Maturity Arrives at Age 30!

shutterstock_213925810The balance of vacation rentals, residents and city oversight has recently been a hot topic. This battle is now in my own front yard.  The way I look at it … the new Rancho Mirage ordinance requiring a responsible individual of at least 30 years old, sign for the property and be present throughout the rental period, has put my company and every Rancho Mirage vacation rental owner who takes short term renters, in the position of deciding between three bad choices; break an age discrimination law, break the city ordinance or stop taking short term rentals entirely.

Here is a scary scenario:  A 29 year old attorney, golf pro, fireman, or any responsible, professional individual who is aware of their legal rights, is turned down by a vacation rental owner because of age.  How much does a discrimination law suit cost the owner?  Will the city step in and take responsibility?

 

The following article written by Xochitl Peña, appeared in the Desert Sun newspaper and on the Desert Sun website, November 21, 2014.

Judge dismisses Rancho Mirage vacation rental lawsuit

A Riverside County Superior Court judge has dismissed a civil rights lawsuit that challenged Rancho Mirage’s vacation rental ordinance requiring at least one person in the home be 30 years old.

The battle might not be over though: The attorney for Brian C. Harrison, the owner of a Rancho Mirage vacation rental who filed the Sept. 2 lawsuit, said the case will be appealed.

“It doesn’t make sense if you think about it, that you can outlaw arbitrarily a class of individuals — adult individuals — purely because of their age,” said Ken Gregory, the attorney representing Harrison.

The case was dismissed earlier this week.

City Attorney Steve Quintanilla noted that the judge’s decision came early in the legal process, before a formal hearing that would have allowed both sides to point out their respective arguments on the case.

“The judge essentially agreed with our argument that the complaint lacked any legal merit to warrant a formal hearing,” he said.

Vacation rentals have increasingly been a hot topic across the Coachella Valley this year, with Palm Springs, Indian Wells and Rancho Mirage all hashing out new ordinances that strive to balance a homeowner’s right to rent while appeasing neighbors who complain about party homes.

In Rancho Mirage, the council members on July 31 approved changes to the city’s short-term rental ordinance that require any group of vacationers include a “responsible person” who is at least 30 years old.

The person is responsible for ensuring everyone in the house follows the law. The minimum age for that requirement was previously 21 years old.

Quintanilla said the ordinance does not require all occupants be older than 30 years. It just means one person is in charge, and subject to fines if laws are broken.

The ordinance also requires that the “responsible person” execute a “formal acknowledgment” that shows they are in charge and are held liable for the rental.

In his lawsuit, Harrison argued argued that the “formal acknowledgment” is essentially a contract.

Gregory, his attorney, said the lawsuit was about more than “age discrimination.” He said it also focuses on conflicting laws a homeowner would face enforcing the city ordinance.

In order to adhere to the city ordinance, Gregory argued that homeowners would in essence be breaking state civil rights law, as the Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits a business from discrimination in the rental of a home based on age.

“So they are either violating the act or the ordinance,” Gregory told The Desert Sun.

According to the lawsuit, Harrison said he would face a financial loss of $20,000 a year in rental income because of the restriction.

“I would suffer irreparable injury as I rely on the income from the short-term vacation rental … to pay my mortgage on the property,” Harrison said in the court document.

Quintanilla said the court dismissed the challenge “on grounds that the (Unruh) act does not apply to a city when a city is acting in its legislative capacity,” such as establishing policy.

He said the city is ready to fight any appeal.

“I’m confident that, if they do appeal, we will prevail. There was no legal merit to the case,” Quintanilla said.

In Palm Springs, council in February approved various changes, including increasing the minimum age to rent a home from 18 years to 25 years, after residents there began to complain about loud and disruptive rental homes.

In Indian Wells, council members are looking to give police more enforcement tools and invoke stiffer fines after residents began complaining about party homes. Residents there have threatened to sue the city if vacation rentals of less than 30 days are allowed.

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To Bidet or Not To Bidet?

mocha-dad-shakespeare-blog-cartoon That is the Question!

OK …  today I’d like to ask for my reader’s thoughts on a particular topic.  I’m torn on this issue and need to get everyone’s views and thoughts and hope to start a discussion on a somewhat sensitive subject.

I recently signed up a new property.  I just found out that the owner is adding an electric bidet.  My first thoughts are … Yikes!  Not good!  But after speaking to the owner, who is adamant about the bidet, I have been assured that the toilet will look and operate like a regular toilet.  There is apparently a remote control that allows the toilet to be switched over to operate as a bidet.  After some research on the internet, I’m still not totally sold on the idea.  Will there be sanitation or cleanliness issues?  Special cleaning?  Complicated operating instructions?  Easily broken?  And most importantly, will it be a turn-off to potential guests?

