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Christine's Vacation Rental Insights

36 Posts tagged with the christine_karpinski tag
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Hi Everyone,

hurricane.jpg

Let me start by saying my heart goes out to everyone who has been in the path of Hurricane Irene. Irene has impacted many communities, especially in the Caribbean Islands and New England.

 

Having been through hurricanes with my properties in the past, I thought it would be appropriate to dedicate this week’s blog post to some quick pointers for dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane:

 

  • First and foremost, safety should be your number one concern. Don’t put yourself or your renters into a situation that is not safe. Pay close attention to warnings and ordnances in your area.

 

  • If you haven’t already, call (or email) all guests who are scheduled to come in the next few weeks and give them a status update (even if you have no effect).

 

  • If you must cancel guests due to arrive, figure out your plan of action. If your home is uninhabitable (extreme damages, no public services such as power, phone, water, etc.), in my opinion, it is right to refund guests or allow them to re-book.  While your rental contract might have a clause that says you do not refund due to hurricanes, it is my opinion that clause would only pertain to guests due to arrive (or already renting) while the hurricane is in process. I do not believe it would cover you for damages due to the hurricane after the storm.  (Disclaimer: I’m not an attorney; you may want to consult with your attorney if you do not plan on refunding or re-booking guests due to arrive.)

 

  • Check your insurance policy to see if you have coverage for loss of rent due to damages. Many insurance policies for rental properties have loss of rent coverage.

 

  • Don’t be too reactionary. While your situation might look grim right now, you would be surprised how quickly clean-up and restoration of services (water, power, phone, etc.) can happen. Don’t hastily cancel guests scheduled to come 3 months from now.

 

  • Contact your insurance company. File a claim ASAP. You don’t have to wait for repair estimates, as soon as you know you have damage open a file.

 

  • When assessing damages, be sure to take photos and/or video of all damages prior to cleaning up or repairing. It will make your insurance claims much easier if you documented all damages.

 

  • Be compassionate to your service providers. While your housekeepers and maintenance staff might be your lifelines during normal circumstances, have patience with them now—their first priority will be themselves (remember this is only your second home; their primary residence may have also been impacted by the storm).

 

  • Keep detailed records of all cleaning and repair costs.

 

Again, my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the storm.

 

Christine Karpinski

www.howtorentbyowner.com

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Hi Everyone!iStock_000015355968XSmall.jpg

 

Hope you are doing well.  So I have had a “first” happen to me recently so let me set the scene and explain what exactly happened. 

 

When I take bookings for my vacation rental properties, I firmly require money down upon booking in order to solidify the reservation.  But after the down payment I am extremely flexible with my rental guests regarding the remaining balance as long as they are paid in full thirty days prior to their arrival date.  So this means, my guests pay $200, $300, or $500 down (depending on the property) and then we schedule a payment plan for the balance (but we do pre-determine it and stick to it).  For the subsequent payments, I automatically charge the guest’s credit card on the agreed upon date then immediately email them an updated invoice reflecting the payment.  The process of emailing them is just as much for my records as it is for theirs.  This way I have a clear “paper trail” if you will of all charges to their account.  It might sound like a lot of work but the process works for me and my guests appreciate the flexibility with the payment plan.   

 

Anyhow, for one particular renter, he paid the down payment upon booking.  For the remaining balance he wanted it broken up into two more payments.  I charged the down payment and first payment according to the schedule with no problems.  Yesterday I charged the final payment and per protocol, I sent him the updated invoice.  This morning I got an email from the guest and he said that there was a problem.  The fraud department of his credit card bank called him yesterday morning (shortly after I charged his payment) to verify the charges.  It caught him off guard and he never put 2+2 together that the charge was for the rental.  Only after he checked his email and saw the invoice did he realize that the charge was for the rental.

 

So I contacted my merchant account provider and found out that if he does NOT call his bank and reverse the denial immediately then it will indeed get processed as a chargeback and I get charged a fee of $25. Furthermore, it can hurt my credit standing with my merchant account provider.

