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.
As vaccination distribution widens and pandemic-related restrictions lift, a 2021 summer travel boom is already underway. An increase in short-term rental bookings started even before the larger travel recovery took off. And it appears destined to continue on a sharp upward trajectory. Travel site Expedia reported that even while its overall accommodation bookings fell by 67% in the fourth quarter of 2020, short-term rental platform Vrbo, which Expedia owns, actually showed year over year growth for the same quarter.
While Expedia doesn’t disclose specific Vrbo numbers, industry analysts estimate that the short-term-rental platform accounted for more than 40% of Expedia’s 2021 Q1 gross bookings. They further predict that Vrbo’s 2021 revenue could exceed 2019 revenue by 35%. A large chunk of that change is credited to the 2021 summer travel spike.
All of this is welcome news to short-term vacation rental owners and managers. Also promising: Short-term rental reservation volume is up by 400% over last summer, even while nightly rates have increased significantly over 2019 rates.
A big-time summer travel bounceback. Strong short-term rental earnings. Higher nightly rates and a huge spike in rental reservation volume. In short, short-term rental owners and property managers are looking at a major opportunity to capitalize on the coming season’s demand. But strong demand is just part of the revenue picture. To truly reap the rewards of the 2021 summer travel boom, vacation rentals must take these steps to protect property, profits and future viability.
Get to know your neighbors, and don’t let your short-term vacation rental be a surprise to them. While 33% of homeowners report that they are not very familiar with their neighbors, nearly 50% who are very familiar with neighbors say they would approve of a short-term rental next door.
Communicate to neighbors that your property is being rented out as a vacation accommodation. Express that you are invested in the neighborhood, and 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. Explain that you thoroughly screen guests prior to booking. Note that you have house rules that must be followed. Make sure to tell neighbors if you have remote noise detection sensors installed. 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 should they need to inform you about anything questionable taking place at your property.
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, and how you can expect to be informed about complaints. Get their complaint-response policy in writing, including liabilities and exclusions.
Most booking platforms accept “upon-request” bookings. This feature gives hosts an opportunity to check out the guest before booking. Before accepting a booking, make sure to:
Multiple negative guest reviews, incomplete or duplicate profiles, opposition to the security deposit, evasive answers to questions, or no answers at all—these guests may be more likely to violate noise and occupancy rules, or cause costly damage.
Make sure to fill out all fields in the “house rules” section of your vacation rental listing. Clearly state what’s allowed and what is not (special events, parties, amplified music after a specific time, no smoking, only registered guests allowed at property, no photo shoots, etc.).
Letting guests know they will be charged penalties for violating house rules is a great way to prevent noise, permit violations and neighbor complaints. These rules, and reminders about penalties, should be included in booking and pre-stay correspondence, and be on display at the property. Emphasizing and enforcing house rules is one of the ways the most profitable short-term-rental hosts mitigate unanticipated costs such as ordinance fines, legal conflicts and damaged property repair or replacement.
Almost all localities that allow short-term-rental permitting have occupancy rules built into their permitting ordinances. Violation of these rules can result in steep fines if discovered. To avoid fines, as well as neighbor complaints and potential property damage, occupancy limits should be strictly detailed in listings. It’s also important to include reminders about occupancy limits and guest penalties in booking confirmations and follow-up correspondence, and to display occupancy limits clearly on property.
Like occupancy limits, permitting ordinances include noise rules. These may prohibit noise that is audible outside the property during certain hours. Owners and managers may also set their own noise rules, and enforce them with penalties for violations. One of the best ways to avert noise issues before they become a problem is to install privacy-safe noise sensors both inside and outdoors at the property. Privacy-safe noise monitors, which must be disclosed upfront in the rental listing, measure decibel levels and duration of noise, but do not identify specific sounds or record sounds.
A remote noise monitoring system will alert the short-term-rental owner or property manager when excessive noise is an issue, and allow them to send a gentle text reminder to the booked guest to lower the volume a bit. In more than 75% of cases, this initial reminder resolves the issue without further intervention, preventing neighbor complaints, ordinance violations and the potential for expensive property damage.
Taking full advantage of the 2021 summer travel boom also means advertising competitively. Take the time to stage your vacation rental and include special touches such as cookbooks on the kitchen counter, a fancy espresso machine, vases filled with blooming flowers, stacks of luxurious bathroom towels, and fluffy, inviting bedroom linens. Shoot professional-quality photos both indoors and out, and edit them for maximum impact. Consider including a video tour of the property. These virtual 3D tours have been shown to significantly increase booking rates.
Property descriptions should include references to local attractions, dining and summer activities. They should also highlight amenities including outdoor kitchens, barbecues, swimming pools, decks and patios, and beach or lake toys. If the property is located in a hot-weather area, mention AC and/or ceiling fans. All of these marketing points can help guests “see” themselves enjoying their summer vacation at your property, and can be the deciding factor between your rental and other listings. And that can make the difference in reaping the full revenue benefit of the 2021 summer travel recovery.
Natasha Garber covers short-term-rental industry 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.
