A midnight hip hop concert and “mansion party” staged May 19 at a house on Peachtree-Dunwoody Road in Buckhead quickly became a poster child for problems with short-term rentals in the suburbs. Social media posts showed one guest flashing a pistol, and the city says the house, rented via Airbnb.com, has drawn 20 noise complaints in the past 16 months.
But the house’s owner, New York City resident Paul McPherson, who has rented it via Airbnb for three years, paints a more complicated picture. He said the concert “horrified” him, but “slipped through the net” of his careful vetting process through trickery.
None of the noise complaints resulted in a citation, he said, and all came from one neighbor who called in such minor issues as a taxi beeping. His usual guests, he said, are quiet families and such privacy-hungry celebrities as movie star Kevin Costner.
“It happens in hotels daily,” McPherson said of guests behaving badly, while acknowledging the effect is different in residential areas.
The Buckhead house situation shows some of the tensions emerging as Airbnb and other short-term rentals expand into suburban areas, where regulations vary or are nonexistent or unenforced. The city of Atlanta told Reporter Newspapers earlier this year that short-term rentals are prohibited in single-family zoning areas, but could not confirm that applies to the Peachtree-Dunwoody house. Inspectors will check out the property, a city spokesperson said.
A review of area Airbnb house rentals earlier this year showed some mixed experiences with partiers. One home on residential Timm Valley Road was advertised as a “Party House in Buckhead…Kegs cost extra” and had been operating since 2011, apparently without being shut down. Another listing off Lake Forrest Drive in Sandy Springs said parties are no longer allowed because “it’s caused too many problems.”
McPherson said he avoids party rentals at his various properties, including several in New York that he has rented for 10 years and two in Buckhead he has owned for three years, including the Peachtree-Dunwoody house and one on Chateaugay Lane. He said he employs a local agent to manage the property and vet guests in person. McPherson travels regularly—he spoke on the phone from Paris—and visits the Peachtree-Dunwoody house often.
“I’m there at least two weeks a month,” he said. “It’s not a dedicated vacation rental.”
He said the house is often rented by such stars as actress Michelle Rodriguez of “Avatar,” singer Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child and the late Paul Walker of the “Fast & Furious” movies. The biggest hosting challenge on a daily basis, he said, is dealing with some celebrity eccentricities.
“One famous person…all the TVs were covered in blankets when they left. Really weird,” he said.
But, he said, some partying guests sneak through. At his New York home, he said, a man claiming to be the secretary for current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton rented the house, then was caught hauling Christmas trees and other decorations into the house for a lavish event.
McPherson said an organizer of the May 19 hip hop show fooled his local agent by showing up in a suit and claiming to be seeking a rental for an “elderly aunt” in town for a “family tragedy.” One of the hosts listed on a concert ad did not respond to questions and management for a group on the bill declined to comment. McPherson said it was a three-night rental, and the advertised rate was $615 a night.
McPherson said he was unaware of the party until TV news reports almost two weeks later. If neighbors or police had called him at the time, he said, “action would have been taken immediately.”
Stephanie McGarity, president of the Brookhaven Security Association, which provides off-duty police patrols and crime watches in the area, said she also learned of the situation from TV news. McGarity talked to one neighbor who is “terrified” and had complained, she said, but “some neighbors didn’t know anything about it.” She declined to identify which neighbor complained, but passed along a request for an interview that elicited no response.
McGarity said that she has never heard complaints about Airbnb rentals before and that graduation parties are the big source of event complaints.
“Public house parties where they’re charging admission—it’s just astounding,” she said.
The city said the police will now write a formal report for any further noise complaints at the property. And Airbnb recently launched a feature that allows neighbors to report complaints on listings.
McPherson has taken down the Airbnb listing for now. He said he will reach out to the Security Association to request their attention to the house, especially on weekends. He said he also will invite all neighbors to meet him at a restaurant to work out any issues. He emphasized that even the one neighbor he believes to be making the complaints has been helpful to him in the past.
“You can’t have a battle with your neighbor, because they’re your neighbor,” he said.