Convincing condo association to allow airbnb

Hi, I’m thinking of buying a unit in a 3-family condo. The current condo docs prohibit short-term rentals, but I’m not sure my neighbors really care, or even know that provision is there. I want to airbnb a spare bedroom in my future house. I will talk to my neighbors today, to find out the situation and try to sway them my way. Has anyone tried to convince the condo association to allow airbnb? Any talking points and strategies you can recommend? Concerns they may raise? Thanks.

When I helped write our condo docs last year [I don’t live there, my kid does] we also put in an clause that forbids renting the entire space for less than 3-months, but explicitly allowed shared short term.

You might consider this as a compromise to suggest to the other association members. And read that clause carefully. It may have been written with the intention of only restricting whole apartment/condo rentals short term.


Let us know how it goes. 3 family condo is so small that if 2 of you agree you probably can vote to change or clarify the rules. That said I’ve owned a manhattan co-op and a California home with an HOA and I would never buy into one of them again. We have a single family home now in NYC and are free of silly rules!
Btw, where is the condo?

Somerville, MA (Boston area). How cooperative did you find the other trustees in small condos? As an option, I can just bite the bullet, and take it. The market is crazy, it took me three months to get to a point where my offer was accepted at all.

Nice area! I was never in a small condo, my co-op had 85 families and the HOA had 56 homes. Have you ever owned in a community governed by a board of directors? If not, just do your due diligence. I’m not sure what you mean by bite the bullet and take it.

Our condo is in Arlington.

-from a fellow Somerville host

UPDATE: The lawyers won’t let me speak to the trustees until after pns signing.
@Maggieroni, by biting the bullet I mean, move in, and once I’m there, convince at least one of the two remaining trustees to change the rules. I’d love to buy a single-family home one day, but right now, that’s not how I’d like to spend money I haven’t yet earned:slight_smile: I’m thinking of starting by getting a roommate for a few months at a time, and as I earn their trust, move gradually to shorter term arrangements. Since I have no aspirations of being a professional host, it might work for me. It’s either that, or continuing to go to open houses and bid. I feel torn and exhausted at this point, but I’ll have to make some sort of a decision soon.

I feel for you, I just wanted you to really consider whether you will be happy if they say no. And, (mother voice here) I would not buy if you need the extra income to afford the condo. Even roommates can be unreliable. Please keep us posted!


Thanks. I’m leaning towards going with it. I believe the rules do allow for a permanent roommate, this is the one thing I still want to check. My finances are stable enough that I can say in the beginning of the year, “I’ll need a roommate for, say, 3 months this year in order to meet my financial goals”. That way, as far as the condo association is concerned, I’ll meet the rules, so long as I don’t have another roommate within a year. The language in the condo docs is pretty standard for Boston, so I’d have to search for a while to find something suitable. I think I’m better off taking my chances that the other trustees will be reasonable, and let me do what I want to do so long as my guests and/or roommates don’t make them uncomfortable.

Do you have any additional information about how hard it would be for me to find a condo that explicitly allows short-term rentals?

Around here (Somerville, MA) you would never be able to buy anything without a roommate! I am astonished that @pi_guy can manage a condo in Somerville with a roommate for only 3 months!

May I ask how this part of the condo docs is worded? There really isn’t anything standard about HOA documents, unless the original lawyers were lazy and the new owners didn’t insist on being part of that discussion.

If you were to search for our condo, if it were on the market, there would be nothing searchable really even though shared space airbnb is allowed. You could go down to the courthouse and ask to read all the Somerville HOA documents, create a list of HOA addresses that don’t have onerous restrictions, and then wait for one of them to come on the market. Now that sounds like a waste of time, doesn’t it?

Yeah, I got a nice, cushy job now, but I’m not planning on staying there forever:slight_smile: Roommates will become more important then, unless I get married and such.

The wording is that any lease or occupancy agreement shall (1) be in writing and apply to the entire unit, and not merely a portion thereof, (2) be for a term of no less than 1 year. My lawyer says that there is case law in MA that roommates who live with an owner-occupant don’t count under a “lease”. However, with a 3-person condo association, the current wording is of limited use, because 2 out of 3 of us can just overrule the third one, and institute whatever rule we want. He told me that most of the time these things are resolved amicably because court battles are expensive, and noone needs them. They happen when there is a significant quality of life degradation, or things become personal.

Which lawyers? Yours? I don’t see why you can’t stop by the condo and have a friendly conversation. Just introduce yourself, say you’re about to purchase a unit and would love to know how they enjoy living there.

The sellers’ lawyers, actually. That’s a great idea, thanks! I’m doing an inspection today, so I can look out for neighbours on the street. I’ll check with my lawyer to see if it’ll impact the working relationship with the sellers, and see what I can do. As it stands, we sent written questions to clarify what this clause means to them, and it’s possible that I’ll say something I shouldn’t if I have an in-person conversation. Certainly an introduction never hurt.

I think it should be part of your due diligence. Just keep it neutral and get the neighbors to talk. You know two ears, one mouth! The sellers lawyers represent the seller, not you. This is a big purchase and you need to go into it fully aware. Good luck!

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mhm, good point :slight_smile: I’ll do what I can.

My recommendation, in this market, have your own lawyer. I reviewed about 20 sets of HOA documents between 2015 and 2016, all in either Somerville or Arlington, and never have seen the language before. This is not “standard” (mostly because there is no “standard.”)

My crazy good lawyer has just retired, but I know of two others who are excellent if you want their names. Just PM me.

Thanks. I’ll stick to what I have. My broker and I will both be away for most of the deal, so I chose someone who he has a good working relationship with, to minimize misunderstandings. He seems good enough, he did his research on case law and such.

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Are there any children in the other units? I’ve noticed in my husband’s HOA. that people with young children are particularly wary of STR and they continually stress their concern with an ongoing stream of strangers in the building.

One of my closest friends has lived in 3 places that were either 3 or 4 unit HOAs. All three situations posed long-standing disagreements over fairly small issues (some wanted satellite TV while others felt the dishes were ugly and didn’t want them mounted on the building, etc.) Never assume anything will be easy about a HOA (nor stable since rules change when ownership changes), regardless of size. My friend, for instance, would never agree to allowing STR’s in her 3 flat because she would not want more people coming in and out and making noise given shared ceilings/floors etc. People who don’t use AirBNB often consider the whole thing to be rather strange and even alarming.

Do you have an example of condo docs wording that allows shared short term rentals? I’m in a situation where we’re drafting the condo docs, and our lawyer says he’s never heard of a condo association allowing short term rentals, but if we come up with a wording, he’ll try to negotiate it in.

Sounds like you, too, need a new lawyer…

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