Clearing the AirBNB: How Florida Condo Associations Can Manage Private Hosts

Do you know your neighbor? Not the person who owns the property or unit next to you, but the person or people staying there tonight? Here in the Panhandle and along our beautiful beaches, in particular, there’s a significant chance that the current occupants of any given property are there as overnight or weekly guests of the owner, who is sharing their place through AirBNB, VRBO, or other home-sharing platforms. While this booming sector of the “sharing economy” certainly offers lucrative opportunities to property owners and affordable vacation alternatives for visitors, it can present challenges to condominium owners and condo associations. Managing these challenges in a way that minimizes conflicts and honors everyone’s rights takes communication, thought, and planning.

Thousands of AirBNB Rentals in Northwest Florida

As a vacation mecca, northwest Florida unsurprisingly has thousands of properties available for rent through AirBNB. According to AirBNB, as of May 2017 the following number of properties are currently listed on the site:

  • Pensacola: 600 units
  • Fort Walton Beach: 466 units
  • Santa Rosa Beach: 655 units
  • Miramar Beach: 858 units
  • Destin: 1,236 units

Many of these units are condominiums. But given the relatively recent rise of these hotel-like transactions, it is highly likely that such arrangements were not considered or accounted for when the condominium association’s controlling documents were drafted. As owners figure out the extent to which they can monetize their unit (or units), condo boards must determine the extent to which they can or want to restrict such rentals.

Existing Governing Documents May Not Address The Issue

The first step is to look at the existing restrictions in the development’s governing documents to see whether they are implicated by AirBNB rentals. Many already have provisions that limit the rights of owners to rent their property, though those restrictions no doubt contemplated subleases and longer-term rentals. Since a one or two-night AirBNB stay doesn’t really fit into the definition of “lease” and is usually over by the time neighbors or the board gets wind of it, challenging an owner’s rights under existing leasing restrictions is usually a tall order.

Similarly, any restrictions on guests or occupancy may be of little practical effect since guests come and go so quickly and frequently, and any actions taken would be after the fact. If your documents contain nuisance provisions, it is doubtful that simply hosting guests in exchange for compensation would constitute a “nuisance” in and of itself. Unless the guests are actually interfering with other owners’ use and enjoyment of their property through their conduct, nuisance clauses are not particularly relevant.

Modify Your Documents and Have Open Communication About AirBNB Issues

If your board has concerns about AirBNB guests coming and going and wants to exert greater control over home-sharing arrangements, you should modify your governing documents to specifically address the issue. You can add a provision that makes clear that the listing of a unit on sites such as AirBNB is a violation of association rules. Alternatively, if you are not inclined or unable to include such a blanket prohibition, you can place narrower limits on AirBNB rentals, such as limiting multiple unit owners to one listing, or requiring that the names of any guests be provided to the board.

Of course, boards and associations should start by having an open and honest discussion among association members about whether and how they can make money off of their units by sharing them with others. As with almost all issues that arise in condo associations, clear communication about AirBNB can help neighbors and boards avoid unnecessary conflict.

If you have questions about AirBNB, home-sharing, and how such arrangements impact your Destin condominium association, we can help. Moorhead Real Estate Law Group provides seasoned representation for all forms of common ownership property throughout northwest Florida. This includes condominium associations, cooperative associations, commercial condominium associations, mobile park associations, and homeowners’ association attorneys.

To speak with an experienced Destin condominium lawyer at Moorhead Real Estate Law Group, please call our downtown Pensacola office at (850) 202-8522 or tell us about your needs online.

This is not intended to be legal advice for any specific situation and the reader should consult their attorney regarding their situation.