We manage only a few properties that are furnished with standard, free-standing bidets, and it has been my experience, when showing these vacation homes, that prospective tenants are often uncomfortable with this “questionable” amenity.  Many times they will even make negative comments.  Perhaps it is more of a European “thing” … not certain, but if guests are uncomfortable with a separate bidet, how are they going to feel about a combination toilet/bidet?  I have also experienced some resistance with handicap fitted toilets.  Guests who are not handicapped typically will ask for an alternate property.  So apparently toilets can be a touchy subject.

Is it just me?  Am I overly concerned about something that could be a plus?  Please share your thoughts … I’m very interested.  AND … should I add the “electric bidet” to the property description?  Maybe it’s no big deal … maybe it is, but I’d love to get your input and thoughts on how to present “the bidet” to potential guests.

I definitely have a negative opinion on this subject, and this may have something to do with my personal views …   I have traveled extensively outside the U.S.  I have seen lots and lots of bidets in my travels and honestly never gave them much of a thought … until … the bidet that caught my attention and very much disturbed me.  It was in a public restroom in a large shopping mall in Cairo, Egypt.  Picture this … the toilet had a small copper tube protruding from the center of the hole inside the toilet bowel.  The tube ended just above the water level. There was an on/off valve fixed to the outside of the toilet that when turned on, apparently would shoot water out of the copper tube. Wrong in so many ways!  I’m afraid this sight contaminated my thoughts on bidets … for life.  Pun absolutely intended!

Am I being too critical?

What are your thoughts?

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Photo:  http://under30ceo.com/top-ten-reasons-why-start-up-companies-need-to-blog/mocha-dad-shakespeare-blog-cartoon/

Keeping My Good Humor Intact

shocked-old-lady

Yet another one of my favorite and absolutely true, vacation rental stories.  But be forewarned … it’s a bit risqué. 

Some years ago I received a call from a vacationing guest who asked if she could make arrangements for the following year’s winter vacation.  Her current property was located on the South 4th Tee at Rancho Las Palmas Country Club in Rancho Mirage.  The guest was an older woman who vacationed alone, escaping Canada during the coldest months.  She asked if I could find her an alternate home for her next visit.  When I asked if she was unhappy with her current vacation home she said ….

“I like to spend my days on the patio, relaxing in the sun with a book.”  She further explained, “I do not like this location.  It’s very disturbing when the men stop to wash their balls right in front of me.”

If took me a few moments to pick myself up off the floor and recover after this woman’s dead-serious comment. 

I have enjoyed retelling this story for years!  People say the darndest things … and despite the daily stress that comes with this business, these funny stories keep my good humor intact. 

 

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Photo:  https://eatingreadingsleeping.wordpress.com/2014/04/

Vacation rentals boost Coachella Valley economy by $7M

 

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Photo: Jay Calderon/Desert Sun

This week I’m sharing an “enlightening” article that appeared in our local newspaper, The Desert Sun, on November 2, 2014.  I think it will be of interest to most of my readers … but primarily all Coachella Valley vacation rental owners.  If you were to do a web search of almost any resort city in the U.S., you’d most likely find similar articles.  As vacation rentals grow in popularity, so grows the challenges faced by vacation rental owners and their management companies.  As the owner of Vacation Rentals of the Desert, with properties throughout the Coachella Valley cities, I actively work with the city officials to ensure that the properties we manage are in complete compliance with the various city ordinances.  We promote “good neighbor” policies and keep our owners and rental guests informed of all rules and regulations.  Vacation rentals are a very Hot Topic these days and all vacation rental owners should keep informed of the ever-changing conversation and become involved with their “business asset.” 

Xochitl Peña, The Desert Sun11:13 p.m. PST November 2, 2014

Why stay in a hotel room when you can have an entire house?

That line of thinking has helped grow the vacation rental scene in the Coachella Valley into a money maker, generating close to $7 million in bed tax revenue for valley cities and about $216 million in “direct spending” in 2013.

Premiere events — Modernism Week in Palm Springs, the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, and the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals in Indio – all continue to attract an increasing number of people each year who choose to stay in homes.