 

So I guess I will need to add yet another thing to my rental agreements reminding the guests that their credit card company might call to verify the charges.  If they mistakenly deny the charged they can get assessed a fee of $50. 

 

Happy Renting!

 

Christine 

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President and Mrs Carter and Christine Karpinski.jpgHi  Everyone,

 

It’s been a little while since  I have blogged.  I have been on the road a lot in the past month doing seminars  and I managed to squeeze in a little weekend getaway too!

 

I had the pleasure of going on  the Carter Center Winter Weekend trip.  Aside from spending five days with  President and Mrs. Carter, I learned a lot about the work that the Carter Center  has been involved in.  One talk that was of specific interest to me was with Dr. Jay Hakes, Director of  Policy and Research for the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil  Spill and Offshore Drilling.  He talked about the things that went wrong (from  both BP’s perspective and the government response).  He also talked about  policies and procedures the government is putting in place to assure this type  of disaster never happens again.  I’m going to invite Dr. Hakes as a guest on my  podcast.  Stay tuned….

 

So onto my rental life… It was  a slower start to the booking year.  It seems that the renters are booking  closer and closer to their rental dates than ever before.  But in the end my  inquiries and bookings seem to be on par with last year.  Keeping our fingers  crossed that booking will continue to roll in. 

 

Living 1000 miles away from my  closest vacation rental has never seemed to be too much of a problem except for  one silly issue.  The internet!  All of my properties have wi-fi connection  because quite frankly the renters demand it.   A couple weeks ago I had a router  go out in one of my properties.  You would think this would be an easy problem  to solve, but NO!  The stores around didn’t have any routers so had to buy a one  online and have it shipped.  But once it arrived, my housekeeper figure out how  to install it.  And though I could walk her through which wire to hook up where,  she needed to get onto a computer and set the passwords.  In the end, I had to  ask my renter to hook it up. Though not optimal, it worked. 

 

That brings me to another  story.   I had a really funny call with a renter the other day.  Here’s how it  went:

 

Renter: “I cannot get connected to the  internet.”

 

Me: “Go to the start menu, press control panel, press  network and internet…”

 

Renter: “Wait, my mouse is not working”

 

Me: “Are you at the desk in the  bedroom?”

 

Renter: “Yes”

 

Me: “Okay, your mouse is not working because the desk is a  glass top, the optical mouse has to have something underneath  it.”

 

Renter: “I’ll use the touchpad on my  laptop”

 

Me: “Okay, now type in the network  password.”

 

Renter: “<frustrated> ugh, this touchpad is not good; I am  having trouble typing because I keep hitting the touchpad. Let me put the phone  on speaker so I can do this with two hands.”

 

Renter: “Okay, it’s on speaker, can you hear me  now?”

 

Me: “It’s a little garbled but we can make due.  Now type  the password into the box.”

 

Renter: “<even more frustrated> geeze I cannot use this  dog-gone touchpad.”

 

Me: “<assertively> Sir, go get a piece of paper and  put it under your mouse.”

 

Renter: “Okay wait a minute. ” Renter comes back and says, “Can  you hear me better now?”

 

Me: “Yes, I can hear you. Now type that password  in.”

 

Renter: “<now just down-right mad> I cannot work this  touchpad!”

 

Me: <Hu?  Why isn’t he using his mouse?  OMG the light  bulb goes off!> “Sir I said put the piece of paper under your mouse,  not under your mouth!”

 

Renter: “<laughing> Oh wow my mouse works now! Okay I just  typed in the password and the internet works.  Thanks!”

 

Problem solved!  The silly  things vacation rental owners have to endure.

 

I am still laughing about the  conversation! 

 

Happy  Renting!

 

Christine

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Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!Wishing You a Happy Thanksgiving

Beyond being thankful for the things in my personal life, there are many things in my vacation rental life that I am thankful for. In no particular order, I am thankful...

  To be privileged enough to own vacation rental homes. Even though I have mortgages and need the rent to pay for the properties, let’s be real here... it is a privilege to own vacation rentals!

  To the vacation rental websites for connecting me with travelers seeking accommodations. I definitely take it for granted when I log into my email and find an inquiry.

