Longtime resident Homer often answers questions of interest.  Homer says “Can’t promise getting’ to you right quick like – kinda depends on the season (e.g., huntin’ season, Mud Bowl season, maplin’ season, fishin’ season, etc)”  But send an email and I'll see what I can do at HomerG156@gmail.com

 

Dear Homer: 

What is going with rentals?  At the November 2017 association meeting some people said rentals were for a 30 day minimum while others wanted it for at least a two day minimum to ‘make it affordable’.  The Board talked about a possible new rule that renters could not use the fireplace as many rentals are irresponsible and this was posing a danger with our wooden buildings.  And then there was talk of increased insurance to operate as a condo hotel?  But then there was no resolution – what is going on?

                                                                                                                                                                            Confused in Building 4

 

Dear Confused:   For a question, that be a whopper!  Short answer:  The confusion is due to lack of rule enforcement, personal agendas not in concert with the condo By-Laws, and advances in technology for rentals that are not in alignment with the Northface operational infrastructure. 

 

To explain, let’s keep it simple and discuss the problem point by point and how we got here.  Then maybe we can come up with an optimal solution

 

Point 1:  The minimum rental period at Northface is 30 days.  This be a black and white issue – It is stipulated in the By-Laws.  All owners should know this (and other similar type rules).   To disregard this point is not only disrespectful, but unfair, to others who abide by the rules or who do not rent.

 

Point 2:  A lessor rental period to ‘make it affordable’? 

First of all, despite the zeal to explore a two day minimal rental period rule at the Nov 2017 Association Meeting, the Board of Directors does not have this authority.  In this regard, the By-Laws are clear; specifically "The Board of Directors shall have the power from time to time to adopt any Rules deemed necessary for the enjoyment of the condominium provided that such Rules shall not be in conflict with the Condominium Act, the declaration, or these By-Laws."  The By-Laws specify a 30 day minimum rental period - so trying to go makin up a rule for a period less than the By-Law minimum is....in conflict with the By-Laws.  This ain't hard to understand, just that it apparently conflicts with personal agendas so some people pretend not to know. 

 

Secondly, the argument to ‘making it affordable” is based on bear scat logic (By the way, watch yourself if hiking up Middle Mountain – seems more and more bear scat there right on the trail last summer – make noise as you hike).   Northface ain’t subsidized housing through HUD.   If someone does not like the 30 day rental period, they should not have bought at Northface, or they can sell now and buy at one of the many resorts in the area that promote a shorter rental period (with the corresponding infrastructure in place to handle the shift in operations).  Northface prices are up!  Why should others suffer for the problems created by unauthorized short term rentals?

 

Point 3:  In the past, the 30 day minimum rental period has not been enforced [as there was infrastructure in place to maintain order and rules].  It was “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and it worked fine in the past.  This is a critical point to understand to find an equitable solution.  What is causing the problems today is that there is no infrastructure at Northface to support the new millennial methods used for, and frequency of, short term rentals.  

 

Ok, so this be a big point and takes some time to understand.  Not cause people be stupid but cause they do not know – some owners were probably in grade school when the Northface adventure began.  So I breaks Northface renting into four periods in the following table and will explain each one.

 

 

 

Period

Time Period

Primary Rental mechanisms

Enforcement Infrastructure

 

1

1985-1994

Newspaper Ads, Word of Mouth, rental agents

Owners

 

2

1994-2002

Newspaper Ads, Word of Mouth, rental agents

Board, Owners

 

3

2002-2012

Owner Managed Internet,  rental agents

Board

 

4

2012-Current

Unvetted Millennial Internet, rental agents

None – Wild West! (aka do whatever the hell you want)

 

 

Period 1 (1985-1994):

·         Imagine North Conway without chain motels/hotels and the hundreds of rooms now available.  No Sheraton, no Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn, Clarion, Residence Inn, etc.  In this period, besides the ‘Mom and Pop’ operations, the only ‘big’ motels were the Red Jacket, Fox Ridge, and the Green Granite.  People who wanted comfortable accommodations rented a condo.   It was a way of life.

·         Imagine a world with no internet.  No Home Away, no Air B&B – nothing.  People rented primarily by word-of-mouth or ads.  This usually involved talking to prospective renters on the telephone (sometimes multiple calls for hours).  This created a vesting of clientele and less chance of unexpected problems because you knew the people.  Newspaper ads were expensive – it cost over $42.50 in the 1980s to run a small 3 line line ad for one day in the Sunday Boston Globe.  That be $98.35 today (2018) when adjusted for inflation - but while expensive, the results were worth it because it was the primary method to advertise.  And it you wanted to attract a larger market, you invested in a 1-800 number to increase call volume.  Below are examples of ads run in this period

 

 

·         Rule enforcement was done by the owners themselves.  If there was someone who was violating the rules, you called the owner and asked what was up?  The violating owner usually took care of the situation immediately due to embarrassment.  Back then there was only a three member Board (versus the five member board today) and the Board rarely dealt with rules violations as there were few and the enforcement infrastructure (the owners themselves) was adequate to keep order

 

Period 2 (1994-2002):

·         The internet had emerged but the internet was a minor avenue for obtaining rentals because rental sites themselves were in their infancy.