Privacy-safe noise monitoring is one of the most important property technologies in the short-term vacation-rental sector. By monitoring volume levels without identifying or recording sounds, privacy-safe noise detection helps protect the property owner’s investment and the guest’s right to complete privacy. But how does it work? And what are the ultimate benefits of safe noise monitoring for rental hosts, property managers, vacation-rental guests, and neighbors living near short-term-rental homes?
Airbnb, VRBO and other short-term-rental platforms include noise-device disclosure requirements in their policies. This means that any rental equipped with noise detection must have that information in the rental listing. It will usually be included along with information about wifi, carbon monoxide detectors and security cameras.
Guest tip: If you are looking at short-term-rental listings and see “equipped with noise-detection device” or similar wording, make sure to ask the host if the device is a NoiseAware privacy-safe sensor. That way, you can rest assured that only decibels are being measured, that you and your guests are not being recorded, and that your privacy is truly protected.
A common misconception about noise detection is that it can “hear” and identify specific sounds. This is not true of privacy-safe noise detection. A privacy-safe noise device tracks decibels, which are the units used to measure the amplitude of a sound relative to other sounds. A privacy-safe noise device can tell how loud a noise is in the room or outdoor space where it is installed. But it cannot distinguish if the sound is shouting, amplified music, a TV set, fireworks or an orchestra of vuvuzelas. And yes, that means it also cannot identify if the sound is of a more intimate nature, whether in the bathroom, bedroom or elsewhere.
Legitimate privacy-safe noise measurement does not just measure the volume level of noise. If it did, it would trigger an alert every time a guest sneezed or shouted or popped a balloon. NoiseAware noise-detection technology, for example, uses a proprietary algorithm called the Noise Risk Score (NRS). This algorithm tracks not only how loud a sound is, but also the duration of the loud sound. The algorithm combines this information with a number of other factors to determine the contextual risk of the noise being excessive and disruptive.
Another misconception is that all noise devices record noise. This is absolutely not true with reputable privacy-safe noise-detection devices. This type of privacy-compliant noise monitoring measures decibels. But it does not and cannot record sounds. NoiseAware noise detection, which does not identify specific sounds or records sounds, uses an anonymizing function for converting sound into data. The system can identify noise risk but cannot be used to eavesdrop on guests. It is certified as privacy safe by the Federal Communications Commission.
With NoiseAware noise detection, if the NRS exceeds levels allowed by the owner’s “house rules” and/or by local noise ordinance, the noise detection mobile app alerts the property owner or manager. At that point, the owner or manager may send a text to the guest asking them to lower the volume.
Just as short-term-rental guests have a right to privacy, neighbors have a right to peace and quiet. By informing guests about excessive noise before it gets out of hand, privacy-safe noise detection gives guests a chance to lower the volume on their own. How many times have you gathered with friends or family to eat, drink and have fun, and simply not realized how loud you’d gotten as the celebration ramped up? In most cases, excessive environmental noise is simply a matter of guests being unaware that they’re being as loud as they are. A simple text reminder can bring the situation to their attention before a neighbor—or, worse, a uniformed guard or cop—comes knocking at the door.
Property owners can use noise monitoring to protect their properties against false complaints. Sometimes, neighbors don’t like living next to a property that is permitted as a short-term rental. They may have had problems with noise at the rental in the past, or they simply may want to get the property shut down as a short-term rental, even if it’s not a “party house” or source of excessive noise. 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. In the event that a neighbor does complain, being able to show your neighbor (or the police, or the county permitting board) hard data to the contrary will resolve the issue.
But it’s not just property owners who benefit from protection against false complaints. Guests can be fined for violating “house rules” that are included in booking agreements. Guests are also subject to guest reviews on listing platforms like Airbnb, which can affect their future ability to book short-term rentals. Neighbor complaints can result in both fines and negative guest reviews, even when a complaint is false. But with the data provided by a privacy-safe noise detection system, guests can prove they did not cause excessive noise.
Hollywood, Fla. is one of a number of cities that have started requiring owners to show evidence of a properly installed noise-detection device in order to obtain a short-term-rental license. Many cities and counties across the country are currently considering similar requirements, and will vote on these later this year or early in 2022. As people who have been cooped up for months find themselves bitten by the “revenge travel” bug—eager to get away, let loose and live it up—demand for vacation rentals will continue to grow. So will demand for ways to prevent out-of-control noise, frustrated neighbors and trashed properties.
Privacy-safe noise monitoring is the least invasive, most efficient solution to all three of these problems. So if you’re a staying in a short-term rental and you see that little sensor on the wall, don’t start thinking of ways you can pry it off and toss it in the swimming pool (you can’t, btw, without damaging the hardware, alerting the property owner and likely being fined big bucks). Instead, recognize that just like a smoke detector, a privacy-safe noise device is there to protect you and your guests—in this case, from expensive fines and unwelcome intrusions. It’s there to protect the rental’s neighbors from aggravating, stressful late-night noise. And it’s there to protect the space you’re celebrating in from permit violations and damage, so that it can continue to be occupied and enjoyed.