The Hudson Valley is a picturesque part New York State, attracting visitors from near and far. Nowadays, hotels aren’t always the first choice for travelers, especially when groups of people travel together, and space/convenience becomes an issue. Short-term rentals are becoming increasingly popular not only for visitors, but as an investment for homeowners. It is a way to earn some additional income from their property while providing out of towners with an affordable alternative to hotels.
New York City enacted strict laws around advertising on short-term rental sites for a few years ago, but much of the Hudson Valley has yet to adopt a formal law. Mark Dorr, president of the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association told Curbed New York that “Outside of New York City, there is no uniform set of laws or rules for short-term rentals, which allows rental platforms to operate without any statewide safety or tax framework.”
Who doesn’t love short-term rental sites?
Neighbors for one. SDG Law recently helped a client whose neighbor filed a lawsuit against them after they purchased a home in Columbia County, featured their property on AirBnB and rented-out their home roughly 162 days over a one-year period. When it wasn’t rented, the house remained empty.
Their neighbor did not like that the home was now a rental property and decided to file a case against them. The neighbors’ lots were subdivided back in 1998, and while both homes were situated on substantial amounts of land, they shared a portion of a common driveway. The neighbor cited a restriction in the new owner’s deed and filed a lawsuit to enforce the restriction of “single family residential purposes” as defined in the Town of Clermont Zoning Code, arguing that new owners were using their property as a “hotel”. The neighbor additionally alleged that the shared driveway/easement had become overburdened by the rental traffic and use of the shared driveway/easement had to be restricted to single family residential purposes.
Darren Fairlie an attorney at SDG Law handled the case and was able to get the entirety of the neighbor’s lawsuit dismissed upon a motion for summary judgement. He was able to show that the new owner’s short-term rental use of their property was not specifically prohibited in the local Zoning Code, that the use did not meet the Code’s definition of a “hotel”, and that just-as-extensive uses of the home/property were permitted or permissible in that zone. Mr. Fairlie further demonstrated that, as a matter of law, a mere increase in traffic over the shared driveway/easement, alone, could not result in the easement becoming “overburdened” in the absence of actual interference of use or obstruction (which the neighbor failed to demonstrate).
“The neighbor in this case never said a word to the new owners before suing them. Similarly, her lawyer never attempted to speak with me or resolve the matter. They thought they would just lawyer-up and bowl us over. Dealing them a complete and decisive loss at an early stage in the proceedings was especially satisfying.”
Hudson Valley 360 reports that Short-term rentals are up from 11,900 to 14,000 in Columbia County from 2017 to 2018 with most guests coming up from New York City. In 2018, more than 360 people rented their homes, an increase from 310 last summer. Hosts made more than $2.5 million this summer renting their homes, with the typical host making $4,847.
Whether you are for it, or against it, short-term rentals are taking off in our area. To find out more about Short-term rentals, including the risks and benefits, check out this article here. For legal questions pertaining to our area, contact Darren Fairlie here.