  To each and every one of my guests who take care of my homes as if it were their own. Come on, this is everyone’s biggest worry when they start renting, but after four or five perfect guests, we all come to expect it. It’s really great that there are way more good people in the world than bad!

  For my housekeepers and maintenance staff. I feel like this one needs to be in all CAPS. I don’t take them for granted and really do realize what they do for my vacation rental business.

  For my credit card merchant account, which makes it quick and easy to process payments. It’s hard to remember back to the days when I couldn’t take a last-minute booking because there wasn’t enough time for the check to get to me.

  For my new remote locks, which makes it a breeze to allow my guests access to my homes. It’s the little things that make life easier. Gone are my worries about guests being able to get into my homes.

  To the many other vacation rental owners who I network with to collaboratively get things done. It’s nice to have others to lean on during times of need.

That I am doing something I love! This is an awesome industry!

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and delicious Thanksgiving!

Christine
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Under the Weather

Posted by christinekarpinski Oct 5, 2010

relying on service providers when you are under the weatherHi Everyone,

It’s been a little while since I have written a blog post. I have been a bit under the weather and took some days off to recoup. Let me clarify: by days off I mean off from my day job at HomeAway. Unfortunately, vacation rental owners never get to take “sick days.”

October is the busiest month for my cabins in the Great Smoky Mountains. I’m generally booked every single night of the month with 4-5 night back-to-back rentals. So all maintenance better be done before October hits because there is no down time whatsoever. Toward the end of September, I talk with my housekeeper and maintenance people, and we go through our checklist of things to be done before the October busy season.

So let me set the scene. It's October 1st, the first day of my busy month and I’m at home, in bed, with a terrible cold. My husband is on the sofa (also sick) and our son is upstairs in his room because, yep, you guessed it, he’s sick too. The phone rings. Everyone is feeling too icky to answer it. It goes to the answering machine and we hear, “This is your guest in your cabin, we’re having a problem, we’ll call you on your cell….click…”

My cell phone rings. Surprise! It’s my guest who says, “None of the fireplaces are working. I have checked all three and none of them will work. Is there a special trick?”

Ughhhh, no there is no special trick. It’s my bad. I forgot to have the maintenance guy come over and turn on the fireplaces (we turn them off for the summer). I call my maintenance guy to see if he can come over but he’s sick too (sounds just as bad, if not worse, than I do). I tell him not to worry; I can call my back-up maintenance man. I called him but his message says he’s on vacation (figures!). So I called my main maintenance man back to see if he has any friends I can call. He says he’ll check and then call me back. About an hour later I get a call from my maintenance man who said he just got dressed and went over to do it himself.

I was so grateful. And if he felt as bad as we did, then he gets extra kudos for helping me out in this pinch. I have said it again and again. We could not run our vacation rental business without our good help. We have to make sure that we have committed, dependable and reliable staff.

Guess who is going to get a little extra in his check this month?

Happy October!
Christine

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The HomeAway Revive the Gulf SymposiumHi everyone,

As many of you know, I own properties along the Gulf Coast, so the oil spill has continued to effect me after the oil stopped flowing. And I know that I'm not the only one-- many Gulf Coast homeowners have endured a particularly difficult summer this year following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. To show our continued support for our owners, HomeAway is hosting a special event on November 6 and 7.

You are invited to a FREE symposium dedicated to Gulf Coast vacation rental owners, featuring Tom Hale, Chief Product Officer of HomeAway, Inc. We’ll also have other industry experts onsite to share insights and advice on recovering your rentals, and I'll be speaking as well.

In addition to learning from our panel of experts, you’ll have the opportunity to meet other homeowners just like you, facing the same challenges and striving to keep your properties booked and your beaches safe and beautiful for future guests.

We would love to see you there. To ensure that we have enough seating for everyone, pre-registration for each guest is required. Sign up today to save your spot.

Location

Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa
4000 Sandestin Blvd., South
Destin, Florida 32550

Accommodations
If you're joining us from out of town, consider renting one of the many Destin properties available on our family of websites.

