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Monster Airbnb Next Door Ruining my Family’s Life

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Seven years ago my husband and I built our dream home in a nice neighborhood in Austin. When two large homes began construction on a single lot next door, we were bummed by how huge and close to us they were, but looked forward to having new neighbors in any case.

Once the homes were finished, we realized with horror that both were being used illegally as Airbnbs. Each home is nearly 3,000 square feet, five bedrooms, and hosts up to 14 people. Each unit has a hot tub that sits directly under our windows, less than twenty feet away from our home.

As soon as they began operating in October 2019, our lives were shattered. Groups of party goers began rotating through both units every weekend. Music, laughter, shouting and cursing came from both hot tubs at least once a week, usually more. A bachelor party brought prostitutes over and took turns having sex in the hot tub until 7:00 AM. Another group casually chatted at full volume about buying some cocaine for their party.

One of the units has two giant second-floor windows that directly overlook our property, including our outdoor spaces, and guests like to stand at those windows and watch us like we’re animals in a pen. If I were to list every instance of a disturbance, this post would be longer than the Old Testament.

Since October, we’ve filed 17 Code complaints, and called the police on five different occasions (though our police department is so understaffed, and noise complaints are so low-priority, they responded only once). We’ve written to our council member, neighborhood association, and exchanged several dozen emails with the Code Department.

After receiving multiple violations for operating illegally, and having their guests confronted by code officers, the investors applied for a license granted only to owner-occupied STRs, by claiming the units as their “primary residence”, and actually received them (for one). The Code Department admitted in an in-person meeting that they did not want to grant the license to these operators, and tried to find a way to deny it, but were forced to issue it according to regulations.

Today our nightmare continues. We can’t sleep in peace. Our privacy, comfort, health, and safety are completely compromised. I’m suffering anxiety-related health effects. We are at a point where either they stop hosting, or we will need to move. It’s terrifying to consider that we might actually lose our home over this, but the stress of living next to this nightmare is just not worth it.

I’ve been carpet-bombing Airbnb “neighbors” with complaints for months, but have received zero support. This week Airbnb actually “temporarily suspended” the listing, but the host just turned it back on immediately. When I asked Airbnb how this can qualify as a suspension, they said they can’t release details due to privacy reasons. We finally filed a case at the municipal court, and hope whatever comes of that succeeds in finally bringing us some relief.

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16 Comments

  1. I have a similar situation in Los Angeles with an ADU owned by an actress.
    is there any winning in small claims court ? we don’t have the $$$ to hire a lawyer.
    What they are doing is against code, but the city can’t prove it.
    What are the laws against public shaming ? She’s an actress and a therapist !!!
    Lied and cheated their way back onto Airbnb that she now lives in the ADU behind their primary residence. . They were closed down for about 6 weeks as the city followed the ADU law.. then low and behold.. she magically moves into the “penthouse” ADU. NOT ..

  2. Kind of like how bar owners could care less about people drinking and driving. This is the one nice thing about the pandemic when it first broke out and bars were closed. Nobody was out drinking and driving except maybe a teenager here and there.

  3. Hi Ellie! I’m really sorry you’re dealing with this. We had a similar problem here in Dallas with someone who bought the house across the street from us, basically to let “Airbnb guests” use as a party and event space. Every night there would be loud music until all hours, cars parked up and down the street, people yelling and running around, trash dumped all over the place… it was awful. And the owner was awful about it. All she would have had to do was say “No Parties or Events” and stick to it, but for a long time when we would complain to her (via Airbnb or the house’s website, because she and her family don’t live there and never have) she was belligerent and completely unconcerned with how her BUSINESS was affecting all of our lives in our homes, where we do actually live. Funnily enough, as mentioned, the house has its own website where she calls it a “tranquil meditation retreat” which are qualities we all moved to this neighborhood for. Fortunately after months of complaints to the city (311/911/and much correspondence with our local officials) by a whole bunch of neighbors, it seems the owner is finally running this space as an Airbnb, rather than a event and party space. Sadly, I think what ended up making the difference for us was when a couple of neighbors reported her/them to the IRS for claiming both a homestead exemption and a veterans exemption on the house (meaning they pay $0 in property taxes) when they don’t live there. It’s been quiet for about 4-5 months now, but sometimes I still get nervous when I see cars there. Anyway, my point was to give you this website (https://propertyrightsandsafety.com/), which is a group here in TX working on this issue. I haven’t delved into the site or group too much because I found it right around the time things finally started quieting down, but hopefully there’s some advice or info you can get from them that would help with your situation. Best of luck! P.S. you’re probably already doing this, but DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!!! In addition to all our complaining, my neighbors and I took photos and videos of all the cars, trash, and noise.

