Note: This is an edited transcript of Christine Karpinski's How To Rent Vacation Properties by Owner Not authorized to view the specified article 1694 .
Q: "Is it okay to charge renters for utilities?"
A: I know having a vacation rental property can make your utility rates go up astronomically. I was just speaking to an owner yesterday who was complaining that travelers leave their doors open and leave the air conditioning on, and their utility bill was over $600, whereas in the normal off-season, it's usually around $85 to $100. That could really cut into your bottom line.
In Europe, a lot of times when you rent a home, they actually do read the meter and you get charged a utility fee. Now, you can certainly do something like that; however, that can be really confusing. It could become a "he said, she said" thing with reading the meters. I think factoring in the extra costs into your rental rate is really the better way to go.
However, there are some times when it's appropriate to charge a utility fee, and that would be when people are renting by the month. Often, this is where you'll see a monthly rate, plus a flat utility charge. What I actually do for my snowbirds who go into my vacation homes in Florida, during the wintertime is write out a dollar amount. I say, "Included is $100 worth of utilities per month. If you go above that, then you will be charged the amount in excess of that."
However, when you're renting on a weekly basis, it's going to be much more difficult to assess which renter used all that power. So I think if you're renting on a weekly basis, it's much easier just to incorporate that into your costs.
Now, on the flip side, I'm not a big fan of notes all over the place. You know, "Turn off the lights. Put the thermostat down to this. Close the door." I'm not a big fan of that, because we do want the people to feel at home.
However, a gentle reminder by the thermostat might be appropriate, and certainly put that in the directions that you send to the vacationer prior to them coming to your home. You know, just a few sentences about utility conservation, closing the doors.
If you have a fireplace and you have renters in there during the summer, you don't want them running the fireplace and the air conditioner at the same time. Yes, they will do that! In that circumstance, I actually shut off the gas to my fireplaces. If you have wood-burning fireplaces, definitely write into your contract that you'll charge a fine to run your fireplace during the summertime.
Being conscious of the utility usage is good. However, charging the renters? I'm not so sure it's a great idea.
I hope you enjoyed this episode of "Ask Christine." If you have a question, we'd love to hear from you. Please leave a message at (512) 493-4340.Listen to the original audio version of this podcast .
© Copyright HomeAway, Inc. 2007