– By Jennifer Duval, HOA Board President
The “Party House” problem can become a bigger problem
(Concerns addressed at a meeting on 1/26)
There are hundreds of Dallas homes listed on vacation rental sites such as Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway. One growing trend is to rent a listed home for the express purpose of having a raging party. “Party Houses,” as they are now known, aren’t illegal in Dallas, but they are problematic – the night time parties tend to rage into the early morning, be incredibly loud, host a lot of alcohol and sometimes drugs, lead to on-site traffic impediments due to disruptive street parking, and leave huge messes. And now party houses have come to Town Creek.
Many cities in the U.S. are struggling to keep the party houses at bay. Locally, loud parties, while annoying to near-by residents, are a low priority for Dallas Police. Some of our Town Creek neighbors who are directly impacted by these party houses have reached out to the HOA Board and Crime Watch Committee. In response, your HOA has been coordinating with these affected neighbors, along with local government and law enforcement, to tamp down on the problem. We are currently engaged with city leaders who acknowledge the problem and are working with us to contain the prevalence of these party venues before the disruption spreads beyond control.
8 Steps to help eliminate party houses in our neighborhood:
- Go to the source: Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway will let you contact property owners who offer the rentals. Use the house address to check the listing; making sure posts for that house don’t encourage parties. Most owners do not want their properties used as party houses, and they take advantage of measures that prevent disruptive uses. The online sites themselves have pledged to do what they can to eliminate party house bookings. Just look for the “contact” link on these sites if you want to also report the problem to the booking agency (Airbnb, VRBO, or HomeAway, etc.). When a listing indicates “no parties” or reviews show that neighbors tend to call the cops, party-planners will be encouraged to look elsewhere for a venue.
- Call 9-1-1. Often. One call won’t get nearly as much attention as a dozen from surrounding neighbors. We all know that DPD is struggling with staffing shortages and response times, but even if police don’t show or show up late, the complaints should be put on record.
- Don’t focus only on the noise – Yes, loud noise after 10 p.m. is against city ordinance, but “noise and nuisance” calls are low priority for police. When you call 9-1-1, if it’s appropriate, be sure to tell the call-taker that there are “suspicious persons,” in the area, or “criminal trespassing” if party-guests are on your property. Also, tell 9-1-1 when traffic is being impeded by street parking. These types of issues tend to get higher-priority treatment by DPD.
- Document your calls and the parties themselves. If it’s safe and feasible, get pictures and video to go with records of the dates, addresses, and number of attendees. Pictures and videos of noisy parties, public intoxication or lewdness, messes, and neighborhood streets blocked by street parking will be effective. Visual proof can be very helpful.
- Write your city leaders. In Lake Highlands, that’s City Councilman Adam McGough. After Town Creek residents near a pair of party houses got in touch with him after the disturbances, Councilman McGough showed up in person to discuss the challenges first-hand with the homeowners. McGough is already looking at how other cities are regulating private vacation rentals and considering zone changes. Every email, call, and letter he receives is ammunition he can use to attack this problem. (Our city prosecutors are also looking into possible zoning changes – they, too, will need our feedback to make positive changes.) So, all that documentation you’ve been creating, or will create, should be sent right to city hall via email@example.com.
- Download and use apps “Our Dallas” and “iWatch” to report these and other issues. Share your documentation. And upload photos and videos if/when you have them. “Our Dallas” has replaced 3-1-1 as the best source for reporting trash and litter left behind, other code violations, and traffic congestion. “iWatch” will let you share your photos with first responders.
- Join Crime Watch. The program comes highly recommended from the police department and our city leaders. At the “Party House” meeting we attended, residents from other neighborhoods indicated their patrol programs were instrumental in tamping down party house activity. Some of our neighbors who reported to 9-1-1 disruptive party house activity indicated that the police came hours late or never came at all. So PLEASE, go to www.towncreeklakehighlands.com and join. (With more Crime Watch members, come more hours to patrol – with enough members, we could theoretically park our Crime Watch officers at party houses and let them stop violations as soon as they occur.) I can’t stress enough how fortunate we are to have Crime Watch and Volunteers in Patrol (VIP), in our neighborhood – not every area is as fortunate.
- And speaking of VIP (Volunteers in Patrol), please join this no-cost-to-you, non-confrontational volunteer program that will train you to become eyes and ears throughout our neighborhood. If you are physically able to walk, bike, or drive around our neighborhood one hour a month please consider joining the VIP program. Membership offers us priority status when we call in to report a disturbance. And it allows us as trained residents to keep a close eye on the Party Houses in question.
Party Houses aren’t yet illegal so we must focus on reportable associated behaviors when we call 9-1-1. It’s important, too, that we keep sending incident reports with details to Councilman McGough. While our leaders are aware of our growing concerns over this issue, they need countless compelling evidence to support actions on our behalf. With your help, we can curtail this Party House trend while there are still just two in Town Creek – it’s a problem that can quickly and easily spiral out of control.
Town Creek has historically been a quiet, peaceful neighborhood with safety a priority (thanks to a history of strong support for its Crime Watch program). I know I would like to keep it that way and trust that you would too. Please join me. Support your HOA and Crime Watch.