If you survey news articles on short-term rental regulations, you will quickly see that nuisance issues often bring about the restrictive ordinances we are seeing rise across the globe.
All too often, these types of nuisance complaints are solved by rules that are already on the books and enforced equitably for all residents and visitors, all property types, and at all times of the year. Communities can often find a better solution for nuisance complaints than new laws or hiring more enforcement staff. They can engage professional property managers and let market innovations take charge.
I recently sat down with David Kraus, CEO of NoiseAware about what these laws mean and how innovation can help fix the problem.
Why did you start Noise Aware?
Kraus: I started NoiseAware because of the biggest crisis of my real estate career. I got into managing short-term rentals, as millions of others have, to participate in a truly global, fun, unique activity. I loved meeting folks from all over the world. I also prided myself on being a great neighbor and community member.
Then disaster knocked on my door. Well, Christina actually just rented my property on Airbnb and unbeknownst to me until it was far too late, she destroyed my reputation by throwing a massive party. My neighbors were not going to forgive me, and I didn't even know about the issue until the police report came two days later.
I then realized that noise nuisance issues were an existential threat to not only my rental management business, but also my reputation in the community.
In a chance encounter at the Dallas Entrepreneur Center, I met a brilliant electrical engineer and programmer named Andrew Schulz. He would ultimately create the custom technology that could save me from a similar fate next time. Our invention was a real-time, privacy safe noise nuisance monitoring system.
It saved my short-term rental business then, but ultimately, was such a necessary product for the industry that we built NoiseAware.
You have traveled the country talking to short-term rental groups, city councils and other governing bodies advocating for the industry. What are some key points you make in relation to nuisance issues like noise problems?
Kraus: I make the point that noise nuisance issues are solvable. NoiseAware created the "Rent Responsibly" movement because nearly all participants in the short-term rental and vacation rental industry are responsible renters, hosts, managers and travelers. Technology can help those folks who are ultimately responsible for their guests’ behavior proactively respond to noise issues within five minutes. When NoiseAware notifies me that I may have an issue at my property, it usually takes one friendly text message reminding my guest of the quiet hours or house rules and the problems go away in minutes, not hours.
Our data has shown this over and over again.
Legislation that focuses on compliance and enforceability will win, but the concept that technology can help legislators and stakeholders more rapidly reach a middle ground, balancing all stakeholders needs, rights and concerns, is what I support.
You conducted a “noise audit” last year to determine if short-term rentals were louder than other types of residential properties. What brought about this study?
Kraus: We worked with HomeAway for the study and they have been a fantastic partner for NoiseAware. They are forward thinking and doing everything they can to bring data to the table.
Cities and elected officials do not have the ability to commission studies and all the big companies in this space want reasonable and practical legislation. Since NosieAware is technology that brings really interesting and illustrative data to the table, a partnership to conduct the studies with HomeAway was a natural fit.
What did the study show?
Kraus: The studies are still being completed, but the most interesting early results are that the frequency of noise nuisance issues in short-term rentals is in line with long term rentals. Owner occupied homes are, on average, the least likely to have noise nuisance issues.
It's also interesting that only a small percentage of all the properties in our study exhibited elevated frequency of noise nuisance issues. I think the study shows that short-term rentals can be great neighbors and with few exceptions, have very infrequent issues.
What can we learn from this project?
Kraus: More studies and more data will help. Education and best practices are critical too as the more travelers know, the less likely they will cause any issues.
Do you find that policy makers are open to the concept that innovation and technology can help alleviate their nuisance problems instead of just adding more layers of regulation?
Kraus: Yes. Most of them "fall out of their chair" when they realize that enforcement can begin with the responsible owner, manager, or host. Elected officials and city administrators want to keep their constituents happy. Noise nuisance issues are undoubtedly the top issue at most city halls and certainly the most heated. When NoiseAware brings data and solutions to the "party house next door” anecdote fight, the calculus of what can work and what is "reasonable and practical" completely changes.
We are in a world surrounded by technology, and NoiseAware is leading the way in tabling the noise issue. The noise issues are real, but innovative solutions bring about compromise and solutions.
It's only a matter of time until we reach that middle ground, but we work every single day on this and will not stop. It's too important.