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6634 Views 23 Replies Latest reply: Mar 8, 2012 12:39 PM by null.null RSS
New Member 5 posts since
Sep 6, 2011
Currently Being Moderated

Sep 7, 2011 8:42 AM

Damage question

Our vacation rental is in Santa Cruz, CA. During the summer we have a  4 night minimum and our groups tend to be family gatherings and people are very respectful and appreciative of our place. If there is minor damage ($20 or less) I overlook it. Once off season starts and the weekend renters begin I see a change in how our place is treated. We just had a goup rent for labor day weekend. I went to check the house after their departure and saw a pile of wet laundry. The catch on the dryer door was broken so the dryer would not close. I figure "Well that could happen to anyone". I also noticed our back was soaking wet and there were wet spots on the carpet in some of the bedrooms; that was strange.  Then I sat down on our recliner chair and it was completely broken;"oh come on".  The girl who cleans the house for me mentioned that the porcelain on the bathtub and one of the wall tiles had some scratches that went throught the finish (we bought and remodeled our house a year and a half ago), and also that she was taking a pillow home to wash because it smelled like someone threw up on it. I then smelled the wet carpet in the bedroom and realized that there had been vomit on it. My question is how do I charge for this? I am a softie so I would appreciate some perspective. Thanks

  • karin.dorn New Member 2 posts since
    Sep 7, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 7, 2011 12:18 PM (in response to pancakes1)
    Damage question

    I know it's a pain in the neck when you end up with renters like this, but that's why you should have a security deposit. Withhold the security deposit and use the money for the cleaning and repairs.

     

    Sometimes that is not enough though. And there is not much you can do about it, just screen the renters a bit better. We learned that the hard way about a year and a half ago.

     

    Hope this helps.

  • thaxterlane Active Contributor 785 posts since
    Jul 27, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 7, 2011 12:45 PM (in response to pancakes1)
    Damage question

    I can't determine if you have a security deposit or not.  If not, there isn't much you can do about getting the renters to pay for the damage.  Unless you have dated photos of the property before and after their stay, or some form of evidence, and are willing to put a great deal of time and effort into the process, it appears problematic.

     

    If you do have a security deposit and terms in the rental agreement outlining the how, when, why, where it can be held back - you should write a note outlining the damages and the cost of repair/replacement.  I would be prepared to provide copies of estimates and/or receipts (as a renter I would request this documentation).

     

    The rental agreement should be very clear that partial or total forfeiture of the security deposit is possible for x, y, and z conditions determined by the owner or the owner's agent.  There is very specific language to cover security deposits that should be part of every rental agreement.

     

    And always be certain your security deposit is sufficient to replace or repair potential problems.  There isn't any point in a $200 security deposit - it won't cover much in the way of experienced labor or quality supplies.  I would have a $500 security deposit at a minimum, higher if you have a "quality" property and furnishings (subjective, I know). 

     

    Final advice which isn't related to the security deposit - don't rent weekends.  We don't - we've found it emcourages people who treat our home like a hotel, and it's not worth the problems it might bring.  But we stay at our home often  - if your property is primay purpose is to produce income it may be worth the risk. 

     

    Best of luck!

      • thaxterlane Active Contributor 785 posts since
        Jul 27, 2011
        Currently Being Moderated
        Sep 8, 2011 7:23 AM (in response to pancakes1)
        Damage question

        I would charge the renters the full $500 security deposit you would have accepted.   Anything else would be an arbitrary figure and I'm not sure how you would settle on a formula to determine the amount.  You've got the cost of replacing the chair, cleaning soiled carpets, fixing the dryer, repairing damage to the bath, cleaning soiled "soft" furnishings, additional cleaning staff expense, etc.  I can't see how you are going to accomplish all of this for $500!  But, unless the renter volunteers to pay in full for the cleaning and purchases I don't see that you have any recourse.

