Airbnb renters don’t always make for good neighbors

Published 12:43 pm Thursday, May 26, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Rent out your house for a week or so to vacationers. Make a few extra bucks. What could go wrong?

A lot, actually, but mostly for the immediate neighborhood.

Airbnb launched only 14 years ago, but it has mushroomed in the last few years. Today it is so popular that its name is iconic, often used to refer to any entity that enables you to find a vacation rental including Vrbo, Tripadvisor and

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox


Oversimplified, Airbnb is an online way to find part or all of a home that the owner will let you rent, usually for a short term, although sometimes long-term rentals are offered. Like everything else these days, there is an app for that so you can browse through your options on a smartphone, laptop, tablet or desktop.


Asheville has many of these rentals, as you might expect, but the number here is growing as well, creating concern in some areas.


These days, sunny Florida, California and Texas are the top three markets, but North Carolina ranks seventh, ahead of Arizona and South Carolina, with 71,523 listings last year.


A quick look in our area reveals many listings. Among them are a farmhouse in Columbus at $241 a night, a small cottage at Lake Lure for $309, a home at Lake Adger for $827 a night, and a four-bedroom house near the Broad River in Rutherfordton for $1,200 a night. Or, if you’re on a budget you can rent a camper in Rutherfordton for $66 or a small place in Landrum for $46.


Although most houses and condominiums on Airbnb have rules of conduct for renters, that doesn’t guarantee much. Most of us have read horror stories about Airbnb rentals gone bad–hidden cameras, violence, thefts. Some have ended in tragedy. But the extreme outcomes are rare.


What happens far more often than anyone would like is a scenario in which a group of people, often in the 20-to-40 age range (32 percent of renters are between 20 and 30), decide to rent a house and behave badly.


The homeowner who rented the house often is an absentee landlord and rarely nearby, thus he or she doesn’t have to listen to the loud music, peals of laughter and a variety of antics that can occur when young people who are away from their own home and are amped up to party for a week.


But the neighbors are there. They live there year-round and are the ones who have to endure noise, trash, and disruption of what otherwise is a quiet, peaceful life.


Depending on the township, community or county, there might be little or no recourse for the neighbors when the party breaks out because we live in a relatively sparsely populated region with small police forces attempting in some cases to cover large geographic areas.


Cathy Ruth, director of Planning and Economic Development for Polk County, said, “When Airbnb’s became popular, there wasn’t much concern around here. But it’s going to continue to grow, and the biggest concern really is how that growth will affect the rental market.”


More and more we are seeing investors buy or build homes for the sole purpose of renting them out to vacationers. Polk permits residential rentals in certain areas: multiple-use, equestrian and equestrian villages, neighborhood commercial and agricultural residential.


Neither Rutherford nor Polk counties have zoning restrictions in unincorporated areas.


Larry McDermott is a retired local farmer/journalist. Reach him at