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We are new to renting our vacation home out, and wanted to get some opinions on how people protect themselves from guests stealing things. We just purchased new TVs for our house and put one of our older (newer) computer.
We charge them 25% deposit which usually comes out to about $200-300 bucks, but what if we go in there after they leave and there is a TV missing? The deposit is not going to cover the cost of one TV alone, or Laptop. Or even if they break them.
We book, do payment and also have them electronically agree to the rental agreement through VRBO. All I have is their email address, name, and phone number. Does VRBO collect the customers information?
I just feel if there is a TV missing or broken, and I have to go chase someone down, I dont have much information on them to start.
Can someone shed some light on this so I can protect our investment? Has anyone been thorugh this type of thing before?
Thanks so much in advance.
In my experience, over twenty years of renting our vacation home, we have not had any theft. Having said that, there are several ways to protect your property and furnishings.
First, you should increase your security deposit to cover the cost of replacing or repairing your more expensive furnishings and appliances. $200 - $300 will not go very far. I would set a minimum security deposit of $500 but would consider as much as $1,000 to $1,500 depending on the overall quality of your rental. Not only will this pay for the usual repair of an appliance, it communicates to the renter that you value your property and expect them to do so as well.
Next, I would consider what your rental property insurance might cover. But, in most cases, there would be a deductible that would likely be higher than the cost of a television, unless you have an unusually large or expensive unit.
Consider purchasing insurance against loss for each party. Some members of the community have had great success with the program offered through homeaway. The cost is reasonable and can be incorporated into your rental rate or you could require renters to purchase the insurance and provide proof to you.
Screen your guests carefully. Ask questions about their vacation and travel experiences. Ask if they have experience staying in a vacation home. (First time renters, accustomed to hotels, may need to have expecations outlined for them.) Whenever possible build a relationship with prospective guests
I would be interested in hearing other owner's experiences as this hasn't been an issue for me. I have a hard time picturing my guests shouldering a large hdtv into their vehicle for the ride home . . . .
Thanks for your feedback!
Being new to all of this, I am reading all these fourms and some are starting to get me a little paranoid... I want to be informed.
You will probably have more chance of a theft from thieves who prey on vacation rentals. Many will obtain the address for your property and watch the availability calendar and then visit the property when it's vacant and take flat screens, xboxes etc, small easily sellable items from your property. Most renters know you have all their info and can call the police at the very least make things uncomfortable for them. I have an alarm and cameras on my parking area so anyone trying to heft something like a tv, washing machine etc out to their car is going to get recorded. It gives me extreme peace of mind and allows me to get rid of that worry. If you need info on the alarm I use or the cameras I suggest (HD 720p quality), let me know.
we also have been very fortunate so far. I guess use common sense and don't have anything that is irreplaceable. Regarding taking higher security deposits, we take a $250 deposit and I often think it won't cover much. But the higher the security deposit, the more you will have people flinching at the cost and backing away from your rental - especially if they have to fork over an extra $1000 which is refundable, but they are out by nonetheless (and are you out the credit card charges for taking it?). Consider where you want your insurance deductable to be at (remember, you don't want to be making claims unless you really have to). And consider having them buy or you buying the insurance policy through Homeaway since you are using the RezManager system anyway (I would still take a security deposit as I think it does encourage people to treat your property better!). Good luck!
I don't think you're being paranoid. You posed a good question.
Rather than, or in addition to being concerned about theft, I think you should consider the expense you are more likely to incur from the regular use and accidental damage/breakage that occur from people who are unfamiliar with your home and it's furnishings.
Be certain to leave simplified instruction AND original manuals for your guests so they understand how to use the different appliances and electronics. The simplified instructions should be their first resource, manuals can be terribly confusing. Hopefully, this should minimize problems.
I have duplicates of many of my small appliances stored in the house since I am unable to get in myself from week to week and assess, for example, the state of the coffee maker. If my cleaners find it in disrepair they simply replace it with the back-up and inform me of the substitution.