Or, if you'd prefer to stay at the hotel, we have a discounted rate of $109/night available for Symposium attendees.  Just call 850-267-9500 and mention our group.

Agenda
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Speaker Sessions: 1pm to 6pm
Networking Reception: 6:30pm to 7:30pm

Sunday, November 7, 2010
Listing Workshop: 9am-12pm

Learn about our speakers and topics*:

• Tom Hale, Chief Product Officer of HomeAway, Inc., will kick off the weekend discussing the state of the vacation rental industry in the Gulf. Learn how HomeAway plans to promote your properties on VRBO.com, VacationRentals.com and HomeAway.com for a successful 2011 rental year.

• Christine Karpinski, bestselling author, Gulf Coast homeowner and Director of Owner Community, will share her own advice and experiences about recovering from the oil spill, standing firm on your rates and dealing with bargain hunters.

• Caroline Adams of Buzbee Law Firm will be onsite to answer questions regarding the BP claims process.

• Representatives from the Beaches of South Walton will share what local tourism boards are doing to stimulate economic activity and restore tourism in the region.

• And finally, our Listing Workshop will demonstrate how you can improve your own marketing efforts to attract visitors to your areas once again

Register Now  
If you have any questions, feel free to call the Owner Community at 512.505.1544 or email seminars@homeaway.com.

Hope to see you soon,

Christine

*Speakers and topics are subject to change.
   

 

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Hello Vacation Rental Owners!

price your vacation rental appropriately for fall breakIt looks like it might be a strong fall season for me and many others! Last week was a very good week for inquiries and bookings for my properties in both Florida and Tennessee. After speaking with a number of renters, it seems like many of the schools in the southeast have fall breaks this year, which is awesome for the vacation rental industry. I spoke with one guest who lives in the Nashville, Tennessee area, and she said that her children have the first two weeks of October off for their fall break.

To stay on the lookout, here are some of the fall breaks I know about from speaking with my various guests:

  • September 18-25
  • October 2-9
  • October 9-16
So why do you care about those dates? Well, if your guests generally travel from the southeastern part of the U.S., then you could and should be able to get those weeks booked at your published fall rates. Don’t make the mistake of taking a 2-night booking too early and miss out on a full week.

Happy Renting your fall break!

Christine

 
   

 

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Home Sweet Home

Posted by christinekarpinski Aug 24, 2010

Home Sweet HomeHi everyone,

I’m back from my vacation. I stayed in a vacation rental property in Turks and Caicos and had a wonderfully relaxing vacation. Everything with my rentals was smooth sailing while I was totally unplugged from it all. Check out this photo we took from our rental (this was the private walkway down to the beach).

I came home to find out that the process for filing claims with BP has changed yet again! We now have to resubmit a new claim application because Feinberg’s office has officially taken over the claims process. Like it was not painful enough to do it once, now we all have to do it again! If you own in the Gulf Coast, be sure to re-file your claims. For all oil spill related information, be sure to go to our oil spill website.

This week I’m in The specified article was not found. for a seminar. If you live in the Bay Area, come join me!

Happy Renting!

Christine
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3, 2, 1... Vacation!Hi Everyone,

I’m officially ready for my vacation starting tomorrow. I cannot be more excited to have a week of R&R from both jobs—my work at HomeAway and my rental business. The vacation rental business can easily be a 24/7/365 job if you let it. But I insist on taking time off at least once a year. If I miss out on a booking, so be it, it’s worth my sanity.

Next week, I’ll have a guest blogger. My good friend and respected writer in the second home arena, Tom Kelly will be bringing his wisdom and wit to my blog.

Tom Kelly also has a Free Webinar on reverse mortgages tomorrow, August 10th. Here’s the info on it if you are interested:

Reverse mortgages have hit the mainstream. Whether you're a senior looking for a reverse mortgage or an adult child doing the research for mom and dad, the good news is that fees have plummeted. The puzzling news—not to be confused with “bad”—is that there could well be some costs in today’s advertised “no-cost reverse mortgages.”

