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Airbnb nightmare … Residents say gated communities being overrun by industry

Published:Sunday | August 11, 2019 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson - Staff Reporter
Gated community

Homeowners in at least three gated communities across the island say their lives are being made hellish by neighbours who are increasingly renting out their properties to foreigners as Airbnb facilities.

According to the residents, recreational areas such as gyms, parks and pools are being overrun by outsiders who often neglect established community rules – including those governing the volume of music, and security access to and from the premises.

“The properties were designed for residential and not commercial use, and one of the two Caymanas covenants speaks to that. You are not supposed to be operating any business, and all of these are businesses. It is just that they have not been registered,” argued Raam Naraysingh, property manager at Caymanas Estate in St Catherine.

According to Naraysingh, at least 22 of the almost 700 properties in the Caymanas Estate community are being used as Airbnb, and “that is only those that we know about”. He believes many others are undetected.

According to Naraysingh, while long-term renting is acceptable, many homeowners are increasingly turning to Airbnb services, which is listed as short-term rental that is contrary to the rules of the community.

“If I rent someone for one year, they would be considered a resident because they are there for a while. How am I going to put a two-day person on access to appreciate the amenities and things like that? And when they leave, then what?” he asked, noting that he has instructed security guards not to divulge security codes to such individuals.

“These people don’t know the rules and regulations, they don’t know about quiet time between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. They smoke weed in the facility, men are out in their underpants, and all these things,” the property manager continued, noting that some guests occupy up to two houses at a time and mete out disrespect when their behaviour is confronted.

And it makes no sense talking to homeowners who operate the Airbnb, said Naraysingh, they are only interested in making money.

“It has to be monitored, because if not, it is going to be loose and cause problems, because criminals can use it as a haven,” he noted.

One resident at the Drax Hall Country Club in St Ann said the Airbnb issue is also a concern in that community.

“It goes against the property owner’s management agreement. When the clause is interpreted, it is against commercial activities, though it makes provisions for long-term rentals,” said the woman, who declined to be named.

“One of the major issues is that these persons are heavy users of the amenities, and persons are concerned about the security risks for the fact that they don’t know who the neighbours are; the concern is for control. We need to know who is on the property at all times.”

The management at the Drax Hall Country Club told The Sunday Gleaner that a registration process was being formalised to regularise visitation of persons doing business on the property. This is inclusive of those wishing to operate Airbnb.

CONCERNED ABOUT SAFETY

Residents of the New Harbour Village and the Union Estate housing schemes in St Catherine also expressed concerns about their safety, following an influx of strange faces in their communities.

“You buy a house in a gated community because you want that exclusivity, but we are not getting what we paid for if we have persons, even foreigners, invading our space,” said one resident of the New Harbour Village Housing Scheme, calling for greater regulation of the Airbnb industry.

Last month, Omar Robinson, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, called for the taxing of the growing Airbnb industry, noting that “at the very least, basic health and safety regulations and minimum tax inputs be implemented, as has been done in other regions”.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com