         

        Off topic, I'm curious about using a credit card for a security deposit.  I accept personal checks two months in advance of a stay and deposit them into an escrow account set up for this purpose.   Credit cards are for purchases - how do you hold funds on a card?  I'm likely revealing myself to be very out-of-date - I've been handling security deposits in an escrow account for twenty years.  The appeal of this is having the funds in hand (my hand!) in case of any problems during rental.  I would think a renter could protest charges placed on a credit card through the credit card issuer and tie up the funds for an extended period.  

         

        Back to topic, I would highly recommend charging the full amount of the security deposit (provided the amount and process has been agreed to by contract with the renters in advance). 

         

        All the best as you sort this out!

  • msdebj Senior Contributor 1,359 posts since
    May 25, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 7, 2011 12:53 PM (in response to pancakes1)
    Damage question

    1. Can you get the recliner fixed?  If so, charge them for 25% of the repair.

    2. As for your tub and tiling, I'd let it go,unless it is SO bad that it will reflect on your ability to rent ( price of doing business). If you can have it repaierd , document, document & document- then charge them.

    3. Charge them if you have to have the carpet cleaned.

     

    My Contract states that the cleaning fee applies to basic cleaning only. Anything that cannot be cleaned through normal laundering ( carpet, furniture steam cleaning, etc.) will be deducted from the deposit.

     

    BTW, we have no carpet in out home for this reason.  I've purchased outdoor quailty rugs (that look great) ,and can be easily cleaned. I even one that I had to take outside and hose off, and it looked great.

    • sophie Senior Contributor 969 posts since
      Mar 4, 2011
      Currently Being Moderated
      Sep 7, 2011 9:07 PM (in response to msdebj)
      Damage question

      I learned very quickly to only have hard floor surfaces in my rental homes.  I have never seen so much abuse on carpets than in my vacation rentals.  Large throw rugs work perfectly to warm up the space and are much easier to clean.

       

      I would charge them for the repair of the dryer door. Clearly they damaged it...and then to leave wet clothes on the floor.  Have your entire home's carpet steam cleaned and then charge them 100% of the cleaning.

      • lrbaldwin Active Contributor 757 posts since
        Feb 16, 2011
        Currently Being Moderated
        Sep 13, 2011 1:03 PM (in response to pancakes1)
        Damage question

        Keep receipts.  Charge for the full replacement cost of the recliner.  Charge for having carpets completely cleaned in each room that has stains.  Spot cleaning will probably leave a cleaner area than the rest of the carpet.  Charge full cost of having the tile replaced and the tub repaired.  Anything else?  Charge for everything.  There's no excuse for this kind of behavior. 

         

        I don't know about traditional renters in your area, but we will rent only to small family groups, never to singles, wedding groups, reunion groups.  We require name and age of each guest and his/her relation to the person signing the lease agreement.  It sounds like you may have had a bunch of teenagers or young singles partying in your place.

         

        Linda

        • finndian@gmail.com Contributor 32 posts since
          Sep 28, 2011
          Currently Being Moderated
          Sep 28, 2011 10:44 AM (in response to lrbaldwin)
          Re: Damage question

          I'm new to this so pardon me if the answer is obvious.  Why not have the tenant pay $59 for the damage insurance?  I do that and don't charge deposit at all... am I asking for trouble??

          • thaxterlane Active Contributor 785 posts since
            Jul 27, 2011
            Currently Being Moderated
            Sep 28, 2011 1:43 PM (in response to finndian@gmail.com)
            Re: Damage question

            I believe security deposits provide an assurance to owners for repairs/replacements as the cash is IN HAND.  An insurance program makes the owner reliant on the approval of the compnay for repair/replacement.  If the damage insurance does not cover your situation, what do you do?  Having a security deposit would seem to be safer for the owner.  I realize the companies that advertise these insurances plans would disagree, but they would, wouldn't they? 