Records requested by the Desert Sun showed valley cities last fiscal year brought in $6.8 million in vacation rental transient occupancy tax, up from $5.1 million the year before, which helps boost budgets and provide for city services. Coachella and Desert Hot Springs are the only cities that do not collect the bed tax on rentals.        Read full article ….

 

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“When It Rains, It Pours” OR “Money Dad”

murphys_lawIt seems like only yesterday that I was sitting here in front of this very same computer screen writing a post about the end of rental season.  That was actually seven months ago!  Posted March 30, 2014, “As Another Season Comes to an End.”  Really?  Already!

Well … as of yesterday … season is back.

Over the past few years I have watched as the trends have change and our “season” has expanded.  Back in the day … we had only two seasons in the desert.  The season when everyone wants to be here and “Oh Hell No!” when no one wants to be here.  But weather changes, knowledge of vacation homes grows, word gets out.  Yesterday, November 1st … snow in the Midwest and parts of Canada!  Really?  Already!

Back ten, fifteen years ago, our properties would fill up for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Three, four days tops.  But these past few years we have filled more and more of our properties for the entire month of November.   And these numbers are growing.   Why?  Well … until recent years November was Low-Season.  November is an absolutely gorgeous month in the desert and as the knowledge of vacation rentals has spread, as well as the low rates … more and more visitors have discovered what our local residents already know about November … perfectly-perfect weather and no crowds or waiting in line at your favorite restaurants.  These days most vacation rental companies and private owners have added a Mid-Season, but November rental rates are still a significant bargain.

So over the past week Vacation Rentals of the Desert has prepared about thirty properties and we’ve all been very busy greeting and settling these guests in for their extended stays … for some, three to six months.

In this post I want to tell you about just one property, and the old saying, “when it rains, it pours,” comes to mind.  Looking back, it’s funny … but “during” … it was pretty stressful and it certainly tested my diplomacy skills with both the owner and his visitor!

 

I’ve managed this particular condo on and off for many years.  I actually signed the original owners way back in the 1980’s and remember being blown away with the updated décor and amenities of the property.  It was beautiful.  Fast forward to the 2000’s and very little change to the property and you will get an accurate picture of how it was three years ago.  The condo was comfortable, well maintained, had a drop-dead gorgeous southern mountain view, but was in desperate need of updating and some general TLC.  The son, who has inherited the condo from his parents realized that improvements were desperately needed,  agreed to keep his rental rates very low and make improvements every year with the income generated from rentals.  So the plan was set …

True to his word, every year he has made significant improvements.  New living room furniture, new dining room furniture, new den furniture, new patio furniture, landscaping, new mounted TV in the living room over the fireplace, new TVs in the bedrooms, new blinds in the living room and den, new art work for the walls and never a penny spared in maintenance and cleaning.

This spring the owner and I did a walk through to decide what updates should be done over the summer.  It was decided that the dated entertainment center in the den and the antiquated TV and electronics, would be updated and a new chandelier would be purchased for the dining room.  We also came up with a laundry list of small maintenance items that would be addressed by our handyman.

Unfortunately the new chandelier didn’t come through this year … so far anyway.  Between the three of us, the owner, his wife and me, we have not come up with the “perfect” chandelier.  So the search goes on.

There were delays … scouring the internet for the “perfect” chandelier, locating a console that went with the existing den furniture, and just life …

But with the looming arrival of the season’s first tenant, the owner selected and ordered the console and made arrangements to have all 7.5 feet of it shipped and delivered to our office.  It arrived about three weeks ago along with the big screen TV and the electronics.  We lived with the console, TV, etc., in our office until our handyman could schedule the delivery and set-up.  We have a small office and the console, standing on end, was a giant monolith that we were forced to live with for a few days.  A couple of times, while deep in thought,  I caught myself mumbling “excuse me” as I squeezed by it on the way out of the office.   I chuckle thinking of it as yet another physical instead of metaphorical obstacle we had to handle  … hopefully not a precursor of our upcoming season!

We were now about two weeks away from the visitor’s arrival date.

So our handyman Alex, delivered the console and set up the TV and electronics then disposed of the old entertainment center and dinosaur of a TV … what the heck was inside those things anyway?