    • Thank you so much for the link, Kristin! I will definitely take a look – any and all resources are welcome at this point. And the owners do have house rules in place prohibiting parties. Their attorney-in-fact even contacted us, assuring that they’ve tightened the rules about parties and after-hours noise, but as we told him – it doesn’t matter. If you rent out a big house to large, unscreened groups of mostly 20 somethings, and leave them unsupervised for the weekend – they’re not going to care about house rules! We saw proof of that nearly every weekend. House rules mean nothing when there’s no one on site to enforce them.

  4. I think you have the makings of a great tort suit for damages.
    Talk to an attorney about suing them in civil court. I suspect you might find a sympathetic jury if they’re stupid enough to let it go to trial.

    • It’s incredibly hard to sue over something like this in a “property rights” state like Texas. The state legislation is on the “host”‘s side, being so rabidly pro-business. Our governor had previously made a statement that residents affected by this should just call the police, and that they’re not putting any further regulations in place because that would be duplicating efforts with existing enforcement measures. They (the state) also gutted Austin’s LOCAL regulations about what investors like this can and can’t do with their properties, like removing occupancy limits. We could sue for a private nuisance, but it would be a long shot, and of course would cost a huge amount of money. Lobbying for further citywide action seems to be the most logical approach, but realistically, we will probably just end up moving. Which is insane.

      • that’s the question what kind of system and government you want – if you choose pro-business then some will profit, other’s won’t.

  5. well you have our deepest sympathy! we have a great deal in common with the same situation, including suing the owners. Airbnb couldn’t care less about the neighbours as this site has proved over and over again… yep we’ve contacted them like you to find a total lack of any form of ‘consideration’ or even decency. Yep, we’ve now had to resort to suing our so-called Super-host ….. bloody nightmare isn’t it? All I can offer is have you checked the property documents online to see if there are any restrictions on it? many have neighbours have been lucky enough to find something – sadly we didn’t…. so its the courts for us…. and a great deal of unwarranted expense.

  6. Hi Jessica. I am not against STRs as a whole, but I do believe that certain configurations simply don’t work in certain neighborhoods. If you have a 5 bedroom villa hosting up to 14 people (who sometimes bring their friends) paying a thousand dollars a night, and you put that next to a family home where people expect to sleep at night, you simply can’t enforce acceptable decorum every single time. Sure, some groups have been considerate and quiet. But they were replaced by shrieking coeds or beer chugging dudebros every single time. The host has house rules in place, but again, in the absence of an owner-occupant to enforce them, people will do whatever they can get away with.

  7. “Once the homes were finished, we realized with horror that both were being used illegally as Airbnbs.”[…]
    “The Code Department admitted in an in-person meeting that they did not want to grant the license to these operators, and tried to find a way to deny it, but were forced to issue it according to regulations.”

    What now – are they really illegal or is this assumption only?

    “We finally filed a case at the municipal court, and hope whatever comes of that succeeds in finally bringing us some relief.”

    Get a lawyer – I guess that you have some discrepancy between which what is legal and what isn’t. He may help you to sort that out.

    How about the building itself – it is ok to build as big and as close to the border as you want? Is the building legal or not?

    As long as airbnb is legal within your town, you would have to move elsewhere.

    • They began operating without a license – illegally. After months of citations, they applied for a Type 1 license, and one unit received it. A Type 1 license in Austin is issued to an owner-occupied STR. They are operating a Type 2 – non-owner occupied, but Austin isn’t issuing Type 2s anymore in residential neighborhoods. So they are operating with a license, but in violation of its requirements. Why were they able to obtain one? Because the ordinance is written so poorly, that “owner-occupied” is defined in a vague and unenforceable way. The owner just files an affidavit with the appraisal district claiming the property is their primary residence, and provides one form of ID with that address. That’s it. And as long as they produce that, Code cannot legally refuse them a license, even if they KNOW no one lives there. That’s why they said they tried to avoid issuing it, but legally couldn’t.

  8. As a host myself i find this reprehensible. I am sure to tell my guests no parties or events and to mind the neighbors as it is a very quiet secluded area of the island. (only 2 other houses).
    They can easily solve the problem by instilling some rules. They choose not to.
    Would you mind if it were rented but by quiet groups? Or are you saying you do not want it all in your neighborhood? I sympathize. Seems you are taking the right steps

    • Hi Jessica. I am not against STRs as a whole, but I do believe that certain configurations simply don’t work in certain neighborhoods. If you have a 5 bedroom villa hosting up to 14 people (who sometimes bring their friends) paying a thousand dollars a night, and you put that next to a family home where people expect to sleep at night, you simply can’t enforce acceptable decorum every single time. Sure, some groups have been considerate and quiet. But they were replaced by shrieking coeds or beer chugging dudebros every single time. The host has house rules in place, but again, in the absence of an owner-occupant to enforce them, people will do whatever they can get away with.

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