The Problem With the Airbnb Next Door
My husband and I used every last cent we had to buy our charming little Hollywood Hills bungalow. It’s located on a quiet one-lane cul-de-sac, and we were awestruck by the fact that such peacefulness could be found mere miles from bustling Hollywood Boulevard.
Then our neighbor turned his home into an entire-house Airbnb rental.
As I write this, it’s 11 p.m. on a Friday night. Most nights, our street is the picture of serenity. Tonight is not one of those nights.
Despite it being outlawed in the house’s rules, tonight’s Airbnb guests have rented the place for a party. Sitting in our living room, we can hear the thump of the bass from their music. When it started, we stepped outside to assess the scene. Partygoers on the patio, a line of Ubers clogging the street, and two cars flippantly parked in our neighbor’s driveway — leaving nowhere for her own car when she returned home.
The bustle on our quiet little street was akin to Hollywood nights on the Sunset Strip. Except, that’s not where we chose to live.
This weekend will no doubt end like all others have since our neighbor turned his spare house into a fully functioning hotel: The guests will leave, but the mounds of trash they produce will stay behind.
The strangers leer at us, watch us… creating a perpetual sense of unease in our own home.
The housekeepers will come, but they’ll quickly run out of space in the trash bins sized for residential use. Piles of rubbish will sit outside waiting for garbage day, and we’ll cross our fingers hoping the trash collectors arrive before the coyotes descend on it, spreading the contents all over our tidy little street.
In the meantime, the weekday guests will arrive. Unlike their weekend counterparts, these people don’t use the house as a pop-up club, which leads us to believe they’re not Los Angeles locals.
Check-in hours vary, but thanks to the squeaky hammock on the patio, we always know when the next guest has arrived. Many are quiet as a mouse, others fight loudly on the patio, and some ignore the no street parking rule, effectively blocking part of the road to local traffic.
The strangers leer at us when we open the front door. They watch us on our patio and have a front-row seat to all our comings and goings. It creates a perpetual sense of unease in our own home.
This Airbnb is most certainly a nuisance, but it’s in good company. Farther down the street, another absentee neighbor has done the same thing with her spare home. Due to the size of the house and its lack of outdoor space, this one typically maintains a much lower profile — except for the night we returned from walking our dog to find a police helicopter circling overhead. Minutes later, several police cars descended on our street. They blocked traffic for hours.
That particular Airbnb guest had used the house to break the law, bathing our quiet one-lane street in blue-and-red lights for the evening. For more than an hour, the view from our patio was that of a man in handcuffs leaning against a police cruiser.
Complaints to Airbnb are always met with the same callous response, encouraging us to contact the host. The problem is, we don’t know these homeowners. We own property on the same street, but they’re not our neighbors. The lack of accountability from those who own Airbnb rentals is the root of this problem.
Airbnb hosts who are on-site take responsibility, but those who are absent shift this burden to the neighbors.
Some of our other neighbors also use Airbnb to rent out rooms in their homes. These people are on-site with their guests, which makes a world of difference. None of their guests have ever caused a disturbance. In fact, if you weren’t aware they had rooms for rent, you’d never know any part of their house was listed on Airbnb.
Because they’re actually our neighbors, they respect our street and are fully accountable for everyone under their roof each night. We don’t take issue with these rentals because they’re doing it respectfully.
Los Angeles is in the midst of a housing crisis. Short-term rentals are causing rents to skyrocket while taking homes away from those who actually live here. Only 36.6 percent of houses in the city are owner-occupied, according to 2016 data from the U.S. Census. Los Angeles also topped Forbes’ 2018 list of the worst cities for renters, with an average rent cost of $2,172 per month.
Of course, the City of Angels is far from the only place where Airbnb entire-house rentals are affecting neighborhoods. The company has more than 4 million listings in 65,000 cities in more than 191 countries in the world, according to its website.
At its core, Airbnb is a great idea. The company needs to ditch the entire-house rental model and return strictly to its origins — homeowners renting space in their own homes. Whether to earn extra cash, meet new people, or both, homeowners choose to put their space on Airbnb; they need to be present and accountable for their guests.
From my experience, Airbnb hosts who are on-site do take responsibility, but those who are absent shift this burden onto their neighbors — who didn’t ask to live next door to a hotel.