No Airbnb host or property manager wants to handle an irate neighbor complaining about late-night noise coming from the vacation rental next door. And they definitely don’t want to deal with law enforcement or security intervening in a noise situation. Having a privacy-safe noise monitor that measures decibel levels, but does not record guests, installed at the property, can prevent both of these management headaches.
But there are other reasons for needing a noise monitoring device that may not be as apparent. They are, however, just as important. And sometimes they can lead to a significant loss of income, and even the loss of a short-term vacation rental property altogether.
Pro-Tip: Inform guests upfront. Airbnb, VRBO and other short-term-rental platforms require hosts to disclose that the property is equipped with a noise device. Include this disclosure with information about wifi, carbon monoxide detectors and security cameras.
A large number of short-term-rental property hosts operate “long-distance rental properties.” This means properties that are located at least a few hours’ drive away from the host, or possibly in another city or state. In these cases, a privacy-safe noise monitor helps by measuring noise and alerting the host when noise exceeds an acceptable level. The host can then opt to text the guests a gentle reminder to lower their volume a bit, wherever they may be. In more than 75% of cases, the noise problem is completely resolved with just this initial text.
For short-term-rental property managers who handle multiple properties in different areas, remote noise monitoring can cut down significantly on labor costs. Noise detection software can easily be integrated with other management technologies more efficient noise mitigation from anywhere, at anytime.
Because all short-term-rental property settings are different, it’s important to have both an indoor noise monitor and an outdoor noise monitor with customizable noise thresholds. You can set the allowable noise level for your property’s situation to best accommodate neighboring houses. If neighboring houses are directly adjacent to or very near your short-term rental, noise monitoring is a must. By setting the noise threshold at a volume that cannot be heard by neighbors, you protect your property against noise complaints and potential law enforcement intervention.
Privacy-safe noise monitoring is essential technology for short-term-rental condos, apartments and townhomes. Noise complaints and fines can become a major issue when neighbors share a wall with a short-term-rental unit. A privacy-safe noise sensor set to the proper noise threshold can ensure that neighboring units are not bothered by noise, even from a unit directly upstairs, downstairs or next door.
This need is expanding as a much-discussed new “flexible living model” gains traction. Flexible living refers to multi-family communities where residents can freely rent their space, with the understanding from neighbors and management that short-term guests will stay on the premises. In some of these cases, noise monitoring is integrated with access control, cleaning services and other STR needs.
Cities like Austin, Las Vegas, the Coachella Valley’s desert cities, and numerous Florida destinations are renowned for their nightlife, festivals and concerts. So it’s no surprise that these cities tend to draw college students, young guests, and groups looking for a place to party. While each of these cities has its own noise ordinances and short-term-rental noise rules, vacation rentals in all of these areas can benefit from noise monitoring.
The first step in protecting your property is thoroughly screening guests before booking, and avoiding red flags. Be wary about booking guests with limited or no rental history, or poor reviews from previous hosts. Also, make sure house rules are clearly stated in your listing (“no amplified noise at any time,” “no audible noise between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m,” “no parties or events,” “no smoking,” etc.). And, because even the most respectful of travelers can get a little rowdy when visiting town for a bachelorette bash, bowl game or spring break, have a noise-measuring device installed to remind guests to take it down a notch if needed.
A significant portion of vacation rental property managers report using noise monitoring to protect against false noise complaints. Sometimes, neighbors don’t like living next to a property that is permitted as a short-term rental. They may have experienced past noise problems, or they simply may want to get the property shut down as a short-term rental. While privacy-safe noise detection does not record sounds, it does store data about decibel levels, which can later be used to defend against false noise complaints. Often, simply letting neighbors know that your property is equipped with a noise monitoring device will deter them from making false complaints. If a neighbor does complain, being able to show hard data to the contrary can help resolve the issue.
While excessive noise doesn’t always lead to property damage at short-term vacation rentals, damage is frequently preceded by excessive noise. By resolving excessive-noise events as soon as they happen, noise detection curtails behavior that may result in damage. A gentle text reminder to guests to lower the volume can prevent up to $5,000 in property damage annually (see item #4 above!).