·         But there was a shift in infrastructure to enforce rules.  Slowly the owner self-police infrastructure failed (due to various reasons but primarily due to a change in owner demographics).  Rules violations skyrocketed and personal confrontations began.  I talked to my renter neighbor about leaving his dog outside barking unattended all day while he was at work only to find the air let out of my tires the next morning, along with a call from the unit owner to mind my own business and deal with it.  I talked to another renter neighbor about the cord of wood, the hibachi, the bug zapper and wind chimes on the deck. I was told to call the police if I had a problem because they were renters and didn’t give a scat if the decks collapsed or if the charcoal burned the building down with the memorable closing line “That is what insurance is for”.  

·         So it was during this period the Board of Directors became the primary method of rules enforcement.  You know them signs you see on the stairs to the buildings?  This was the time-period where those signs originated – the first centralized effort to enforce rules – and it worked fine for this period mainly because owners still ‘screened’ their rentals and also the personal perseverance of the Board President during this time.

 

Period 3 (2002-2012)

·         Internet renting became more established and opened a more convenient way of renting.  But you have to remember the internet rental sites during this time were still focused on owner-renter contact and relationships (if someone was interested, you got a phone call or email and there was one-on-one contact).

·         Owners themselves remained the primary users of their units with minimal rentals.  The most prominent type of rental was seasonal or long term

·         The association went through an evolution with rules enforcement with the creation of a rules committee to help address issues and fines (Taking the burden off the Board so they could do their Board responsibilities).

·         There were spikes in rules violations, but for the most part, this infrastructure was sufficient.

 

 

Period 4 (2013-Current)

·         Internet renting has evolved with the majority of the early vacation rental sites consolidated into the Home Away family and Air B&B.  The rental process has changed with “book it now” and instant renting with no owner/renter interaction and payment via credit cards so that owners might not even know who might be renting their units. 

·         The ownership also seems to have changed with many more owners renting as a source of income (business vs supplemental income).  This has created (intentionally or unintentionally) an atmosphere with some unit owners of ‘I don’t care about the rules, I care about the rent’.  What has this done? The 2017 Association Meeting provided some insight;

o   Northface is not a condo hotel with a rental office equipped to handle rules violations.  The management company raised the issue that the association insurance carrier was concerned with operation as a condo hotel.  Management advised all owners to be mindful of the words they used in internet ads to specifically stipulate that their unit was privately owned.

o   It appears some people who rent know they are creating problems but want to remain anonymous and let other deal with the resultant issues.  Remember at the 2017 Board meeting when management asked who was renting on internet sites (in regards to the insurance condo hotel issue).  Only one person raised their hand - Everyone laughed and said, “Oh, you must be the one”.  But a quick check on a single internet site after the meeting showed 11 Northface units (25% of all units!) were listed on that site alone. And these people at the meeting were…silent.  And that poor owner at the meeting who raised his hand….probably thinking people were being truthful and he was the one renting and causing the problems – subsequently sold his unit <img src= “images/u18_mar18sale_poor_nathan_believed_the_beautiful_people.jpg” />.

o   The use of the Board of Directors as the infrastructure to police Northface is no longer a viable infrastructure.  Did you notice at the 2017 Association meeting that while there was a lot of talk, and talk, and talk, about rules and fines, there was no list or details presented of what fines had been assessed?   It seems reasonable to assume that is because there have not been any fine assessments.  This is not a hit on the Board.  Board members do not get compensated and should be able to enjoy their time at Northface like everyone else – not be the Northface police. 

 

And so this is why we have confusion with rentals and rules today.  The issue is not being addressed and instead there is talk, and talk, of fines and rules to deal with the symptoms

 

So….What should the association do?  There seem several avenues that the Board can guide the association to explore:

1)      Create an infrastructure to address rules violations.  Perhaps create a committee for enforcement and assessing violations like in the past.  Perhaps the committee should be comprised of those closest to the issues – owners who desire to rent for a period of less than 30 days.  The short term rentals seemed to be the source of the problem (that was the situation reported by the Board at the association meeting –e.g., the no fire policy for renters).  And very importantly, to communicate the results to the ownership with a list of rule violations, unit number, and fines assessed.  This should not be done once a year with handouts the day of the annual Association meeting – but distribute the results frequently or post the information on the web page.

 

2)      If owners are not willing to create an infrastructure to enforce rules that meets today’s needs for short term rentals, then enforce the 30 day minimal rental period. - That is what our documents state which all were aware of before purchasing.  This is not draconian – it is the default method in the By-Laws and while we can establish controls for the new situation, it will only be done if owners desire to do so.  Until that time, why punish those who purchased a unit at Northface for their own enjoyment or who rent per the rules (the By-Laws)