When Neighbors Cross The Line: Injunctions Against Harrassment and Short-Term Rentals

By November 4, 2019 Articles

On May 21, 2019, Governor Ducey signed new provisions regulating short-term rentals.  The new laws aim to curb issues where short-term rentals are perceived as increasing noise and traffic in residential neighborhoods or are operated as “party houses.”   Among other things, these new laws return control to municipalities, require permits for special events (such as weddings or banquets), and mandate that a person be designated for handling complaints.  Due to prompting by Sedona and Paradise Valley officials, other regulations may be in the works as well….

In light of the growth of short-term rentals, these new measures hope to ameliorate issues arising between renters and neighbors.  But this is a nascent, dare I say, cottage industry that will take time to flesh out a robust set of laws and regulations.

Prior to HB 2672, complaints by neighbors were often handled under a municipality’s nuisance laws or traffic ordinances.  However, stories coming into our offices indicate that more than a few neighbors have resorted to self-help by confronting the renters and/or the owners.  Some of those confrontations have crossed the lines of acceptable civil discourse and have become harassing or even threatening.

If harassing behavior occurs, keep in mind that Arizona provides help through an Injunction Against Harassment.  This is a court proceeding whereby a protective order can be obtained to enjoin (i.e. forbid) a harassing party from continuing the harassing behavior.  When so ordered, a harassing party can be ordered to stop harassing personal contact, phone calls, emails, text messages, or mailings.  The Court can order the harassing party to stay away from a person, their house, or even their workplace.  It can require a harassing party to cease from aggressive or threatening behaviors and can even require them to surrender firearms to the police.  To make use of this procedure, the opposing party must have committed two or more harassing behaviors (because harassment is defined as “a series of acts…”).

Typically, such proceedings are initiated in the Superior Court or in the lower Justice Court as an ex parte (without the other party) proceeding.  After the victim completes the Petition for Injunction Against Harassment, the victim must appear before the judge to give testimony and provide proof of the incidents alleged in the Petition.  If the Court finds sufficient grounds, it will grant the Petition and issue an Injunction Against Harassment which must then be served on the opposing party by an officer of the Court for it to become effective.  The Injunction Against Harassment is valid for one year from the date it is served on the opposing party.

Keep in mind that the opposing party will have the right to challenge the Petition.  If challenged, there will be an evidentiary hearing which will usually be heard within a week or two.  The Court will then either affirm the Injunction, modify it, or dismiss it.

After an Order of Protection is granted, the victim should make it a practice to keep a copy on him or her at all times.  IMPORTANTLY –the Order of Protection is only a piece of paper and can be willfully, purposefully and dangerously violated by the opposing party.  If it is violated by the opposing party, the victim should call the police and put him or herself in as defensible a position as possible until they arrive.

Hopefully, neighbors, owners, property managers, and their guests will never need to resort this procedure.  But if necessary, we are here to help.  In the meantime, whether you own a short-term rental or reside in a neighborhood with a short-term rental property, be a good neighbor:  (1) talk often – hear each other’s concerns; (2) be responsive; (3) watch out for each other; (4) try to understand; and (5) work together.  That’s the easiest and best way to make sure everyone wins.

If you or someone you know has questions about short term rentals, contact our office today to schedule a consultation with Mr. Eastin.

Bryan L. Eastin is an Attorney with Provident Law® practicing in the areas of trust and estate administration and litigation, guardianships and conservatorships, and real estate.  Bryan’s practice includes representation of private fiduciaries appointed by the court to serve as guardians, conservators, personal representatives and/or as trustees.  Bryan is admitted to practice in Arizona’s state and federal courts, and he is currently a member of the Arizona State Bar Association and Maricopa County Bar Association.  He can be reached via email at bryan@ProvidentLawyers.com.