This one is a no-brainer: If your city requires proof of noise-monitoring as a permitting condition, you need a noise sensor. While not all cities or counties require proof of a noise detection device in short-term vacation rentals, some do. And more are expected to as short-term-rental demand continues its unprecedented growth trend. Does your permit ordinance stipulate a noise detection device? Make sure you opt for a sensor that measures decibels only and does not record guests, for privacy-protected peace of mind, for hosts, managers, guests and neighbors.
Natasha Garber covers short-term-rental industry trends, news, regulations and compliance for NoiseAware. Her posts on STR property management technology, privacy-safe noise monitoring, and licensing laws can be found weekly on the NoiseAware blog.
Like owner-occupied homes and long-term leases, Airbnb rentals have neighbors. And those neighbors aren’t always thrilled to live near a short-term vacation rental property. Research consistently shows that short-term-rental neighbors worry about one thing more than any other: noise. In fact, neighbor concern about noise ranks higher than concerns about parking, trash, smoking or general safety.
When guest noise is a problem (and sometimes even when it’s not) neighbors are likely to complain. They may complain directly to the rental’s guests, or they may contact law enforcement or security to intervene. They may also lodge complaints with the rental’s property management company or owner.
However or wherever neighbors voice noise complaints about Airbnb rentals, these complaints can cause serious problems for STR owners and property managers. A vacation-rental guest who has been yelled at by an angry neighbor may retaliate with a negative property review on Airbnb. A neighbor complaint lodged with a city’s short-term-rental licensing department may result in hefty fines for the property owner. Repeat complaints may lead to revocation of the property’s short-term-rental permit altogether. In short, neighbor noise complaints can hamstring vacation-rental marketing efforts and deeply cut into short-term-rental profits.
But by taking a handful of proactive steps, short-term-rental property managers and hosts can prevent most, if not all, Airbnb neighbor noise complaints.
Nobody likes to feel caught off guard or left in the dark. So don’t let your short-term vacation rental be a surprise to neighbors. Communicate to neighbors that your property is being rented out as a vacation accommodation. Express that you are invested in the neighborhood. Let them know you care about the security and comfort of the people who live next door to or near your Airbnb rental.
List out the steps you are taking to ensure that guests are quiet, well behaved and respectful (guest vetting prior to booking, house rules that must be followed, remote noise monitoring). You may even consider offering your Airbnb property to neighbors’ own visitors at a special “friends and neighbors” rate. And, of course, make sure your neighbors can get in touch with you immediately if they need to.
If your short-term vacation rental property or properties are managed by a professional property management company, find out how the company notifies neighbors of new STRs adjacent to them. Ask how they respond to neighbor noise complaints. Find out how you can expect to be informed about complaints. Get their complaint-response policy in writing, including liabilities and exclusions.
Fortunately, guest vetting services and smart Airbnb sleuthing make this step fairly easy. Before accepting a booking through Airbnb, look at the guest’s rental history. Read the potential guest’s reviews. Are they consistently positive? Do previous hosts describe them as quiet and friendly? Good communicators?
The simplest way to avoid Airbnb neighbor noise complaints is to rent your property to guests who are unlikely to make excessive noise. This means guests with an established short-term-rental history and positive reviews from previous hosts. It also means enforcing occupancy limits. You may also consider requiring multi-night minimum stays, especially on holiday weekends and during events.
Reliable, experienced short-term-rental property management companies typically have strict guest vetting policies. Since property managers are responsible for maximizing nights booked and minimizing unanticipated expenses, they focus on getting positive reviews, and preventing noise-related penalties and damage.
Airbnb, Vrbo and other booking sites have “house rules” sections on property listings that you can customize. Customizable fields generally include maximum occupancy (don’t rent a two-bedroom condo to a group of 10). They also include fields for special events (where you can prohibit parties and events) and minimum stay (two nights or more are recommended for holidays, festivals, concerts and events).
