Sunday, November 10, 2013

Do you know what Air Bed & Breakfast is and how it might impact your community?

The concept of house swapping has been around for quite some time. You may be eyeing that scenic villa in Greece and the villa's owners might just want to come down to your place on the beach in South Florida. I've been tempted to look into this for a while but haven't yet done it.

There is a relatively new concept in housing, however, that doesn't require swapping an entire residence and it is gaining traction quickly as a way for people to earn a little extra money by renting out a room or rooms in their home, condominium or cooperative unit. This concept is called Air Bed & Breakfast.
This is not to be confused with another online service, Couchsurfing, in which hosts allow travelers to crash on their couches for free. This service is more often used by college students and only the most intrepid tourists.

If you haven't yet heard of Air Bed & Breakfast, it might be closer to becoming a reality in your community than you know. This San Francisco-based company was created in 2008 as a way to connect people in need of a place to sleep with spare beds in people's homes. Typically, the service grew out of the housing needs usually associated with special events like the Olympics, Super Bowl or mega conferences where hotel rates are exorbitantly high and room availability very low. Through the use of Air Bed and Breakfast, folks can post the availability of a bed or beds in their home on the site and for travelers who are willing to forego the amenities and security that a traditional hotel offers, it might just be a match made in heaven.

A recent search of the airbnb.com site showed several beds listed in the South Florida area with the average night rate of approximately $70.00. So what, if anything, does this mean for your HOA, condominium or cooperative community? Well, it may mean that some of the beds in your community may some day find  their way onto to the airbnb website. The possibility of this happening is likely to increase if your city or a nearby city hosts a very significant event. From an owner's perspective, this might be a nice way to supplement one's income and pay one's bills. From an association's perspective, Air Bed & Breakfast creates a security nightmare as well as enforcement problems. Given the very short-term nature of the occupancy, proving the violation is ongoing can be very problematic.

The concept of a virtual bed and breakfast service only underscores the larger topic of  how involved a community association board should be in terms of monitoring the people who occupy members' homes. Security and nuisance issues are the two reasons that will be used most frequently to support vigilant monitoring. Freedom, privacy and economic benefit will be the reasons used to support a "hands-off" approach to occupancy.

Battles over occupancy can be some of the most vexing and expensive lessons in a shared ownership community. Many, but certainly not all, association documents specify that only an entire unit or home may be rented and not just rooms. If your documents restrict leasing but not an arrangement that is really a quasi hotel night stay, you might want to consider an amendment to clarify exactly the type of use your community wishes to permit and the types it wishes to restrict.

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