A couple of weeks ago, I looked at a problem a few neighbors approached me with — a nearby property owner renting out a house on Airbnb that had become a nuisance, they felt, with a succession of parties.
That column prompted David Krauss to email me. Krauss and his business partner, Andrew Schulz, have a product they feel is a boon to homeowners taking advantage of the short-term rental market — a noise detector that alerts a host when the noise level is reaching neighbor-irritating levels.
“We like to call it a smoke detector for noise,” Krauss told me. The device plugs into any electrical outlet, and after a fairly easy setup, begins churning out data for homeowners.
“It’s not my neighbors’ responsibility to be my noise detector,” Krauss said, adding that the NoiseAware device provides a way to monitor noise but still provide privacy to guests.
Krauss said that his search for a way to address potential problems before neighbors were annoyed enough to call police began with a bad experience with a short-term tenant.
“I love the short-term rental market,” he said. “I’m a lifer.”
But that bad experience cost him money (more than $30,000 to be exact), and peace of mind. “I went into this knowing I need to be a great neighbor,” he said. And so he began searching for a way to be a great neighbor, but still take part in the short-term rental market.
“I wanted to be the first to know there was a problem, not the last,” he said.
What he found was less than encouraging. Googling for options found him a lot of security cameras and baby monitors, but nothing that was really hospitable.
“They were not private,” he said. “Privacy is important.”
“You’re allowing people you have never met into your home,” Krauss continued. “There has to be a lot of trust on both sides.”
So Krauss and Schulz, who met at a Dallas Entrepreneur Center event, set about making a noise detection device that would still provide privacy.
The NoiseAware device, he said, “turns noise into data in a privacy-centered way.”
Once the device is installed (it can be screwed in to the faceplate), it can connect to home Wi-Fi. It can be customized for quiet hours so a property owner can get alerts when decibels reach a certain level in the middle of the night, and property owners can also easily adjust the sensitivity of the device.
If the noise goes above those set thresholds, the owner gets a text.
The most common complaints about renters, Krauss said, center around noise, parking, and trash. Noise is the hardest to respond to for a property owner.
“Noise disappears,” he said. “But it also reduces the quality of life significantly.”
And as sites like Airbnb and HomeAway eliminate the barrier to entry when it comes to the hospitality market, more and more property owners are playing host to paying customers — but often without the supports and expertise a hotelier might have when it comes to customer service.
“We find that both the property owner and the guests appreciate the safeguard,” Krauss said, adding that they encourage customers to tell their guests about the monitoring device.
“We call it a hospitality moment — like the front desk of a hotel,” he said. “Our customers find that one of the best values is being able to show the guest that you are monitoring noise levels.”
“It’s like, ‘We want you to have an awesome stay, but we want to help keep you out of trouble with the neighbors, too.’ ”
“Guests are appreciative that there is a way to let them know discreetly,” he said.
While cities grapple with whether regulating the short-term rental market is the right answer, Krauss said really “the only thing that the whole world agrees on when it comes to short-term rentals is that there is an impact on the neighbors.”
“We want to help minimize that impact.”
Bethany Erickson is the education, consumer affairs, and public policy columnist for CandysDirt.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.