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Cornelius News

Opinion: HOAs should make short-term rental decisions

June 11. OPINION. By Lore Postman Schneider. Of every 10 Cornelius properties, nine are in a neighborhood governed by a homeowners association (HOA). So when it comes to a person’s property rights, I believe it’s the individual HOAs—not the town—that should drive certain decisions.

Front of mind right now are discussions heating up about whether—and how—short-term rentals should be allowed to operate within town limits. Why all the fuss? Two reasons. First, set to expire this year is a North Carolina law enacted seven years ago to let the town ban short-term rentals. Second is Mecklenburg County’s growing popularity with travelers.

The demand is apparent

Cornelius neighborhoods, in particular, are popular with parents visiting children who attend Davidson College, out-of-town business professionals meeting with Ingersoll Rand and Lowe’s, newcomers “trying out” neighborhoods before they commit, families needing overflow bedrooms when relatives visit, and people fishing and boating on Lake Norman. To that list we eventually will be able to add theatre goers attending performances at the new Cain Center for the Arts.

Over the years, I’ve talked with a number of short-term rental operators with properties in Cornelius neighborhoods. Most say they had checked their neighborhood rules before posting their ads on Airbnb. None of them imagined they could be breaking a town and state law.

Benefits

For years there was an active Airbnb rental across the street from where I live in a non-HOA neighborhood near the Lake Norman YMCA. If I happened to be nearby when a new set of renters pulled up, I’d take a moment to chat. Why this neighborhood, I always found myself asking, and why this rental house—described in guest reviews as “clean but outdated.”

Their answers were always the same: “There’s a kitchen for cooking,” or “I like to travel with my dog,” or “it’s quieter and has more room than a hotel.”

That neighbor made a good chunk of rental income, and because Airbnb asks visitors booking through their site to leave a review, he took extra care to maintain the yard, and to keep the house welcoming and in good repair.

Then that Airbnb rental owner was warned that he was breaking Cornelius rules and might be fined if his rental didn’t stop doing business. He took a break from those short-term stays and instead leased the house to a few college students. The grass grew long, leaves and sticks piled up, and the quiet comings and goings of short-term visitors were replaced by occasional blasts of heavy rock music and cars parked on the lawn.

Yes, there were problems

To be sure, there certainly exist short-term rental horror stories of big parties growing uncontrollably wild, renters throwing beer cans and trash on neighbors’ lawns, and the Lake Norman party house that in 2014 spurred Cornelius officials to ask NC Sen. Jeff Tarte for state-level help with a law enacted for only the town.

But those stories are the exceptions, and not the norm. In a discussion about short-term rentals last year, deputy town manager Wayne Herron told the town’s Land Development Code Advisory Board that in recent years no neighbors had called the police about short-term rentals causing problems. And the neighbors in some communities, he said, have even asked the town to let the short-term rentals continue because they’re so enjoyable to live next to.

Wayne Herron

Tax dollars

Those short-term rental homes also bring tax dollars directly to the Cornelius coffers. In 2018, Cornelius’ portion of collected Airbnb rental taxes added up to about $82,000. And unlike sales taxes, occupancy tax revenue stays entirely at the local level.

Getting back to the point of this piece, if decisions about short-term rentals are allowed to happen at the neighborhood level, property owners and the neighborhood boards they elected can decide what is — and isn’t — right for their community.

Let HOAs decide

So, please, commissioners, push the handling of all rentals decisions onto the shoulders of the HOA boards already making other property-rights decisions, like what color I can paint my door, what I can plant, and how I must keep my trash cans stored.

If Cornelius enacts a single town-wide law, not only will we lose thousands of dollars of easy revenue, the friendly travelers who want to experience the many sides of our wonderful community will find few places to stay.

Lore Postman Schneider

—Lore Postman Schneider is a former Charlotte Observer business writer, a Cornelius resident, and an avid thinker about all things real estate. Years ago she owned and operated a vacation rental house in Tennessee, but the rental properties she operates locally all have long-term renters in place.

Discussion

4 Responses to “Opinion: HOAs should make short-term rental decisions”

  1. I agree, let the communities’ HOA decide whether to allow short-term rentals or not. The HOA ‘s are governed by the specific community and usually make their decisions on the affect any given situation will have on property values.

    Posted by Nancy Brand | June 11, 2021, 5:23 pm
  2. I see plenty of homes both rental and owner lived in around the area of Washam, Pine, Church St where the properties are not maintained. Heavy mold growing on roofs, messy, cluttered yards, etc. College students are not the issue. ABB are not the solution. The homeowner needs to maintain the property. The landlord you speak of should have made arrangements for yard maintenance. I think this opinion holds little merit although I agree, in a HOA situation, the HOA should decide. Non HOA situation should not be decided by more useless legislation.

    Posted by Loren Caulder | June 12, 2021, 8:48 am
  3. Very biased view of short term rentals in a positive way. I imagine you rent yours out. Let me give another view. Living on the lake having neighbors who used to do short term rentals (until recently the HOA has banned the practice). 70 % of the renters were groups of people mostly younger who partied late, drank and were extremely loud. The outside was a mess and between the drugs and police visits threats were made against long time owners living in the neighborhood for complaints. This was with multiple renters over time. In a neighborhood in which the average home price is well over $500,000. So the rental was not cheap.

    Posted by John Dixon | June 12, 2021, 7:28 pm
  4. Agree John Dixon! Owners are responsible. Why would anyone turn their home over to a renter or an ABB and not maintain it. Why would you not check on what you are renting to? I think the issue is with the person who owns the property and not the person renting or doing the Air BB.

    Posted by Loren Caulder | June 13, 2021, 12:43 pm

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