In this compelling FREE WEBINAR, Tom Kelly, "The Real Estate Communicator," will help you understand the upfront costs, and those incurred down the road, and explain how persons over the age of 62 can use a reverse mortgage to buy a retirement home today, taking advantage of lower prices in many areas like Florida and Arizona.

This event is scheduled for August 10, 2010. Please join us at 2:00 PM EDT (1:00 PM CDT, 12:00 PM MDT, 11:00 AM PDT). Click here to register !

I’ll see you again in a couple of weeks when I’ll (hopefully) be relaxed and tan. Turks and Caicos here I come!

Christine
   

 

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Hi Everyone.

My rental life has been pretty quiet. This is a welcomed change because the BP oil spill has been consuming my life lately. We’ve been working on a website for vacation homeowners in the Gulf Coast and, of course, it has taken twice the amount of work than we anticipated. But the good news is that it's finally up and running.

Next week I am going on vacation and NO, I’m not going to one of my vacation rentals. We’re going to Turks and Caicos. So this week I’ll be setting up all of my rental systems so I can have a relaxing vacation without worrying about my vacation rentals while I am away (read what I do before going on vacation The specified blog post was not found.).

This Thursday, I’ll be speaking at Florida Tourist Development Tax Association. For all of you vacation rental owners in Florida, if you are not collecting and remitting sales tax, you now have a chance to come clean and potentially save thousands of dollars in fees and fines. Stay tuned later this week for a full article about this, which will be written by Rob Stephens of HotSpotTax.

UPDATE 8/5/10: Rob Stephens, Co-founder of HotSpat Tax Services has written an article entitled Florida Taxes and Vacation Rentals where he outlines the new tax amnesty program to help vacation rental property owners and property managers become properly registered to pay the required taxes. Read it The specified article was not found. !

Have a good week!

Christine
   

 

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Hi Everyone,

I’ll be in Denver giving a seminar this evening. If you are in Denver, The specified article was not found.!

On Wednesday, I head back to Destin to gather more information for our new oil spill website. We’ll be formally releasing the website to everyone next week, but wanted to mention it here first to my loyal blog readers.

Saturday, I had the first snafu with my Schlage link lock. My guests called and said they could not get into the condo. Because this lock has the functionality for me to unlock the door online, I went to the dashboard and it said the door was already unlocked. I told the guests that it was registering as unlocked but they said the door still did not open.

Perplexed, I pulled out the owner’s manual and walked them through the steps to unlock the door. Apparently I missed one step in my directions... do I hear the drumroll?... “turn the knob and open the door.” I will refrain from putting in print what I was really thinking, but I am quite certain you can fill in the blanks. The funnier part is I have also had this happen with my cabins, which have keyless locks. You would think I would learn to give explicit directions. Oy!

Have a great week!

Christine
   

 

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When Nature Calls

Posted by christinekarpinski Jul 7, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Hope you all had a nice Fourth of July weekend.

I finally pulled all of my information together for my BP claim. Even though I keep meticulous books and had everything easily at my disposal, it was a fair amount of work to get it all together. Tonight my husband and I will go through it one last time to ensure we have everything we need before we overnight it to our claims adjuster. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

So it was bound to happen; for the first time in 15 years of renting vacation homes, I got a phone call for a clogged toilet and I had to have a plumber come over and snake out the lines.

It's kind of funny because one of the most common questions (fears, really) I get from people who are thinking of renting out their vacation homes is, “What do you do if the renters call and the toilet is clogged?” To which I have always replied, “I have never gotten a call for a clogged toilet.” So how will I answer this question now?

Happy Renting,

Christine
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Hi Everyone,

I have returned from my travels to the Gulf Coast and I am back to my normal routine of working and dealing with my rentals.

After Owner’s Summit, the Schlage salesman insisted that I try the new Schlage LiNK lock on one of my rentals. As a rule, I am a bit resistant to change- and even more resistant to new technology- but since he gave me the lock and installation for free, I figured I had to give it a try.