Letting guests know they will be charged penalties for violating house rules is a great way to prevent noise, and neighbor noise complaints. These rules, and reminders about penalties, should be included in booking and pre-stay correspondence, and be on display at the property.
Being able to remotely monitor noise gives short-term-rental property owners and managers greater power to prevent complaints and damage. Privacy-safe noise devices measure decibel levels and duration of noise. They do not identify specific sounds or record sounds. These devices can easily be installed during a cleaning turnover between bookings. Once installed, they can be monitored via mobile app or website. Guests are reminded via text message to take it down a notch if things get too loud. Most of the time, this gentle reminder takes care of the noise problem without neighbors being bothered, or getting involved. Industry research has shown that a single night of rental not protected by privacy-safe noise protection can lead to unplanned costs of up to $2,500.
Noise monitor data can also help property managers and owners defend against false noise complaints. Let’s say that a neighbor complains that a nearby Airbnb rental is the source of constant noise, simply because they don’t want a vacation rental in their neighborhood. Decibel data measured by a noise sensor can help prove that excessive noise did not, in fact, take place. This documentation can mean the difference between expensive fines or a revoked permit, and enjoying the benefits of well-reviewed, well-maintained, profit-generating investment property.
Some cities and counties actually require noise monitors to be installed in order to obtain a short-term-rental permit. Even if not required by ordinance or permitting rule, a privacy-safe noise detection device is an excellent tool to protect property, rental profits, and neighbors’ rights to a quiet neighborhood and a peaceful night’s sleep.
In his April 2021 CNBC interview, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky predicted, “To meet the demand over the coming years, we’re going to need millions more hosts.” That’s millions more owners and managers, offering houses, apartments, condos and private rooms to leisure and business travelers seeking the flexibility, convenience and privacy of a short-term rental or vacation rental. So how does a new STR investor or experienced host take advantage of this expanding demand, while making their property stand out in an increasingly crowded field…and generate greater and more consistent profit? By following these four guidelines, for starters.
The best way to increase your vacation rental income is to ensure consistent occupancy. And the best way to do that is by making marketing your top priority. It’s not enough to just list your rental property on well-known short-term vacation rental portals like Airbnb and VRBO. To really maximize booking frequency and get top dollar for your property, you have to expand your exposure, and show off your rental’s best assets beautifully.
Photos are the single most important factor potential guests consider when viewing your listing. No matter how delightful your property description or glowing your guest reviews, if your photos don’t show your rental in the best possible light, guests are unlikely to book. Stage your rental space meticulously by opening curtains, hiding trash cans, neatly stacking or hanging towels, making all beds, fluffing sofa cushions, and adding a few “extras” like flower-filled vases or a few cookbooks in the kitchen.
Then have a professional photographer photograph your rental, or shoot high-definition images with a high-quality digital camera yourself (not your mobile phone), inside and out. Room photos should show different angles, while exterior photos should showcase featured spaces like the firepit, lounge area, deck or pool.
Maintaining your rental property and preventing guest noise, occupancy limit violations and unruly behavior isn’t just a matter of neighborly consideration. These steps are directly connected to your vacation rental income. Why? Because frustrated neighbors may interact negatively with your guests, impacting their experience and, ultimately, their reviews of your property on listing sites. This may happen when guests are in violation of rental rules. However, it also may happen when they’re not technically breaking rules, but are still creating real or perceived problems for neighbors.
In some cases, neighbors may complain to you during or after the disturbance. Or they may take a more direct route and contact the police. If your guests are behaving in violation of your rental rules or of local ordinances, the responsibility is ultimately yours. To keep the peace with your neighbors, and avoid having to deal with local authorities, or city or county permitting bodies, regarding noise complaints, take a proactive stance on protecting your property.
