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Airbnb rental disputes hit metro Atlanta condominiums

Airbnb, the online short-term rental service, has been duking it out coast-to-coast over illegal hotel laws in cities from its hometown of San Francisco to New York.

Now similar battles have reached Atlanta, where more than 1,000 Airbnb rentals are listed.

RELATED: Top 10 Airbnb listings in Atlanta

Residents at Landmark Condominiums, a condo building in downtown Atlanta on 215 Piedmont, are up in arms about a recent condo board decision to cap rentals in the historic building, according to  reports from Curbed Atlanta .

Previously, the bylaws had no rental cap restrictions as most other condo buildings do. One source says about 60 percent of the building is rental. According to documents provided to the website, the condo board made a closed-door decision to define any rentals of less than 30 days as a business operation. The document suggests the board's actions violated owners' rights by not putting the issue out for vote to residents in order to change the building bylaws.

An anonymous source told the website owners had submitted a request to the HOA board this week asking them to address the concerns of building residents or face a lawsuit. The board has scheduled an emergency meeting for Feb. 17 to address the issue.

The conflict mirrors the battle raging between Airbnb and New York state, where laws prohibit individuals from renting out entire apartments for less than 30 days without being present.

In San Francisco, the "Airbnb law" took effect this month, limiting short-term rentals to someone who uses the space as their primary residence and home rentals to no more than 90 days per year.

This would seem to negatively impact investors or owners of vacation homes who wish to offer their properties for short-term rental. In response, an Airbnb competitor, HomeAway vacation rentals, has sued the state of California, and says it will do the same in New York if the state adopts a similar proposal, according to USA Today .

As the Curbed story notes, Landmark condos is a temporary home for a large number of state legislators and the new regulations would impact their ability to rent out their spaces when the legislature is not in session. Currently, there appears to be one unit from the building listed on Airbnb.

Of course, this isn't the first time a case like this has cropped up in Atlanta.

Rob Simmons, who owns a one-bedroom unit in Inman Park Village lofts had a similar experience with his condo association.

The condo board passed a resolution that forbade listings on Airbnb, filed foreclosure action against him for his listing and charged him a daily rate equal to his Airbnb rate, he said.

Simmons, an artist, got a pro bono attorney and took the matter to court arguing that the resolution was a breach of contract and violated condo documents because it should have required a full vote of the association.

This position is seemingly supported by information on the GA HOA & Condo Law blog of  Weissman, Nowack, Curry & Wilco which states: "Communities considering amendments to prohibit AirBnB-style short-term leasing should keep in mind, however, that any amendment to the Declaration will generally require the approval of at least two-thirds of all of the owners in the community association, so any such amendment to regulate AirBnB style leasing will need the support of the majority of owners in your community."

Faced with the possibility of an $85,000 judgement against him and foreclosure on his unit, Simmons removed his listing from Airbnb, though he is in the process of filing another lawsuit.

The loss of income has created a financial burden, he said. Initially the loft was to be a space shared with his mother who planned to relocate to Atlanta. Those plans were delayed when family matters prevented her from moving. Simmons was used Airbnb rentals to help him cover the mortgage.

"It completely upended my world," he said of the situation.

He is now trying to complete renovations on a space that serves as a live/work studio so he can list that property for rent on Airbnb.

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About the Author

Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.