The liability of rental property owners | Columns

This summer promises to be a blockbuster in terms of tourism. Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in the number of units used as short-term rentals in our neighborhood. It’s a trend happening across Cape Town as investors seek a slice of the billion dollar tourism pie from Massachusetts.

It started early this year and by mid-May the rental season was already in full swing in our part of the country. This quiet little dirt road has become a busy thoroughfare with cars coming and going at all hours of the day and night. Pathways and lawns that remained barren during the winter had become parking lots for large groups vacationing together.

Long before Memorial Day, the whole neighborhood was woken up at 2 a.m. to car alarms and screaming as a big party broke up. The first few days on the usually pristine beach were marred by discarded cans of Bud Light and White Claw. Several neighbors recently had to engage in a “chat” with a house of teenage tenants who raced down the road in their mother’s minivans. How they were even able to rent a house without adult supervision is confusing.

I was beginning to dread the summer.

But over the weekend, a revelation occurred in the lobby of a boutique hotel in New York City. The burden is not just on the tenants.

The receptionist was on the phone discussing the penthouse suite with a potential client. He firmly explained the hotel’s policy regarding occupancy restrictions, the documents that should be signed, and the large security deposit required to rent the room. He went on to explain that they were aware of the tendency to use these kinds of spaces for hosting large parties and that this was not allowed on the property.

Likewise, hosting companies like Airbnb and Vrbo have policies. They also provide homeowners with insurance and financial protection for accidents and on-site damage. Tenants and landlords can submit comments to each other. It’s a good system of checks and balances that ensures that all parties involved in the transaction are covered.

But it is not enough to set expectations. There has to be a follow-up. Hotels and guest houses are staffed. Potential problems can be fixed before they get out of hand. It is not that easy for a short term rental landlord to monitor their property, but it is not impossible.

Obviously, this is written under the premise that landlords want to be good neighbors, that they want residents around their rental units to be the kind of environment that they want to live in on their own.

These investors bought these homes knowing that they were not only in a residential area, but also naturally fragile and beautiful. They should do as much to protect this as their personal investment.

People don’t rent houses on Cape Cod to stay there all day. They come here to be outside. Homeowners should do as much to protect this as their personal investment. When you think about it, one affects the other.

Keep it personal: drop the lock box. Make sure someone meets and greets tenants when they arrive and when they leave. Even if you have to hire someone.

Explain the layout of the land: Some people want a private residential setting for R&R. Others would prefer to be in a more vacation-oriented place, surrounded by like-minded people. Renting the wrong place to the wrong person is not good for the parties or for the people around them.

Monitor: Use reviews on accommodation sites to monitor guests. Doorbell cameras, home surveillance services, management companies and yes even curious neighbors are great allies. All can bring peace of mind to both parties and deter bad behavior.

Dispositions: Provide tenants with plenty of trash bags and beach accessories to discourage leaving litter and unwanted items for others to clean up.

Education: Over the past two years, Sandwich has enacted a ban on plastic bottles and bags. Share this with tenants. Provide documentation that explains why these decisions were made. And ask them to leave the places they visit better than how they found them, so it’s just as advisable for their next visit.

Ms Caristi is a half-empty breeder and small business owner who resides in East Sandwich with her husband, Jason.


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