I’ve been using the new lock now for about a month and I am surprised to report that I absolutely love it. I can change the lock code from my computer or Blackberry. I can have unique codes for my guests, housekeepers and maintenance staff. And I also receive an e-mail notification each time anyone unlocks the door.

So the Schlage LiNK salesman was a pretty smart guy, he piqued my interest by giving me one free lock and now I’m going to be buying them for all of my rentals.

Wishing everyone a happy, safe and totally booked Forth of July weekend.

Christine
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fish market closures following gulf coast oil spillAs promised, I wanted to give you an update of my travels on the Gulf Coast.

Yesterday I was supposed to go up in a small plane to get an aerial view of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. But on Tuesday afternoon, just as I was getting ready to go, some thunderstorms rolled in that canceled my flight.

I took some time see more of the beaches Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. I went over to Okaloosa Island and down to Panama City Beach, and I was very happy to see these beaches exactly as the others — no oil or tar balls that I could see.

I had to cut my trip short and fly to Atlanta on Tuesday night for a Wednesday morning interview with Fox and Friends (to talk about the oil spill). My family lives in Atlanta so I thought it would be nice to pick up some fresh seafood so we could enjoy the fruits of the sea. I called my favorite fish market, Shrimpers, to place my order. Their answering machine picked up and said, “Sorry, we are closed due to the oil spill.”

The closed fish market hit me like a load of bricks! I guess it was because everything else I “saw” was eerily exactly the same. The stores were buzzing with tourists, the boardwalk had people walking and running as usual, the restaurants were crowded, and yes, they even had seafood on the menus (I suppose shipped in from other parts of the world).

Every beach vacation is virtually the same — enjoy the beach, play in the sand and water, get a sun tan, go to the fish market and cook up a freshly caught seafood feast. But not this time. As I sit here writing this blog post, I feel deeply saddened by this. I am wondering why the closure of the fish market had such a profound effect on me. I suppose it’s because no matter what I see or hear about the oil spill on TV, somehow that’s surreal, a bit more difficult to believe. Perhaps my brain can only believe what I see. The bottom line is whether I can see it or not, the oil is affecting my beaches.

Christine

The information in the articles, blogs or other posts by Christine Karpinski are provided to assist vacation property owners or managers generally and are based on Ms. Karpinski’s personal experiences or the information she has been able to gather. This information is meant to help the owner community; however, please note that any particular situation of any owner or manager may differ and all owners and managers are encouraged to seek professional advice to determine what course(s) of action will be most beneficial for them. Neither HomeAway, Inc. nor Christine Karpinski can provide any guarantee or warrantee that this information is complete or accurate at any point in time or that any particular outcome will result if action is taken in response to this information.
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Hi Everyone,

destin, florida after the oil spill
I have been getting conflicting reports about the oil spill. The TV news makes it sound like the entire gulf coast is covered in oil. The county reports say there is no oil sheen but there are “tar balls” in some areas. So ultimately, I decided to take a trip down to Florida’s Gulf Coast so I could see for myself.

I flew into the new Panama City Airport (ECP) Sunday evening. I was pretty happy to see our flight was fully booked. Knowing the majority of the tourists go to Destin and Panama City Beach from Saturday to Saturday, seeing a full flight on Sunday was promising.

The new airport is really nice.  I could smell the newness of the paint and the carpet as I walked onto the jet way. But I couldn’t help think it’s pretty sad that this is the first new international airport in the United States since Denver’s airport, and the grand opening never even made the news because it was foreshadowed by the oil spill.

As I drove down Highway 98, the traffic started to thicken as I approached San Destin—a good sign that tourists are, indeed, in town. I arrived in Destin just as the sun was nearly setting, so I hurried out to the beach to see if there was oil. I’m not sure what exactly I expected to see but the beach looked the same as it always has. No oil or tar balls in sight. No machinery on the beaches, no workers in Hazmat suits or blue gloves. There were many families turning golden brown from a full day on the beach - and some even lobster red! This was quite a relief.

