Neighbor Harassing Guests
Good day everyone!
We have a situation where we are legally renting out our home through AirBNB and have a neighbor who is not happy about the situation. On many occasions she has voiced her concerns to our guests as they are either in the driveway or on a walk. The neighbor has even gone as far as to tell our guests to take the trash up, not park in the street, etc. Thus far we have been able to smooth things over for the most part with the guests and prevent any negative reviews. We have been back and forth with the neighbor on several situations and have decided to cut off communication with them to avoid further conflict as they are quite tenacious and borderline harassing.
We are curious if anyone has had a similar situations of neighbors repetitively bothering guests or sharing their opinions of the Airbnb/STR situation and their level of dislike.
We have contemplated seeking legal advice and potentially a cease and desist or even a civil defamation suit, however, we are not sure if this situation would be considered defamation in the eyes of the law, and also don't want to poke the hornets nest more than necessary.
Re: Neighbor Harassing Guests
@Alex-and-Christy0 Congratulations on earning excellent praise from all your guests despite the incidents with your neighbor. You're in an awkward predicament there, but I can tell from your public response to one slightly critical review that you have a knack for being gracious and professional in the face of adversity. Keep that up, and you should still have many satisfied guests to come.
Unfortunately, I don't think you'd have a good legal case against your neighbor - she is well within her rights to express her opinions to your guests as long as she's not directly trespassing on your property to do so. In order to have a case for defamation, the defendant's speech would generally have to be a) published, b) demonstrably false, and c) responsible for tangible, quantifiable damage. This issue doesn't appear to meet those standards. Harassment would also be a shaky argument, if you aren't the party being directly targeted.
Rather than hiring a lawyer, you might consider consulting a third-party mediator to help you approach a resolution with this neighbor. She sounds like a busybody with nothing better to do, but she might believe she has genuine concerns that aren't being heard. The best case scenario would be one in which you can agree to enforce guest behaviors that keep the peace in your community. But even if that's a pipe dream, it's still in your best interest not to escalate the conflict.
For now, a known issue like this seems to merit leaving Instant Book turned off, and informing guests when they send a request that a meddlesome but harmless neighbor is an annoyance they might encounter in the driveway. A small portion of people who are especially sensitive to conflict might choose to withdraw their requests, which would help protect you from lower ratings. Those who choose to move forward with the booking will appreciate being forewarned.
For what it's worth, your situation here isn't unusual; there's a contingent in just about every city that objects to having an Airbnb in their midst and feels that, among other things, it disrupts the residential character of their neighborhoods. Some of their arguments have merit - it truly is a pain when you find yourself next door to a home that the host has lost control over. But it's actually kind of lucky if you're just dealing with one opponent and you know who she is. At least you know who you need to negotiate with.
Re: Neighbor Harassing Guests
As @Andrew0 pointed out, defamation is difficult to establish and you would have an even harder time proving damages.
You don’t have standing to make a harassment complaint because it wasn’t done to you.
I’m afraid that the “obnoxious neighbor” issue is quite common and likely to get worse. HOAs all over the country are attempting to ban STRs.
The HOA for the condo we own in Panama has already passed a rule against rentals for less than 30 days and there’s some pressure to raise that to six months.
If you can think of any diplomatic solution that would pacify your neighbors you should try that first.
Possibly a little gift from time to time to thank them for “keeping an eye on your vacation home” in your absence?
Maybe a polite suggestion that they call you rather than accosting your guests?
I really can’t blame them for not wanting an STR next door but it doesn’t give them the right to harass anyone. I wouldn’t like it either, but then I don’t want neighbors anywhere near me, which is why I own 160 acres of land.
They chose to live in an area with close neighbors, and they have to accept the consequences.
Re: Neighbor Harassing Guests
Hi y’all. Where are you located? It matters, a bit, relative to laws and ordinances. Here in Palm Beach County, where I’m the official Airbnb Community Leader for the Palm Beaches (and the rest of the county, until there are more of us), we’ve had the odd cranky neighbor, including a few protest signs.
I agree with most of the above comments, but a couple of variations:
1. Signage. They can post anything on their property. Some communities do not allow for ANY kind of signage on property. If you’re in one of those, you can call the police, or the city, and have her cited/fined.
2. Harassment - If she snipes at your guests from her yard, not much that you can do. If she approaches them on the street, and/or impedes their path, you can probably get a restraining order or a cease-and-desist. As a duly licensed Airbnb, that pays for taxes, licenses, permits, etc., if she makes a huge nuisance, and it gets to much larger extremes, that are impacting your reviews, you can also sue her civilly. I would think that restraint-of-trade or defamation usually come about from people with big mouths who don’t know when to stop. Just the threat of it, properly noticed, from a lawyer, sending a letter, is usually enough to give them a moment of pause.