Rogue short-term rentals back in focus

We revisit the subject after yet another tragedy in an authorized Sunnyvale Airbnb party house.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt once said, "the Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had."

Having practiced law on Airbnb's home soil, we have seen this anarchy all too often and it seems we have come full circle. Regulators and home-sharing companies have reined in short-term rentals with increased oversight and technological marvels to identify suspicious reservations, but people have found a way around these safeguards to beat the system.

We remember giving a speech years ago to the San Francisco Association of Realtors and explaining that with thousands of short-term rentals in the city, only 40-some properties complied with the City's requirement to register in a database.

We've come a long way since then, with municipalities and home-sharing companies clamping down on rules. It is no longer laizee faire.

Heightened enforcement, of course, was necessary from any manner of egregious conduct from guests and hosts. In this morning's headlines, we noticed yet another horrific shooting in a Sunnyvale property that was used as an unauthorized Airbnb rental for years.

This resurrects memories of a Halloween horror when gunfire erupted in the posh community of Orinda. As Daniel told the media in the aftermath of the massacre, local governments should amplify their efforts to regulate the modern-day iteration of the temporary flop and home-sharing companies should likewise step up their efforts to police the properties on their platform in order to become better corporate citizens.



Technology is not a panacea

Although there are dazzling tools to snuff out rogue rentals, there is no substitute for old-fashioned personal sleuthing. Like we've often said on the subject of tenant screening, many risks can be concealed and so technology cannot be used as a crutch.

A revolving door of strangers, excessive garbage, complaints of noise at odd hours of the day and night, lockboxes and other mechanisms to swap keys, and people toting luggage are some red flags.

An observant landlord or a property manager worth their salt can identify these telltale signs. Remember, our community needs to be the eyes and ears of our properties.


Parting thoughts

A recurring theme in our practice is encountering stale, templated, or obsolete leases. We want to ensure that we have a stipulation embedded in the lease that unauthorized subletting is disallowed.

We also want to proactively address this behavior at the first indication the tenant has turned their unit into a hotel. This has become more of a problem during the pandemic as people have sought greener pastures elsewhere and are short of money, or perhaps, moved elsewhere because they can work remotely.

Bornstein Law cannot put an end to the anarchy of the Internet, but we can help in enforcing the mutual covenants of a rental agreement.