Wed | Aug 15, 2018

Short-term rentals raising community security concerns

Published:Monday | May 14, 2018 | 12:00 AMBrian Walker/Staff Reporter
Edmund Bartlett

Residents of some gated communities in the Corporate Area are concerned that their security is being compromised by the upsurge in short-term tourist rentals. They contend that guests arrive weekly and often disturb neighbours by playing loud music and smoking.

"They are let into the complex by a security guard, but to enter the building, you have to input a code, so this is the code that is given out willy-nilly to everybody that comes along. They order pizza, when the pizza man comes, instead of going down and collecting the pizza, they just give him the code," said a concerned resident who spoke with The Gleaner on condition of anonymity.

The homeowner argued that short-term rentals could be a getaway for criminals.

"Foreign criminals coming into (Jamaica) to do whatever, criminals moving around the country, all they have to do is book this thing, and pay the money, nobody has to fill out a form, like at a hotel," he added.

While the homeowner could not confirm if his neighbours were using Airbnb, an online home-sharing portal, to do bookings, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has been touting the platform as a game-changer in the industry.

The Jamaica Tourist Board has a memorandum of understanding with Airbnb, and in his Sectoral Debate presentation last week, Bartlett disclosed that there were approximately 55,000 bookings across the island in 2017.

WORK IT OUT

Bartlett told The Gleaner: "This is the problem with disruptions. Disruptions are never a panacea, and they will always have downsides. The market has to work it out, and there's nothing that is pure in the market, absolutely nothing. So the security issues have got to be worked out between the homeowners and the community that they operate in."

According to Gabrielle Grant, a real-estate attorney, homeowners are moving to address the problem.

She explained: "With the growing popularity of short-term rentals, we have seen an increase in the number of individuals seeking advice on how to amend the by-laws of their strata corporation to restrict or prohibit unwanted operations in their complexes."

brian.walker@gleanerjm.com