Islands homeowners

Scores of Islands homeowners gather for an HOA board meeting May 17 to discussed short-term rentals.

Public urination in the front yard, people swimming in the lakes, loud parties and fighting are some of the problems that come with short-term rentals, say homeowners at The Islands community of over 2,000 houses.

Residents voiced their frustrations at an overflowing meeting last Monday as the HOA Board announced an election to amend its community rules to curb short-term rentals made available through platforms such as VRBO, Airbnb and Travelocity.

“Investors are buying up property,” HOA President Matt Letter told the audience. “The Islands have completely become a private market for these investors.”

Letter said the HOA is increasingly fielding complaints from homeowners about problems caused by short-term renters in their neighborhoods and inquiries from non-resident investors looking to buy more houses in The Islands, which does not control short-term rentals in any way.

“It’s an issue all over Arizona,” he said. “We live in an area people like to vacation.”

But other Islands homeowners oppose restrictions, saying they have a right to use their property in the way they see fit.

 Letter used Prescott as an example, saying 26 percent of the single-family homes there are vacation rentals. 

If The Islands, with lake-front properties, had 26 percent short-term rentals, that would mean 782 units, according to Letter.

“A Holiday Express has 75 rooms,” he said. “You are talking about 10 hotels spread out in our community.”

The proposed amendment calls for a 30-day minimum stay on rentals, limiting owners to renting their units to six times a year, requiring information that must be provided to the association upon the rental of a dwelling unit and a one-year grace period for owners currently renting their units in order to comply with the proposed restrictions.

Time is of the essence Letter said, adding that investors can accelerate the number of homes they purchase in the community and block the amendment.

Property owners will vote on July 1 but the online ballot will open June 1. In order to pass, 75 percent of those voting must approve it.

 “I’m seriously concerned if we don’t do it now, we will miss the last opportunity to address this issue,” Letter said. “People who are benefiting from STRs are investors. They buy their place and never see it.”

 Speakers spent over an hour voicing their opinions or experiences with the rentals.

One man said when he served on the HOA board, the same issue was raised three to four years ago and since then the number rentals has doubled.

He added that he has a daughter who looking for a place to live but can’t find anything in her price range because investors are buying up the property in the community.

“I always had a fear of a lack of young families coming in,” he said. “Given the prices influenced by investors, it’s out of control for young families.”

 Another man said he lives on a street with 12 homes and three are short-term rentals. The 28-year resident said he’s seen a dozen cars parked on the street, people sleeping outside the homes in vans, trash, fighting and younger people dropped off by Uber at all hours of the night.

A resident who retired as a Sheriff’s deputy three years ago, said if the community doesn’t get a handle on the situation, there’ll be “stash houses, drug houses and prostitution.”

A woman who lives in Canada said she owns short-term rental at The Islands but has a professional management company.

The woman, who participated via Zoom, said she understood the concerns but the management company makes sure her property is “always prime.”

“It brings a lot of money into the community because they eat out,” she said. 

She added the proposal would cost her a lot of money because she is booked up for one year.

A single-mom who lives in the community said she relied on the income from a short-term rental.

“This is my livelihood,” she said. “This is my income. If it goes away it will hurt me.”

She said she required a minimum of three to four nights stay, no parties or events and if cops are called, the renters are charged a fee.

 “I am part of The Islands community,” she said asking the Association to consider grandfathering people with existing STRs.

A woman said she moved to The Islands to retire and that if people are depending on rentals for income, they should instead consider doing a long-term rental of their homes.

She reminded the audience that the Super Bow was returning to Arizona in 2023 and “you want to clean up this mess before it comes here.”

One man said if the association can’t enforce the Conditions, Conditions and Restrictions, or CC&Rs, that are on the books now, what makes it think it can enforce the amendment if passed.

If a homeowner has a frat party and there’s noise all night long, that is already a violation under the CC&Rs, he said.

He added the benefits of short-term rentals are the landscaping and the homes are kept “nice and new.”

 But a majority of the speakers supported restricting rentals.

“I brought this issue up a year ago,” a man said. “This is a cancer on our community.”

He said he moved to The Island for its community of retirees and families and he likened renters to “transients.”

“This is about economics,” he said of investors. “They buy houses to get rich on our account. They don’t give a damn about our community. They don’t give a damn about us.”

He added he wanted to see higher penalties for people who break any of the community’s rules.

“Make it so they don’t make any money and go away,” he said. “It’s about protecting where we live. Act quickly.”

Councilman Laurin Hendrix at last Tuesday’s Council meeting commented he accepted a resident’s invitation to attend the HOA meeting and found it “chaotic.” He noted no one knew who he was, so he was incognito.

“One of the common comments I heard from the speakers there is how evil their elected representatives are in the town and in the state,” said Hendrix, a former state representative. “There was quite a few who wanted to talk about all the politicians who were purchased by investors that own these Airbnbs and they were purchased by lobbyists.

“There were two bills that were run in the Legislature this year that would have regulated Airbnbs statewide on some level. … It didn’t seem like anybody was aware there’s been different bills to address the issue this year.”

The failed Senate Bill 1379, sponsored by Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, included restricting the number of adults in a short-term rental and giving municipalities authority to enact fines and penalties on hosts who violate the law.

House Bill 2481 by Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, which allowed municipalities to create residential use and zoning ordinances on short-term rentals, also fell by the wayside.

Hendrix said many of the problems raised by the residents at the meeting are already regulated.

“When they talk about fights in the streets, it’s already against the law,” he said. “You talk about vandalism to a neighbor’s property, that’s already against the law.  You talk about noise at 2 in the morning, it’s already against the law. You talk about people that are not clothed swimming in a lake in their community, that’s already against the law.

“Most of the problem they’re having, although they didn’t realize it, these problems are already regulated.”

“They’re already against the law and the issue comes down to how do we choose to enforce those issues as a town. It might be something to talk about in the future.”