Short-term rentals spark debate in Las Sendas | New

OWhen Brett and Erica Russo moved into their home in 2018, they felt like they had finally found their dream home.

They chose Las Sendas, an established series of gated enclaves in the northeast Mesa, for views, golf, location, and elevation.

At nearly 1,700 feet, Las Sendas is nestled against the Tonto National Forest and sits a little higher than the rest of the valley, offering slightly cooler temperatures in the summer, sweeping views of Phoenix, its suburbs, the mountains, sunsets, wildlife and nature. .

“Because of these views,” Brett Russo said, “it’s one of the most special places in the valley. Our dream has always been to live here. It was very quiet.

Everyone in the neighborhood was friendly, cordial and always ready to help each other — exactly what a close-knit neighborhood should be, Russo said.

But that has started to change with a dramatic increase in AirBnB, VRBO, and other vacation home rental options on the market.

The Houses have made available to tourists a greater volume of high-end alternative accommodation in a development that was not designed for short-term rental and all that comes with it. With no minimum stay, visitors come for the weekend, ignoring noise and parking ordinances, making unauthorized use of neighborhood amenities, and flouting the courtesy and respect of landlords who live in Las Sendas year-round. .

“I would say what’s going on here right now is totally uncharacteristic of the Las Sendas lifestyle,” Russo said.

Russo’s dream house is now the center of a nightmare.

The place next door is advertised by AZ Vacation Home Rentals as a 4,200 square foot home that sleeps 20 people.

With no limit on the renter’s length of stay, Russo said, partygoers ready to party arrive for the weekend, going hard until the wee hours of each night, completely turning his family’s lives upside down and disrupting an otherwise quiet enclave.

Russo said his family regularly suffered wedding parties, bachelor parties, people peeing on the wall, puking in the driveway, screaming at night, beer pong, just non-stop action.

“The biggest problem is there’s no getting used to it. It’s like Prom Night every night,” Russo said. week for me and my family. Am I going to have a ball team, another bachelor party or a wedding? »

The baseball team isn’t overdone either.

One weekend last fall, there was a baseball team of 16 kids next door for the weekend.

There seems to be no end to Russo’s stories, and he lacks constructive ways to try to resolve the issue for fear of being reprimanded and accused of “harassing the tenants of the house”, he said.

When the practice of short-term rentals began to surface, the Las Sendas HOA adopted what it called a “good neighbor” policy in 2009 that limited a rental lease to a maximum of six months. .

According to the HOA’s website, the policy “has been implemented to promote harmony in our community.”

But in 2016, around the same time short-term rentals became big business, the Arizona Legislature passed a measure requiring any residential rental restrictions to be included in the Terms, Conditions and Restrictions or CC&R. of a community.

Since the Good Neighbor Policy was not enshrined in the Las Sendas CC&R, its six-month minimum stay for tenants was null and void. Las Sendas, one of the top vacation destinations for tourists, was officially open to weekend revelers, Spring Training fans, Spring Break revelers, the Waste Management Open golf tournament and soccer fans who are eyeing next year’s Super Bowl in the Valley.

Right now, the short-term cash cow for people who rent out their homes is a phenomenon in its own right.

People like Brett Russo and his Las Sendas neighbor Mike Peckham, a Canadian who moved to Las Sendas in 2006 for the peace and quiet it offered, are left at the mercy of whoever shows up next door for the weekend. -end.

“There’s constant noise,” Peckham said. “The area used to be very quiet and we could be outside and enjoy the backyard. We have not been able to enjoy our property for two years.

“The good news is that the community is responding,” he added.

This response includes direct action from the Las Sendas HOA, which is asking residents to vote on a CC&R amendment that, if 75% of voters approve, would require tenants to sign a lease for 31 days or more. If 25% of residents vote “no”, the CC&R will remain unchanged and there will still be no minimum stay for renters.

The HOA approved a “yes” vote.

Linda Barton, Las Sendas HOA Board Member, explained, “We believe it’s in the best interest of the community and that’s what we were elected to do.

“We are convinced that this is a good direction for the community. It takes us back to where most people thought we were originally,” she said, referring to the six-month rental minimum in the Good Neighbor Policy.

People who own a home in Las Sendas and rent it out, often through a property management company, are against the amendment.

Colin and Shannon Preston live in Oregon and rent their home in Las Sendas through a property management company called AZ Vacation Home Rentals. While she opposes the modification of the CC&R, Shannon Preston said she empathizes with people who have to put up with what she calls “bad actors,” who create disruptive and intrusive noise, excessive traffic and damage to neighborhood amenities.

“I completely understand,” she said. “I also wouldn’t want to live next to a house where there are constant parties. As owners, we don’t want that in our home and we didn’t buy a house to party.

But the Prestons argue that changing the CC&Rs is an excess.

“For them to take a one-sided majority vote and take away our property rights doesn’t seem to be fair,” Preston said. “They are using our due to take away our property rights.”

The Prestons advocate a stop-and-go approach to outright banning short-term rentals, such as a higher fee structure or a “three strikes and you’re out” policy for people who receive multiple complaints about their tenants.

“There have to be ways to just change everyone’s rights,” Preston said. “The CC&Rs are a contract we entered into when we purchased our property with the Homeowners Association. .

According to the Las Sendas website, “As the number of vacation rentals has increased, so have the Association’s nuisance violations. Nuisances from any property, including short-term rentals, can negatively affect eight or more neighboring properties.

Here are some examples of nuisance violations:

  • Excessive noise (loud music, late night parties, profanity);
  • Commercial activity not compatible with a residential area;
  • Garbage containers placed in the street several times a week;
  • A large number of cars blocking fire lanes and nearby driveways;
  • Excessive and disrespectful use of community amenities by guests.

According to the Las Sendas Homeowners Association, of the roughly 3,400 homes in the development, about 17% are rental properties, which might not seem like a lot until you consider that one rental home affects eight other homes around. she.

While Barton says the council is not against people renting out their homes, he objects to the short-term setup as it currently stands simply because of the type of people who show up for a weekend. end, against two or three months.

“When our CC&Rs were originally written,” Barton said, “no one was considering short-term rentals. 20 years ago, no one had even thought of this idea. It was therefore never included.

“You’ll find that new communities automatically include it now. That tells you it’s important. We think if we eliminate those short-term rentals, people who come here for a month, two months or three months will come in our community and will act as residents of the community and respect the amenities and their neighbors,” Barton said.

The Russos and Peckhams feel that nothing less than an outright ban on leases shorter than 31 days will solve the party-goer problem.

And if the CC&R amendment doesn’t pass, says Mike Peckham, people could see the beginning of the end of Las Sendas as people have come to know it.

He fears that as corporate property management companies scoop up more homes for rent, the sheer volume of rental inventory will drive down rental prices, dragging down property values ​​with them.

“Whenever a home comes up for sale in Las Sendas, you can be sure professional investors are looking at it because there are no restrictions,” Peckham said. “If it continues down this path, sooner or later our community will become a short-term rental ghetto.

Voting remains open until 75% of respondents vote to change the CC&R and require rental leases to be at least 31 days, or 25% vote no, leaving things unchanged.

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