Airbnb boom sparks concern on Cape Cod – NBC Boston
Imagine buying a house, then watching an investor take over the property next door and put it up for rent on a short-term rental website like Airbnb.
New neighbors arrive every week, throwing parties, loud music, and disrupting your otherwise quiet neighborhood by the sea.
Some Cape Cod residents say they are living that reality as real estate companies and private investors capitalize on the booming market for short-term rentals.
NBC10 Boston investigators explored the changing dynamics of Cape Town’s rental market after hearing from several concerned residents during the station’s Talk to Ten talk-a-thon.
Barnstable owner Heather Hunt says she can no longer enjoy the view out her window after an investor bought the house next door and turned it into a year-round Airbnb. Some days she says she closes the doors and windows and stays in her kitchen to avoid the rowdiness next door.
“Unless it happens to you, you really can’t understand how fundamentally it changes what it means to be home,” she said.
On one occasion, firefighters had to come after a group moved a fire pit onto the deck of its neighbor’s house, Hunt said. And it wasn’t much better during the day, she said; Hunt woke up one morning to see a 3ft inflatable penis being thrown around her neighbor’s property.
“I shouldn’t have everyone’s bachelorette party next to me all summer,” she said.
The house is in a single family residential use neighborhood in Osterville, a quaint village in Barnstable. Bob Corcoran, a local resident, bought it to rent out for vacations, birthday parties and bachelorette parties.
Corcoran said he couldn’t control what his guests were doing, but thought neighbors’ concern about discourteous behavior was overblown.
“I understand that may upset them, but a lot of it has been exaggerated,” he said.
Hunt, who lives next door to one of Corcoran’s properties, says the city has been slow to respond to his complaints.
According to Building Department documents, inspectors found two illegal bedrooms in the attic of the Corcoran rental property, but took months to issue a cease and desist order. They eventually told Corcoran to install proper emergency exits and hard-wired smoke detectors.
“I’m expanding the exit windows to make it legal,” he said. “So, I’m doing it.”
“Can you rent this while you wait?” asked NBC10 Boston interviewer Ally Donnelly.
“Probably not supposed to,” Corcoran said.
“But are you? Donnelly asked.
“Not technically,” Corcoran said.
Responding to questions from NBC10 Boston, Airbnb said its hosts must certify they will comply with local rules before offering spaces for rent. Neighbors can also file complaints on the Airbnb website.
But as more and more investors enter a highly lucrative market, disputes like those in Hunt’s neighborhood are popping up across the country.
“What I do, I have the right to do,” Corcoran said, adding, “You can’t stop someone from doing what they want to do with their property within the law.”
Hunt argues that coastal communities across the country have done just that, allowing landlords to rent out their properties but not allowing investors to turn homes into hotels.
She and other local residents think Barnstable could fix the problem by enforcing existing zoning laws, and they take their case to court. Neighbors sued to force Barnstable to act.
City officials declined to discuss the situation on camera, citing the lawsuit. In a statement, the city said it was drafting new regulations that balance a long tradition of seasonal rentals with a dwindling housing stock and concern that the community is becoming too commercial.
Tourists inject $20 billion into the state’s economy each year, and a good portion of that spending takes place in Cape Town. Year-round residents hate to appear unfriendly to visitors and see those dollars disappear.
Yet many would not choose to live next to a hotel. Kathy Holcombe says that’s how it feels in her Centerville neighborhood, where Corcoran, the investor, is renting another home.
Holcombe, who is retired, said the leafy paths and proximity to the beach make his neighborhood special, but also attractive to investors. On a recent afternoon, she pointed out three houses for rent, hosting a rotating cast of visitors.
“It could happen in any community, on any street, on any day,” she said.
Some cities, such as Boston and New York, have banned investors from buying entire homes for the rental market. Others restrict where they can be.
A new law in Massachusetts requires short-term rental operators to register with the state and pay taxes, but leaves the regulations to individual communities. So whether or not you see these types of properties next to you depends on the laws of your community.