Installing a privacy-safe noise-detection device is one of the best ways to prevent guest volume from getting out of hand. A small, nonintrusive, wall-mounted noise-monitoring unit that measures decibel levels, but does not record noise or identify specific sounds, will help protect your property, while protecting guest privacy. By gently notifying guests when volume exceeds allowable levels, a noise-detection system takes the pressure off both you and your guests, and helps ensure that neighbors don’t intervene in, complain about or report noise incidents.
In cities, counties and municipalities that require special short-term vacation rental permitting, certain requirements must be met in order to obtain a permit or license. These typically include verifying on-site safety and sanitation measures, having ample parking availability, limiting occupancy, posting signage and having a designated “agent” or contact who can be reached by guests during their stay.
Increasingly, vacation-rental regulations and STR regulations are also addressing guest noise. As post-pandemic travel expands, and local councils revisit short-term-rental ordinances and review local residents’ concerns, some cities and counties are making on-property noise detection a requirement for obtaining a rental license.
All requirements for obtaining a permit should be clearly outlined in your local short-term-rental ordinance. Some will require inspection verification, others require self-reporting. Almost all requirements have associated fines and penalties for first, second and subsequent violations. Permit-violation fines typically range from $250 to $1,000, and repeated violations may result in the revocation of the rental permit.
Whether you’re paying penalties or facing the loss of your rental permit altogether, violating STR regulations is a serious legal and financial matter. A great way to protect your vacation rental income and avoid surrendering profits to your city or county is to always maintain compliance with short-term rental rules.
While short-term rentals and vacation rentals can be excellent sources of revenue, the income they generate isn’t completely “passive.” Unlike long-term leases and rentals, where once an agreement is signed the tenant is more or less on their own (except in urgent or emergency cases), short-term rentals require regular maintenance, restocking, marketing and booking-transaction management.
It’s important to have a documented budget for your rental that includes all daily, weekly, monthly and annual expenses. These may include:
With an accurate budget and regularly-maintained expense report, you’ll be able to price and market your property accordingly (taking advantage of seasonal travel and local events that might draw guests, reducing rates and offering specials to encourage off-season travel, raising rates and having stricter cancellation policies during peak seasons) to make sure you cover all costs and maximize your short-term vacation rental income, now, and for the long term.
After one year of isolation, cancelled parties, unspent travel budgets, and postponed getaways, the travel industry is preparing for what is expected to be a massive surge of revenge vacationers, looking to make up for lost time. The Washington Post speaks of the “pent-up wanderlust” that is splitting almost all of us at the seams as weather gets warmer, case numbers drop, vaccination availability increases, and travel restrictions are lifted. Sandals Resorts deputy chairman Adam Stewart said in an interview with the Post, “Summer 2021 is seeing a double-digit percentage gain in overall occupancy when compared with previous summer booking trends, including summer 2019.”
While this surge in travel activity will increase profits and fill calendars for vacation-rental owners, it will also increase chances of property damage, HOA violations and noise fines. As an example, look no further than Miami Beach, where the recent chaos of spring break revelers prompted the city to implement an 8 p.m. curfew, and both business owners and residents expressed outrage and travelers’ boisterous and reckless behavior.
To avoid the risk of rowdy guests upsetting neighbors, or worse, damaging property and causing financial loss, owners should take the following measures to protect their rentals before, during, and after the coming market surge:
With £130bn ($179 billion) annually being lost to fraud and £27bn ($37 billion) lost to property damage, per SUPERHOG industry statistics, having a cost-effective booking validation system, allows hosts to prevent problematic guests from arriving at their property in the first place.
Proactive protection increases profits and peace of mind. Smart guest screening, noise monitoring and strategic insurance coverage will help keep your rentals protected. After the previous lockdown lifts last year, an almost 50% increase in noise incidents and consequential property damage occurred.
Hosts who had seen their business go from booming to bust due to the first lockdown, were desperate to take on bookings when restrictions were relaxed. Large volumes of one night stays were accepted and with that came an increase in incidents reported.
The widespread travel regulation lift is sure to have even greater consequences. Take precautions now to protect profits, property, and peace of mind later.
