As the city of Los Angeles debates whether short-term rentals should be regulated, hosts who rent their places on sites like Airbnb are hoping a new device will help their cause.
“Our tool works like a smoke detector for noise,” Noiseaware Co-founder Dave Krauss said Wednesday during an impromptu demonstration in L.A.
He opened up his MacBook to reveal a color-coded graph showing noise levels for an Airbnb rental he owns in Dallas. At that property, a small device is planted which measures sound levels in the unit. He pointed at a tall peak on the screen.
“The red peak would indicate excessive volume, said Krauss, recalling a time the device came in handy. "In this case, it was actually a party that my Airbnb guests were having that night."
Krauss said he called his guests, and they were happy to move the festivities to a nearby bar, giving his neighbors a peaceful night's rest. The graph showed him in real time that the noise dissipated after they left the property.
Krauss started Noiseaware last year after an Airbnb guest told him she was in town for a quiet weekend but went on to use his property as a party venue.
"She threw a mini-Coachella in my apartment, which I had entrusted to her, and I didn't find out about it until two days later from a letter from my building's lawyers," said Krauss. "It was devastating. I was embarrassed. I felt like I had really wronged my neighbors because they lost a night of sleep."
With the rise of short-term rental sites like Airbnb and VRBO, neighbors in many communities throughout the U.S. have complained that the platforms have changed their neighborhoods. Some complain of noise. Others have looked at the trickle effect of thousands of homes and apartments being used as vacation rentals, arguing that it's worsened L.A. housing shortage and led to higher rents.
Tackling that first issue of noise, Krauss said it can be controlled if hosts are better informed. His company has produced 1000 units and is coming out with another 1000 in June. The device costs $50, and users pay $100 a year for the monitoring service.
Robert St. Genis, executive director of the Los Angeles Short Term Rental Alliance, which represents short-term rental owners said Noiseaware could be an effective tool for hosts, and a way to build goodwill with the neighbors. He's spreading the word about Noiseaware to his group, and expects many hosts will want the technology for their properties.
As L.A. officials seek public feedback on short-term rentals over the coming weeks, St. Genis said the Short Term Rental Alliance will defend their use of sites like Airbnb. The group will undoubtedly face opposition from locals who believe the short-term rental industry needs more restrictions.
The city is currently considering a law that would prohibit property owners from renting their places for more than 90 days and prohibiting properties that fall under the city's Rent Stabilization Ordinance from being rented for short stays. Hosts would have to pay an occupancy tax to the city, and could face fines for noise violations.
St. Genis said he also hopes Noiseaware can protect hosts by proving his theory that many noise complaints about short-term rentals are overblown, or in other cases, bogus.
“It’s hype from the opposition more than it’s a problem,” said Genis.
The city's first public hearing on short-term rentals will take place May 21 at 10 a.m. at the Deaton Auditorium in downtown L.A.