To Rent or Not to Rent
Many of our residents are suffering from the noise and bad behavior of the tenants at a few local homes. There are parties and noise and traffic. There are septic failures that threaten our waterways. Every resident is entitled to the quiet enjoyment of his or her home, and that is not happening because of a few careless homeowners. Advertisements for these homes online suggest that they are great for “groups” and in some cases they claim to sleep up to 18 people. Reports of people standing on the docks and cursing and shouting loudly have shocked the attendees at the last board meeting. A number of residents have banded together to address the board and insist on help for these conditions, and they deserve relief immediately. No one should have to live with constant noise and discomfort. (To read their letter click here.)
At first glance, it seems that the obvious solution is to disallow rentals completely within our community. I have heard this suggestion more than once, but I believe it is too soon to take such a drastic measure that will impact the ability of all homeowners to rent their homes. Before punishing all homeowners for the actions of a few, I believe the community needs to look at the issue of enforcement.
Anyone who has read our vast collection of Rules and Regulations and the Covenants that govern our community can see that we have many, many rules already on “the books” that are rarely, if ever, enforced. A rule that is not enforced is often worse than no rule at all, because when people see that they can break a rule with no consequences, they are likely to break even more rules in the future. Later, when a situation such as this one comes up, and we try to enforce our rules, we may find that those rules are declared invalid because the situation was tolerated for so long, or because they cannot be selectively enforced.
We are not the only community to struggle with these issues. A recent USA Today article describes the concerns of communities that too many renters drive property values down. It also points to the fact that restrictions on rentals mean fewer ways for an owner to make money to pay a mortgage, and so, make properties in that community less attractive to new buyers. Also, with the current economy, many homeowners are only able to make mortgage payments (and payments for dues) because of the rental money they make on their properties. Rental restrictions could lead these homeowners into foreclosure.
So, what are we to do?
Not having a law degree, and not being an expert on community law or property values, I cannot claim to have the answers to this problem, but even I can see that there are a number of rules that are being broken in this situation, and I wonder what is being done to remedy these infractions, and what actually can be done.
Our current rental rules require that the owner submit an “Intent to Rent” form prior to each and every rental, and they also state that the community may charge a registration fee. Failure to register a tenant carries a $200 fine. They also state that the rental must be to one “tenant family” which seems to disqualify these large groups that are advertised for these homes online. Another requirement states that each renter over the age of six must have association issued identification when using the amenities (which includes the lakes). Our rules on public nuisance say that “a $200 fine will be issued for any conditions that will disturb the peace of the community” and “any conditions that will disturb the peace from 10:00 PM to 7:00 AM will result in the fines being doubled if you do not abide to these rules.” Perhaps enforcement of this rule, consistently, would alleviate many of these problems. A homeowner who is not diligent in selecting his or her renters and who is subjected to fines because of their behavior will lose the money made from the rentals and will likely be more careful in the future. We also have fishing rules, and lake and beach rules, and swimming rules that are being broken.
The board will have to work within the limitations of the budget and the staff of our Public Safety department in crafting a plan for enforcing the rules we have in place, but there must be a plan. Township officials have been contacted regarding the septic system matter, and this is a good first step, but we must do more. We cannot allow the business and monetary needs of some residents to destroy the comfort and happiness of others, and we should not create a new set of rules that will unfairly restrict responsible homeowners while those who are not responsible continue to ignore all the rules.
Posted on October 6, 2012, in BOD Meetings, In the News, Opinion and tagged Board of directors, Emerald Lakes, Emerald Lakes Association, HOA, Homeowner's Association, Public Safety, Regulations, Renting, Township, USA Today. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.