October 30, 2018 Practice Points

How VRBOs Are Affecting All Parties Involved: Understanding the Issues Around Innovative VRBOs

A few key takeaways from a recent Young Advocates Committee roundtable.

By Demetrius Pyburn

Vacation rentals by owner (VRBOs) have become the popular way people find places to stay when traveling and for short-term stays. However, there are many issues and challenges that can emerge for renters and homeowners. Here are a few key takeaways on those issues that were discussed during a recent Young Advocates Committee roundtable on October 18 entitled “To Be or Not to Airbnb: How Renters and Homeowners Are Affected by the Innovative VRBOs.”

  • Ordinances from local government may violate homeowner’s rights. Some regulations and ordinances make it difficult to use different VRBO platforms. The enforcement of these ordinances has led people to violations of homeowners’ constitutional rights by individuals looking into homes, hopping over private fences, or crossing over private property to determine whether someone is renting in violation of those regulations.
  • The need to create side agreements for long-term rentals. While some VRBO platforms have terms of service, other platforms encourage homeowners and renters to enter into side agreements to protect their interests. Additionally, some homeowners have had issues with removing renters who have stayed past the length of their agreement, due to rules of some states regarding renters staying longer than 30 days.
  • The positive and negative effects of the vacation-rental industry’s impact on communities. Some of the positive impacts include the ability of homeowners to connect with renters and generate additional income from renting their extra rooms, allowing some homeowners to avoid eviction or foreclosure. VRBOs also bring in revenue to communities that do not normally host a lot of tourists. One negative impact of VRBOs is the decrease in the supply of affordable housing, due to some entrepreneurs and real-estate agents deciding to list the property as VRBOs instead of as affordable housing. It also affects housing prices and the hotel industry in general.
  • It is difficult to hold platforms accountable for the actions of hosts. Is it too easy for platforms to avoid liability for discrimination conducted on the part of their host? It is difficult to prove bias against VRBO platforms. The Communications Decency Act allows online platforms to avoid liability for the conduct of “third-party content providers,” which is what the hosts are considered.

Listen to this one-hour program and learn about these and other pertinent issues, on the Young Advocates Committee website. The recording of the roundtable will be made available soon.

Demetrius Pyburn is an associate with Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A. in Greenville, South Carolina.


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