I have been bested by appliances and electronics when staying in a rental home; and because of this frustration I learned to anticipate questions and problems that might come up for guests in my home and have written simplified instructions for many of my appliances. It seems to work.
Best of luck in renting your home!
We have rented our cottage for 5 seasons. We have NEVER had anything stolen by guests. In fact, they sometimes leave us gifts. For the first 4 seasons, we used a rental agency and we have proof that everything that was stolen was taken by employees of the agency. Last year was our first with VRBO, and nothing went missing. Maybe we'll get burned one day, but I screen our guests very carefully and charge only $200 refundable damage deposit.
I had NO idea that if you use VRBO ( I assume you mean Reservation Manager) you do not get a copy of your rental agreement that has been signed by the renter. That seems rather scary to me.
How would one collect or dispute a Damage or loss without a legal document in hand?
That said, we've never had any real theft. Our Damage Deposit ( and lease) states clearly that the renter will be held responsible for any item missing , or damaged and that they must let us know before they leave if something gets damaged or broken. (small items such as dishware, etc. iare bound to get broken over time, & I don't charge for small items).
We lose a few beach towels each year (tis why I buy in bulk). BUt so far- no real theft. If one of my TVs, stereo, etc. went missing - well, I have my renters signed agreement, copy of thier driver's license, etc., so they won't get off scott free, by any means!
I like Linda's idea about having back ups of small applicances. You never know when that extra $20 Mr. coffee, or $15 toaster may come in handy!
We have backup toaster, microwave, coffee maker, and coffee grinder. These weren't purchased separately but were left when I replaced them all with better quality equipment. Once a TV died, and our guest offered to pick up a new one next time she went to Walmart. Of course I reimbursed her immediately. Had we been using the rental agency, there would have been at least a $100 service fee plus the cost of the TV. Backups are good, but we don't have room for two of everything. <g>
Linda- now THAT is a great guest!!
I tend to buy small appliances for our VR on those dreadful Black Fridays, so I get HUGE bargains. I'll now make sure they are in the locked areas of our place that only I and my housekeeper/caretaker have access to. Thanks for the tip.
I'm just back from a 3 week clean and organize stay at the cottage. My attitude is SOOOO different after last year renting privately. I used to have to lock everything tempting (like household cleaners, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent and liquid, sponges) up and give our guests the combinations to the locks. Shoot, the agencies even tell their cleaners to remove toilet paper from the rollers in the bathrooms! Those cleaners and other workers get paid so little, and of course their work year is less than 6 months, that they can't help but be tempted to take home a little of this from one house, a little of that from another. With most owners living far away, there's nobody to know the difference. Most owners don't supply the stuff that I do, so I don't suppose it's too big a concern. The guy who went in to repair a place that a dog chewed on the sofa went into our personal locked area and took a gallon of peanut oll, a 6 or 8 pack of paper towels, and a stack of clean cotton cleaning rags. Our first cleaner took a brand new unopened big first aid kit, a new laundry basket, and I don't remember what else. I remember that it was all worth well over $200. Even though we had proof that the help stole the stuff, the agency never admitted any fault, but they did credit our account with $200.
It is so nice to be abe to trust everybody who goes in the house. Oh, and another trick that I used this year was to put those baby safety latches on all 3 bathroom sink cabinet doors as well as the doors under the kitchen sink. It's absolutely amazing how much storage room there is for cleaners and other things that may be dangerous to little kids. And it frees up a bunch of kitchen upper cabinet space.
Oh, and here's a really sad one. I finally had a cleaner from the rental agency that I thought I could trust. Her house burned down. I gave her loads of kitchen stuff, knives, pots and pans, coffee maker, etc, and told her that the next time she came that she could have the quilt and shams that were on the king bed because I was going to replace them. She took them alright, but she replaced the old pillows that had been in the shams with brand new ones I had just bought for the guests.
Live and learn.
