Condo security: Safety considerations for short-term rentals
By: Phillip Livingston
Date Published: August 28, 2020
Many condominium corporations have experienced some friction with owners or occupants who lease their units on a short-term basis, through Airbnb or similar home-sharing websites. Most short-term renters are respectful of the property and the people in the building, but everyone has heard horror stories about reckless and destructive visitors.
When short-term renters become disruptive, it’s often security or concierge who is asked to step in.
While short-term rentals help owners generate some extra revenue, they also increase unwanted foot traffic, and may reduce the safety and security of permanent residents in the condo building. This article aims to provide security professionals with some guidance as to what they can do to help make short-term rentals safer for everyone.
Make sure short-term rentals are permitted
Some buildings do not permit Airbnb at all. A corporation can adopt rules to promote the safety, security or welfare of owners, or to prevent unreasonable interference with the enjoyment of their home. Some buildings may enforce a minimum rental period, such as 6 months, to discourage owners from renting out their units every weekend.
If you provide security services for a building that does not allow short-term rentals, and you find out that short-term renters are occupying a unit, then you should speak with the board or management as soon as possible to try and remedy the situation. Do not try to intimidate or forcibly remove the guests. There’s a good chance that they are entirely unaware of the short-term rental ban. Instead, collect as many details as you can, including unit number, how many guests stayed in the unit, duration of stay, and if the neighbours experienced any issues with the guests.
Management may issue a violation notice to the unit owner, or even take legal action if this is an ongoing issue.
Get to know the building rules
It’s crucial that you know whether short-term rentals are allowed in the building that you’re protecting. But it’s equally important to familiarize yourself with other relevant rules as well. The rules, regulations, and bylaws for a condo corporation will vary, but they are all established to protect the property and the people who live in the building. Some of the rules and regulations put limits on who can use common areas (pools, gyms, etc.). There are also rules about noise and nuisances, smoking, parking, etc.
It is the responsibility of the condo board to create rules and ensure residents understand what those rules are. But as a security guard, you will be in a better position to handle and resolve issues if you are familiar with the rules. When procedures are not properly followed, it creates more opportunities for problems. You can help keep the peace by making sure short-term guests aren’t breaking any rules.
If short-term rentals are permitted in the building, having a formal visitor sign-in system may be beneficial to the security of the building. This allows security to verify that guests have permission to stay in a unit, and, it’s easier to hold guests accountable for their actions if they misbehave.
A comprehensive guard tour system can assist security with this task. Patrol Points, for example, lets owners and residents access an online authorization feature from their personal account. They can leave specific details about a guest for security, who will be able to access that information through the Security & Concierge feature. Unit owners can even attach a photo of the guest for security to refer to.
Guests will check in with security at the front desk. The guard on duty uses the security system to verify if a guest has been permitted entry, document whether a key was issued, and indicate if their ID was verified.
Guest logs are saved in the system in case security or management needs to review them at a later date.
Use your people skills
On occasion, short-term guests may cause some noise disturbance. It happens, and although guests don’t mean to upset the neighbours, permanent residents want this issue resolved right away. When security receives the complaint, they should be proactive and act quickly so that the small complaint doesn’t transform into a big issue.
Go to the unit, and politely ask the guests to keep the volume down. Be clear about the problem, who is being affected, and let the guests know what will happen if the issue is not resolved. There is no need to be rude or aggressive as most guests will comply with your request.
Never put yourself in danger unless absolutely unavoidable. If the guests continue to act in a disruptive manner, or if you believe someone may be in danger, call the police.
If something does happen during your shift, make sure to document it. Even if it seems insignificant, it’s better to have information and not need it than need it and not have it.
Here’s another instance where an online system like Patrol Points can be really useful. Using just their phone, guards can log incidents into the app on their phones. The moment security encounters an incident, such as smoking in a non-smoking unit, they can use the app to record and report the incident. Incidents can be filed in the middle of a patrol or during an unexpected visit to a unit. If a situation becomes more complex, the report can be updated. If an issue becomes urgent, reports can immediately be sent from a security officer to the property manager, other security team members, board members, or all three groups. Patrol Points keeps all concerned parties in the loop, and helps to keep guards safer, too.
Love them or hate them, short-term rentals are here to stay. Some condo buildings will permit Airbnb and similar operations within the building, but others want to avoid the issues that may come with short-term rentals at all costs.
The role of the condo security guard is constantly evolving, and short-term renters are another group of people that guards now have to work with. Most guests will treat the condo community with respect, but there is always the odd visitor who will defy the rules. If there is a short-term renter who is causing trouble, aim to inform the person about the condo’s rules and discourage the behaviour. Do not use force to defuse the situation, and don’t put yourself in harm’s way unnecessarily. Do take down details of any incidents, and share them with the manager or condo board. You may be able to work together to find better solutions to problematic short-term rentals.