Idaho Property Wars: Neighbor vs. Absentee Neighbor & AIRBNB

Posted on April 10, 2016
by Kim J. Trout


On a beautiful spring evening, you’ve just finished a BBQ dinner in the back yard, and are settling in with a glass of wine to enjoy a bit of quiet at the end of a long day.


Suddenly, and for the third time this week, a cacophony of car doors slamming, and excited hoots erupt as the latest Airbnb renters of your absentee-neighbor/owner’s home arrive for yet another night of non-stop partying. You need to go to the grocery store, but as you exit your garage you find that the renters have blocked your drive.


The noise lasts for about an hour as the sound of the margarita blender is only drowned out by the hoots and hollers of the renters. Just about the time you think it’s going to wind down, you suddenly realize that Team Party has simply moved to invade the community pool.


Finally, it quiets just long enough for the car doors to slam as Team Party heads out for the night. You know the sudden quiet will be short-lived, and you dread the return of Team Party at about 2:00 a.m. when the bars finally close.


This scenario is playing out over and over across the country. This change, welcomed by absentee owners/landlords and hated by permanent residents, has transformed some residential neighborhoods into commercial war-zones pitting neighbor/owner against absentee neighbor/owner.


Home Owner’s Associations (HOA) sought to regain control by passing covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R’s) prohibiting short term rentals. The issue rose to the Idaho Supreme Court (ISC)  in Adams vs. Kimberly One Home Owner’s Association. In Adams, the ISC ruled that despite purchasing the residence when the CC&R’s allowed unlimited “rental”, that the HOA could, by a majority percentage vote, change the CC&R’s to prohibit short term rentals.

Adams argued, among other things, that there  were provisions of the CC&R’s which would have allowed the HOA to regulate conduct of Adams’ renters, which the HOA membership found offensive. The ISC chose against Adams’ argument that he held a vested contractual and property right secured at the time of purchase, and focused instead on the concept of majority voting rights.

The Adams decision resulted in swift action by the Idaho Legislature in the 2016 Session. The Legislature nullified the Adams decision, by striking down blanket rental prohibitions in CC&R’s.(See, HB 511)

Governor Otter signed the House Bill into law, setting the stage for what is likely to be a long drawn out battle pitting neighbor/owner against absentee-neighbor/owner. The new battleground will likely involve calls to police, new efforts by HOA’s to change local zoning rules and regulations, and renewed efforts to use noise/nuisance rules within CC&R’s to impose fines to curb abuses.


This new war is certainly going to have many twists and turns as it unfolds. This conflict between the residential characteristics sought to be protected by owner-occupier versus the commercial profit motive of short term rental may even explode into constitutional law issues before its resolution. Much like the range wars of the 1800’s, the Adams decision now appears to be just the first skirmish in what will likely be a long battle over competing property rights, soon to be strewn with casualties along the way.

At Trout Law, we specialize in real property interests and would be happy to answer any questions you might have.