First on the maintenance list was to address the master bedroom drapes.  Yes … I said drapes.  Drapes as in black-out drapes, sheers and heavy brocade!  Great for sleeping during the day but outdated and kinda “not very attractive,”  also an absolute cleaning nightmare!  So over time some of the plastic do-hickies that hold the curtain hooks were broken causing the top pleats of the drapes to hang funny and just look bad.  The owner wanted our handyman to “fix” the drapes.  Good luck trying to find those plastic do-hickies and someone willing to make the repair.  Our handyman tried but alas I ended up calling the owner.  With two arguments on my side … 1) no affordable fix for the ugly drapes and 2) the benefit of yet another upgrade to the property, I suggested that we get an estimate for replacement blinds.  The owner agreed and I quickly got on the phone to my preferred “blind company,” Metro Shutters and Blinds.  Bill always has the best rates!  Well … as long as we were getting a bid for the master bedroom, I asked Bill to include a bid for the guest bedroom as well.  It also had a triple layer of “not very attractive” drapes.

Bill came back with an amazing cost and the owner agreed to have the work done.

We are now about twelve days from the visitor’s arrival date.

The blinds are ordered and arrive and hung in about a week.  The blinds look fantastic and instantly update the room.  Now Alex, our handyman returns to fill the holes left from the old curtain hardware and do any touch-up paint needed.  But… after thirty years of floor to ceiling, wall to wall curtains … the paint is impossible to match and the wall is a mess in both bedrooms.  With now only five days till visitor’s arrival, the owner gives his OK to paint.  So Alex paints the wall around the master and guest bedroom windows … then he paints another wall … ‘cause new paint butted up to old paint just doesn’t work.

By the time all is painted, we’re now at four days left till the visitor arrives.  Now the cleaners can go in to do a deep cleaning and windows.  This is a two day process.  The condo has been closed up and unoccupied for about six months.  Everything … and I mean EVERYTHING has to be cleaned.  Every dish, cabinet, towel, etc. must be cleaned.  We even find critters between the sheets on clean beds after a summer of vacancy.

The day before the visitor’s arrival, our carpet cleaning service is in doing their thing when we get a call.  One of their cleaning techs went to put his bottle of water in the refrigerator while they were working and reported that the light was on but the fridge was hot inside!  Dadgummit!  The housekeepers said it worked when they did the deep clean the day before.  So we’re back on the phone with the owner!  This is when I start calling the owner “Money Dad.”  Thankfully the appliance repair company could make it over that day and they had the part for the $400 repair in their truck!  The refrigerator was running cool within the hour!  Wheeeew!

The next day, the day of the visitor’s arrival, the condo looked great.  All updates (other than the chandelier) were made, maintenance, repairs and emergencies addressed.  Money Dad was pleased, broke but pleased.  On to the next property ….

Then the visitor called at 5 p.m. to report that the air conditioner was not working and that he was from Canada and not used to this kind of heat and he was not happy.  The unit was blowing cool air at 11 a.m. that morning when we turned on the unit … scout’s honor.  We send our handyman Alex over to check the system and  I am now praying that it is just an A/C fuse or something, anything immediately fixable.  Nope … I’m told it’s the fan blower and not just any fan blower but a specialty part, an expensive-variable-speed-something-something that no A/C repair company keeps in stock.  We have to wait till the next morning.  Dadgummit!

I dread making these calls to unhappy visitors … and it crossed my mind to explain all we had been through over the past weeks to make the condo extra, extra wonderful for their stay.  If only they knew about all the improvements that had been made.   Improvements that they were not even aware of when they booked the reservation a year ago.  But I just couldn’t figure out a good way to say … so sorry about the A/C but you have a new console in the den and new flat screen TVs and new DVD players and a new Blue Ray player and new blinds and new paint (on some of the walls) and clean carpets and a super clean condo and a working refrigerator.  I don’t think that argument would have helped … but as it turned out, even though our visitors were not happy, they were very kind and understanding.  These are the kind of people that I will work tirelessly to please!

So … I explained to our overheated visitors from Canada that since it was approaching the evening hour and since I had no available properties to move them to and since it was to drop to the 50s over-night, that I hoped that they might-possibly-maybe be able to sleep with the windows open, the ceiling fan on and make it through the night … and that we would immediately reimburse them some of the rental money for their inconvenience that could be used for dinner in a nice air conditioned restaurant.

To which he promptly told me that there were no screens on the master bedroom window!

Oh!

No screens = Bugs!

So our handyman built them a brand new screen for the bedroom window while our very kind and understanding, overheated visitors from Canada went out to dinner.  By 8 p.m. the new screen was in place, the condo had cooled down, the tenants were fed, tired but comfortable and happy.

The next morning the air conditioner was repaired and I delivered the bad news to Money Dad … $1,000.

So … we welcome back “season” … and all the fun and excitement that comes with it.  Now let’s see how it goes with our other 139 properties … “knock on wood.”

 

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