I also learned that the Doobie Brothers will be playing a free Rock the Beach Concert on Sunday, June 27 at 5 pm to be held adjacent to the Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island.  Be sure to promote this great activity to your guests!

photos of destin florida following deepwater horizon oil spillThe photos you see here are photos I took myself. I’ll be sending them to my guests and telling them so far so good.  Feel free to send your guests a link to this blog post too!

I also had the opportunity to sit down with an adjuster this morning at one of the BP claims offices.  Here are the questions I asked, along with the answers from the adjuster.

 
Q: Can I file for projected losses in rental revenue, as well as actual losses for past dates that have gone without rentals?
Yes, you can. BP views projected losses in the past. For example, if you had a week in June that was not rented but normally would have been rented prior to the oil spill, you can file a claim after that date has passed – in this case, at the end of June. This does not mean that you only have 30 days to file; the dates just have to have passed in order to be considered a projected loss. All claims are dealt with on a monthly basis.

 
post-oil spill photo from gulf coast of florida
Q: So if I have an upcoming week that is still open, let’s say July 3 through 10, I can’t file until the end of July?
That is correct. The date has to be in the past.

 
Q: What do I need to provide in order to file a claim?
Documentation of your unit name, address and any description, cancellation documentation (emails from renters, contact numbers to reach them), reservation deposits (refunded or kept, credit card statements), list of costs incurred from renters, and 2 years of tax returns. You must have your warranty deed, which may not be listed on the claims document or your claims adjuster may forget to tell you, but they cannot pay a claim without it.

Q: For tax returns, do you need the full tax return?
Yes, including the Schedule E. Not just the first page.

Q: When it comes to costs…If my home goes un-rented for 3 weeks, I still need to have a housekeeper come in to clean. Can I file a claim for those costs?
Yes, you can, if that is something you can prove that you need to do and have done in the past. Again, provide documentation.

Q: I heard you wanted documentation from the county? Do you need proof that we paid sales tax?
We need proof that you are the owner, so we require a copy of the warranty deed for each property.

Q: How do I prove what rates I would have received for weeks that go unrented?
Provide documentation of your published rental rate. We want to see a copy of your listings for at least the last 12 months. We want proof that your listing has been active for a full year.

Q: How do you prove rate increases?
Last year was a tough year economically so very few people raised their rates. But after a good rental year, they raised rates this year. It's just more documentation to provide.

Q: What about people low balling rates? Some owners might accept a deal instead of letting their home sit empty.

You can file for the difference between your typical rental amount vs. the discounted rate you accepted.

Q: For what dates do you need proof of ownership/proof or rental history?
We need 2008 and 2009 tax returns and a Profit & Loss statement for 2010.

Q: Most homeowners have filed their sales taxes for 2010, so would that be considered proof if you show that receipt?
You can bring that in and include in your file. Anything you can bring to prove documentation of your loss will be to your benefit. There is never a situation where you have too much paperwork.

Q: Do you need copies of inquiries, proving that I’ve tried to rent?

No, we just need copies of your ad.

Q: If I have an ad on multiple sites, do you want copies of all the advertising?

Wouldn’t hurt.

Q: Homeowners are trying to work a lot harder to get bookings. A lot of time, phone calls, administrative costs. Is there any compensation for my time or if I hire someone to assist?

That’s a hard one to say for sure. Doesn’t hurt to try.

Q: If I have a cancellation and I’ve processed the original rent through my merchant account or PayPal, and then I refund the money, I still get charged transaction fees. Can I file for these costs?
Yes, provide copies and proof of transaction fees.

Q: I have rental agreements with every renter that say 'no cancellations, no refunds,' etc. My renters sign and agree to it. They also have to decline travel insurance and agree to my cancellation policies. If I didn’t want to refund their money, do the travelers have the right to file a claim?
Anyone can file a claim. There is no guarantee what will happen, but they can try.

Q: Let’s say I have a rental from June 5-12, dates that have already passed. I didn’t refund their money. Can those travelers file a claim and get paid even though the beaches weren’t closed?
We haven’t had that situation occur yet. If they chose to go somewhere else and you didn’t refund their money, I’m not sure if they would get paid from BP. There are other circumstances for cancellations. It depends on when they booked. They have a right to file, but I'm not sure if any renters have gotten paid.