             

            A security deposit may require more interfacing with guests, particularly if something goes wrong.  An insurance program eliminates the need to communicate with guests about damages, although I'm not certain this is a positive . . . . an owner should be prepared to discuss any damages with guests to enforce standards of behavior. 

             

            I'm wondering what a world of guests insured by insurance might look like . . . personal responsibility anyone?

             

            I've handled security deposit for over fifteen years and I can't see any reason to transition to an insurance program that adds a party to the process. 

            • finndian@gmail.com Contributor 32 posts since
              Sep 28, 2011
              Currently Being Moderated
              Sep 28, 2011 2:16 PM (in response to thaxterlane)
              Re: Damage question

              Well, their pitch includes talk of claims for small things like replacing sheets because of staining by guests.  I fully plan to utilize the insurance the way they describe it in their literature...broken dishes, scratched furniture, permanent stains.  This includes loss or theft of my belongings while in use of my tenants... beach chairs, bikes, etc. 

               

              The first sign of insurance non-payment for an insured guest and I will never use them again and warn others.  Right now I think it gets me bookings since all my local competition requires huge deposits.  My biggest worry is that the guest doesn't have anything to lose personally by not taking good care of the property.

              • thaxterlane Active Contributor 785 posts since
                Jul 27, 2011
                Currently Being Moderated
                Sep 28, 2011 2:24 PM (in response to finndian@gmail.com)
                Re: Damage question

                "My biggest worry is that the guest doesn't have anything to lose personally by not taking good care of the property."

                 

                Exactly!

                 

                The addition of an isurance company in the rental agreement  is not necessarily a good thing!

              • sfowner Contributor 33 posts since
                May 16, 2011
                Currently Being Moderated
                Sep 28, 2011 3:31 PM (in response to finndian@gmail.com)
                Re: Damage question

                I do not care for the wording of the purchased insurance. They pay for UNintentional damage. Now, how are we to prove the damage was not intentional? With the number and nature of problems these poor owners had, it could easily be labeled intentional and they might be out of luck if they relied on the insurance....

                 

                I will stick with deposit even knowing it is not enough to pay for even moderate damage because I think people who know I have $500 of their money might be a little more careful. Fingers crossed - after five years only had to charge for damage once.

              • New Member 1 posts since
                Sep 29, 2011
                Currently Being Moderated
                Sep 29, 2011 7:29 AM (in response to finndian@gmail.com)
                Re: Damage question

                You're making me worry about the property damage deposit that I have been using for the last year.  I've never had a claim so I don't have a feel for their claim payment record.  Has anyone had a positive experience with them paying a claim?

            • finndian@gmail.com Contributor 32 posts since
              Sep 28, 2011
              Currently Being Moderated
              Sep 28, 2011 2:19 PM (in response to thaxterlane)
              Re: Damage question

              Btw, they do not handle missing items that the guest may have accidentally or intentionally taken home with them.

            • iopbeachhouse Community All-Star 455 posts since
              Aug 10, 2011
              Currently Being Moderated
              Sep 28, 2011 4:10 PM (in response to thaxterlane)
              Re: Damage question

              I totally agree about having a cash security deposit. When we purchased our vacation rental, the house had two months of rentals already set through a property management company that only does the accidental damage coverage and not a cash deposit. In just two months, we have experienced a broken appliance that was clearly yanked on (insurance denied - normal wear and tear), theft of a lamp, a boom box, a hair dryer and a ladder (don't cover theft), ruined area rugs (we live 500 miles away and couldn't get there to replace them in the 45 day time limit). We have submitted a broken rocking chair which we did replace and are waiting to see what happens with that. So far, we've had hundreds of dollars in theft and breakage/ruined things but haven't seen a dime. We are managing the property ourselves now and I am collecting $500 up front as a reservation deposit that becomes a security deposit and isn't returned until after inspection by two people.