As of April 1, 2021, certification of a noise detection device is required for Hollywood, Fla., vacation rentals. Along with regions like Henderson County, Nev., which includes tourist magnet Las Vegas, the popular Miami-area vacation destination has made it mandatory to show proof of an approved noise monitor in all rental properties seeking short term rental approval. So what does that mean for you as a Hollywood short-term rental property owner or manager?
Whether you’re applying for a short-term rental license for the first time, or renewing your existing license for your Hollywood rental, you will need to sign and submit a document certifying that you’re aware of the noise detection requirement, and that your property adheres to it. The document, which notes that, “The City Manager may refuse to issue or renew a license or may revoke a vacation rental license issued under this chapter, if the property owner has willfully withheld or falsified any information required for a vacation rental license,” must be notarized.
This should probably go without saying, but your noise monitor needs to be installed the right way and able to detect noise. Fortunately, noise detection devices are extremely easy to install. Like many other smart home devices, installation begins with downloading and opening an app on your phone. Once you click on the “setup sensor” tab, you simply find an unobstructed wall outlet within 75 feet of your wifi router, and follow the setup prompts to firmly secure your sensor and ensure that it is registering noise. Once your noise control device is installed and working properly, you can monitor it from your phone, no matter where you are.
While noise detection devices do not record or play specific sounds—rather they monitor decibel levels—they are monitoring devices. And, as such, rental listing companies such as Airbnb and Vrbo require that guests be notified of their presence in rental properties. Notification of noise monitoring devices should be included in the “House Rules” section of your property’s rental listing. There is currently no legal requirement that property managers or owners notify guests of noise level monitors—so, if for example, you only rent out your short-term rental property by word of mouth, you don’t technically need to alert guests to the noise control device. But it is always a good idea to be forthcoming about the device in your property, if, for no other reason, than to encourage guests to manage their volume preemptively, rather than having to take measures when it gets out of hand.
One of the great benefits of having a noise detector in your Hollywood vacation rental is being able to take action on noise issues before they go too far, so that your property’s neighbors have a peaceful environment. As soon as your noise monitor detects an issue, your guests receive a simple automated message alerting them to the situation. Nine times out of 10, guests decrease their volume to an acceptable level, without any further action needed, making for a peaceful neighborhood, happy guests and a happy property owner (you!).
In those rare cases where guests continue being loud or rowdy, despite receiving notifications about their excessive volume, you may need to take action. If the noise level at a property exceeds your customized programmed levels, you will receive an alert and a link to the property’s Noise Risk Score graph. The graph takes noise and turns it into data so you can evaluate the property’s risk in real time. You can then decide to message or call your guests. 80% of the time, guests quiet down within 15 minutes of being contacted.
With its warm weather and tropical vibe, Hollywood is the perfect spot for al fresco socializing and festivities. But when outdoor revelry gets out of hand, it can be a major nuisance to neighbors and other rental guests. To prevent outdoor noise from becoming a problem, consider installing an outdoor noise monitor, along with an indoor device. Installation of outdoor sensors is similar to indoor sensors, but should be done after the indoor sensor is installed, and mounted within 100 feet of the indoor sensor. It’s also a good idea to avoid placing your outdoor noise sensor near noise-makers in your short-term rentals, such as AC units, hot tubs and generators.
While most well-maintained, well-monitored short-term rentals coexist harmoniously with their long-term neighbors, conflicts do occasionally arise. If either you or the online vacation rental marketplace where you list your property receives a noise complaint that you feel may be either unjustified or completely untrue, a noise monitor will provide you with the documentation to defend against the complaint. If the detected decibel levels during the time of the purported disturbance are within normal limits, you’ve got clear evidence that no violation occurred. If, on the other hand, your noise device shows that guests were shouting, playing loud music or otherwise being excessively noisy, you have a way to verify your neighbor’s complaint.