Q: Define oil coming to shore? Does that include tar balls?
Yes, that includes tar balls. BP is keeping track of where the oil has hit. Tar balls have hit every beach.

Q: How are most homeowners handling the cancellations?
Most homeowners are refunding the money and filing the claims themselves. This upholds your relationship with the renter, and hopefully they’ll come back.

Q: If a homeowner doesn’t refund, are you advising that they tell travelers to file a claim?
No, that is their choice.

Q: How do you calculate the projected losses? For example, normally I would book the last 2 weeks of May. This May, I wasn’t booked the last 2 weeks, but I was booked the first week. That was an anomaly. Does BP then think, well you got 2 out of the 4 weeks?
BP will generally take an average on the month. It does not mean that the “bonus” booking you received will be null and void.

Q: Are they also taking into account the rate increases? This year my rate was higher.

Yes, as long as it is shown on the VRBO listing.

Q: Let’s say I rent for $1500 and I charge a $200 pet fee. In the past, 90% of my guests have pets.  Will the pet fee revenue be included in the claim?
That’s part of your revenue; just prove you’ve done it in the past. Show how many people have had pets.

Q: I have privacy policies with my guests. What about past guests? Do you have to have their email addresses?
If it states the rental amount and pet fees on your contract, that should be sufficient.

Q: What about people new to renting and don’t have 2 years of tax returns?

The people who are new are going to have to get as much documentation they can get. Anything to show your expenses.

Q: Would it also be advantageous to get in contact with other homeowners and get their rental histories, to prove rentability of that property?
You don’t have to do that; we’re only going to go by your rental rates and what you had advertised. You have to have started renting prior to April 20.

Q: What is the process for filing a claim? Do you personally have to go through BP or do you have the authority to make the decision here in this office?
Up to $5000 is all that we pay out at a time in this office each month. Any larger claims in a given month have to be reviewed.

Q: Is it better to come into the office to file a claim or mail it in?
If you can come in, do it. May be quicker. And you can talk to someone face to face and get questions answered. Plus, you have reassurance that everything is received.

Q: Let’s say I have a cancellation and I wasn’t able to re-rent. If I came down to file a claim, and I’m staying in my own place, does that still count as an unrentable week?
Yes, still file a claim for those dates.

Q: How many claims do I need to file?
You file one claim per property. Once you start the filing, and you prove your past rental history, you just have to do a new file each month for lost revenue. As of right now there is no cap on the amount you can claim. However, claims over $20,000 go to large loss claim units.

Q: How do property managers handle the claims?
If your home is rented through a property manager, PMs can only file for their commission losses. Homeowners must file the rental income losses themselves.

Q: What about loss of property value?
Everyone is asking. At this point, they’re only paying immediate loss of income claims, no prospective business value/property value claims are being made.

Q: How many claims offices are there, and how are the adjusters assigned?

There are approximately 30 claims offices to date. The adjusters are doing their best to assign local adjusters to each claim. If you own in Walton County, but you call the national claim line, if you can’t come down, they’re trying to give you a Walton County adjuster, not someone in the Keys. Make sure to write down your adjuster’s name and contact info because they are going to be your lifeline.

Q: If President Obama and the administration change the claims process, what will happen?
We’re not sure.

I’ll keep you posted as I travel up and down the Gulf Coast this week.  I'm renting a small plane tomorrow to take some aerial shots - stay tuned for more photos!

Christine

The information in the articles, blogs or other posts by Christine Karpinski are provided to assist vacation property owners or managers generally and are based on Ms. Karpinski’s personal experiences or the information she has been able to gather. This information is meant to help the owner community; however, please note that any particular situation of any owner or manager may differ and all owners and managers are encouraged to seek professional advice to determine what course(s) of action will be most beneficial for them. Neither HomeAway, Inc. nor Christine Karpinski can provide any guarantee or warrantee that this information is complete or accurate at any point in time or that any particular outcome will result if action is taken in response to this information.

 
   
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