventionally or as a turnkey rental
- Move in
Airbnb style rentals can generate large amounts of income. However, just because it is popular, doesn’t mean you can do it with your unit which is in an association. Know before you buy. Stay involved with board meetings to stay ahead of changing rules. If Airbnb is your investment strategy, look for properties in areas where it is legal and avoid associations.