  • New Member 1 posts since
    Apr 27, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    Sep 28, 2011 5:25 PM (in response to pancakes1)
    Re: Damage question

    Although I take credit cards for rentals, I do not for damage deposits. They must be by personal check or money order and the reason is exacly as stated above.  If I have your money in my pocket and your kids get a little out of line, you're more apt to tell them to "knock it off before something gets broken".  Also charges on a credit card can be disputed and then you may have difficulty keeping that money and not getting a charge-back from the credit card company.  I have rules, obligations, and expectations well documented in my rental agreement and in a renter information binder in plain view at the rental.  When I need to keep a damage deposit, I send a copy of the rental agreement with text highlighted in yellow (indicating what they agreed to that they did not adhere to) along with a letter to the renter explaining the charge for each violation or damage.  In nine years of renting my second home, I've never had a dispute, complaint, or a return phone call from someone who lost their deposit asking why or demanding it be returned.  The keys are communication and documentation.  I believe that a firm but friendly up-front approach is extremely effective in heading off damage before it happens.  Don't be a softy.  You have a huge investment in your property and you're the only one who can protect it.

  • New Member 2 posts since
    Oct 28, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 7, 2012 4:35 PM (in response to pancakes1)
    Re: Damage question

    What is everyones suggestion if there is damage to the walls?  This can be a scratch that has gauged the wall and gone through the paint to the drywall to a puncture through the drywall?  I have been taking credit card payments only with a policy that if there is damage or items missing, the guest will be charged.  I have only recently begun to take an actual $300 damage deposit as well as the credit card. Thanks.

    • mlbmaine Active Contributor 933 posts since
      Mar 2, 2012
      Currently Being Moderated
      Mar 7, 2012 5:59 PM (in response to null.null)
      Re: Damage question

      We have rented our cottage for 3 years.  So far we have been pretty lucky regarding damages and missing items.  The problems have all been relatively minor and I paid for the repairs/replacements myself.  I have never withheld monies from the damage deposit.  (My biggest problem was with my cleaning person damaging or losing things - but that's another story.)  I believe that many states have laws regarding damage deposits and how they must be handled.  Our vacation rental is in Maine, and state law requires that the deposit be refunded (or an explanation of why all or part of it is being withheld) within 30 days of the date the rental ended.  I'm not positive, but I also believe that you can only charge the actual costs of the repair or replacement (i.e., no "administrative fees").

       

      If I were in your situation, I believe that I would charge the renter for the cost of fixing the hole and repainting the wall.  I would take a photo of the damage and send it to the renter with a letter stating that you are withholding all of their $300 damage deposit to repair and repaint the wall, as the costs to do this will very likely exceed the amount of the damage deposit.  I would also tell them in the letter that if the cost of repair and repainting is less than $300, you will refund the balance to them after the repair has been completed.  After you have the repairs made, I would also send the renter's a copy of the contractor's invoice.  Good luck - this is not a fun aspect of being a rental owner.

    • thaxterlane Active Contributor 785 posts since
      Jul 27, 2011
      Currently Being Moderated
      Mar 7, 2012 8:02 PM (in response to null.null)
      Re: Damage question

      We routinely have minor damage to our interior walls after a season of renting (approx May - October).  We don't charge for marks and scratches, nor have we charged for the few incidents which left gouge marks on a wall.  We do the repair ourselves.  We repair and repaint the interior annually.  We've never had damages that wouuld require a repair between weekly guests.  I expect a large puncture or hole in a prominent area of a room would need immediate repair.  If you are not local and not handy, be certain to get a detailed estimate of the supplies and labor to provide to the party that damaged the wall.  Take a photograph of the damage to accompany the estimate and check state laws regarding the process of charging for damage and the return of the remaining balance of the security deposit (as someone has pointed out).  I would check before communicating with the party or taking any action.  . 

       

      We consider the marks and scratches at the end of a rental season as normal wear and tear.   At the most our walls have required some spackle, sanding, and paint.  We've never had a puncture or a hole (and hope not to!).  We do a fair amount of interior painting each year to keep our home fresh and clean.

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