This summer is predicted to be a blockbuster in terms of tourism. Over the last several years, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of homes being utilized as short-term rentals in our neighborhood. It’s a trend that is happening all over the Cape as investors look to get a piece of Massachusetts’s billion-dollar tourism pie.
It started early this year and by mid-May, the rental season was already in full swing in our neck of the woods. This quiet little dirt road became a busy thoroughfare of cars racing back and forth at all hours of the day and night. Driveways and lawns that sat barren during the winter had become parking lots for large groups vacationing together.
Well before Memorial Day, the entire neighborhood was awakened at 2 AM by car alarms and shouting as a large party was dispersing. The first days on the usually pristine stretch of beach were marred by discarded Bud Light and White Claw cans. Several neighbors recently had to engage in a “discussion” with a houseful of teenage renters who were racing up and down the road in their mom’s minivans. How they were even able to rent a house without adult supervision is perplexing.
I was starting to dread the summer.
But over this weekend came an epiphany in the lobby of a boutique hotel in New York City. The onus isn’t only on the renters.
The desk clerk was on the phone discussing the penthouse suite with a prospective guest. He firmly explained the hotel policy about occupancy restrictions, documents that would need to be signed and sizable security deposit required to rent the room. He went on to explain that they were aware of the trend to utilize these kinds of spaces to throw large parties and that was not allowed on property.
Similarly, hosting companies like Airbnb and Vrbo have policies. They also provide property owners with insurance and financial protection for accidents and damages on site. Both renters and owners can submit reviews of each other. It’s a good system of checks and balances that ensures all parties involved in the transaction are covered.
But just setting expectations is not enough. There has to be follow-through. Hotels and guest houses are staffed. Potential issues can be addressed before they get out of hand. It isn’t quite so easy for a short-term rental owner to monitor their property, but it isn’t impossible.
Obviously, this is written under the premise that property owners want to be good neighbors, that they want for the residents around their rental homes the kind of environment they want to live in themselves.
These investors purchased these houses with the knowledge they were not only in a residential area but one that is both naturally fragile and beautiful. They should be doing as much to protect that as they do their personal investment.
People don’t rent homes on Cape Cod to stay in all day. They come here to be outdoors. Homeowners should do as much to protect that as they do their personal investment. When you think about it, one affects the other.
So, how do they do that?
Keep it personal: Ditch the lock box. Make sure someone meets and greets the renters when they arrive and when they leave. Even if you have to hire someone.
Explain the lay of the land: Some people want a private residential setting for R&R. Others would prefer to be in a more vacation-minded locale, surrounded by people who are in the same mindset. Renting the wrong place to the wrong person isn’t good for either party or the people who are around them.
Monitor: Use hosting site reviews to vet guests. Doorbell cams, home watch services, management companies and yes, even nosey neighbors make great allies. All can provide peace of mind for both parties and will deter bad behavior.
Provisions: Provide renters with plenty of trash bags along with beach paraphernalia to discourage leaving trash and unwanted items for others to clean up.
Education: In the past two years, Sandwich has passed a bottle ban and plastic bag ban. Share that with the renters. Provide the documentation that explains why those decisions were made. And ask them to please leave the places they visit better than how they found them, so it is just as desirable for their next visit.