The most important advantage of excessive-noise monitoring for Airbnb hosts, VRBO hosts and vacation-rental owners and managers, is preventing issues before they happen. By letting guests know they are expected to keep noise within acceptable limits—and giving them a little reminder when they don’t—you can avoid serious problems including property damage, angry neighbors and visits by the police to your Hollywood, Fla. rental. And you can relax and take advantage of an excellent source of passive income, without expensive fines and penalties eating into your profits.
DALLAS – April 5, 2021 – NoiseAware, the leader in smart noise monitoring, announced it has raised $8 million in Series A funding led by S3 Ventures and Thayer Ventures. The investment positions the company, which has monitored over one million stays, to accelerate product innovation and market expansion.
NoiseAware’s market maker position is strengthened with a world-class investment team that balances travel and lodging expertise, first-rate SaaS experience, and a strategic industry network. New board members include Eric Engineer from S3 Ventures, the largest venture capital firm focused on Texas, and Jeff Jackson from Thayer Ventures, adding NoiseAware to its impressive portfolio of travel-focused companies. Stephanie Fuhrman, founder of Catalyst Innovation Lab and former Head of Innovation at Greystar, also joins the board to add a wealth of experience in multifamily providers and prop-tech. The new board members bolster an impressive group of advisors including long-time NoiseAware investor and board member Tom Hale, vacation rental industry veteran who led HomeAway® in product and operations through the company’s IPO and acquisition by Expedia Group.
With the funding, NoiseAware will build on its foundation in the short-term rental industry, fostering new partnerships, launching internationally, and leading the way in smart noise monitoring in the growing sector of multifamily communities.
“I am incredibly proud of our team’s steadfast focus on our customers’ needs that has empowered the company to grow from a simple invention into something that both assures our customers’ homes are protected and saves them money,” said Andrew Schulz, NoiseAware CEO. “We are looking forward to leveraging knowledge from our new partners to help even more people concentrate on their business operation with the peace of mind that NoiseAware is keeping their investment secure.”
“With the explosive growth of the short-term rental industry, NoiseAware is poised to make a significant impact on how property managers and homeowners can optimize the earnings on their rentals,” said Thayer Ventures’ Jeff Jackson. “NoiseAware provides a unique, automated offering that we feel will grow to be valuable in many verticals within the entire lodging industry, including multifamily and traditional hotels.”
“We’re excited to add NoiseAware to our portfolio of trailblazing Texas-grown companies,” said Eric Engineer, Venture Partner of S3 Ventures. “Andrew and his team have established a clear leadership position by elegantly solving a real problem with a truly unique offering–coupled with a compelling vision for expansion into new markets.”
Key team leadership roles have recently been filled to scale the impact of NoiseAware’s business. Chief Operating Officer Peter Taylor, a seasoned growth driver in mid-stage companies, leads the latest round of executive hires. Hiring is taking place across all disciplines and experience levels, including the positions of Director of Product Management and Strategic Account Manager. Open positions can be viewed at https://jobs.lever.co/noiseaware.
Developed by a rental property owner in 2015, NoiseAware was the first to enter the market with a solution to the number one signal of potential property damage – noise. The NoiseAware privacy-safe smart noise monitoring solution saves property owners and managers time and money, allowing them to maximize their Return on Rentals and minimize hassle and expense. The company has helped short-term rental homeowners and managers save $105 million in lost rental revenue due to noise disturbances. NoiseAware helps create responsible guests, good neighbors, and community harmony. To learn more visit www.noiseaware.com.
About S3 Ventures
S3 Ventures is the largest venture capital firm focused on Texas. Backed for 15+ years by a philanthropic, multi-billion-dollar family, we empower great entrepreneurs with the patient capital and true resources required to grow extraordinary, high-impact companies in Business Technology, Consumer Digital Experiences, and Healthcare Technology.
About Thayer Ventures
San Francisco-based Thayer Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm with a strategic focus on technology within the global travel and transportation industry. Thayer prioritizes early-stage b2b companies but selectively looks at seed and later-stage deals with selective b2c activity. Currently, Thayer Ventures manages four active investment vehicles with over $100 million in capital and over 20 active portfolio companies.