While I have only completed two full years of renting, I have not had anything of major value taken to date. The only thing I have had a problem with is our bath towels "walking off". I wanted to provide nice, thick quality ones, but kept noticing that the not so nice ones were all I had left at the end of the first two seasons.
My daughter-in-law is our housekeeper so I know that she wasn't taking them. It also seemed to be too difficult for her to keep track of whether the bath towels were taken or not during the short turn-over time between renters.
So I decided this year to ask renters who are driving to bring their own bath and beach towels. We still provide quality, cotton bedding and have never had a problem with being taken. No one seems to complain as the tradition on Cape Cod is for people to bring all their own linens anyway. We provide towels for guests who arrive by air, however.
We have not had a problem with theft. I put a preauthorization hold of $500 on a credit card in lieu of collecting a damage deposit. I send a detailed inventory list to guests with their check in package and let them know that their credit card hold is released after their departure inspection. This sends the message that every item is accounted for and guests like having the inventory so they know what amenities are available for their stay.
We photograph the house before and after every rental. Pictures don't lie and shows absolute proof of property being there to being with.
I side with the folks who say your real concern should be normal wear and tear and accidental mis-use. If you want to be in the vacation rental business, you can't be paranoid about the bad side of people. You need to have a lot of trust in the basic goodness of man.
That said - people are going to use your house as their own. Not just spilling iced tea on the carpet or letting kids jump on the furniture. They're going to play with your stuff. People are going to disconnect your DVD player from the TV so they can hook up the PS3 they brought from home. They're going to disassemble your toaster to clean out any crumbs from the last guest (weird, I know...). They're going to reprogram your hot tub to go into clean cycle every 30 minutes and wear out the motor.
You need to consider everything replaceable at your cost - because many times the damage done by a guest won't show up until 2 or 3 rental cycles later.
Which comes to my point - unless you have a super-high end clientel, don't buy expensive stuff, and you won't be upset when something happens to it. Buy good quality equipment that is near the end of its marketing cycle - it's cheaper, no-one wants to steal it (either guests or thieves), and it's often larger and harder for someone to make off with. This is particularly true if you're somewhere remote, where the savings on buying a model on closeout for a big discount also means a lower tarrif based on sale price. I'm not saying go for cheap quality stuff that will fall apart quickly - just be realistic about the fact that it will have a shorter life than it would have in your own home.
Then, if someone does make off with your 32" RCA LCD screen, you'll at least have the comfort of knowing that you're only out $350 instead of the $650 that the Sony Bravia would have run you.
But I bet the worst that will ever happen to it is that it will get knocked off the wall by someone trying to plug in their iPod video cable...
Hi! I agree with msdebj: How is it possible that VRBO doesn't give you a copy of the rental agreement, or that the rental agreement, if they do give you a copy, doesn't have a space for their home address and other information??? If this is true, then I'll never use their reservation program! If not, then you need to include a space for their address on the contract! We have only a one page contract, but it asks for all that identifying information, including the credit card # they are using to rent the house.
Here's what we do to solve the deposit not being enough, or being too high problem: we haven't charged a deposit in over 4 years, for a very high end rental (which we use as a "carrot" when they are deciding to come to our place, and they REALLY appreciate it), and yet we feel secure, because we include a clause in our contract saying: "Any damages or losses exceeding the deposit will be deducted, with proper documentation and notice, from the credit card used to book." And they sign that contract. When I took a deposit, we had to use it 2 or 3 times, but now that we have this clause instead of a deposit, we have never had to use it, so they don't treat our house any worse for not having put down a deposit, since they know their credit card is our security. Of course, you would have to have proof (pictures or a repair or replacement quote), but that's true anyway legally even if you're taking part of a deposit. Like msdebj, we dont charge for minor things, like broken glasses, etc., but consider accidents a part of the cost of doing business. Major damage is different. Ironically, the only time I had to charge REAL money to someone ($2,000), I had been too stupid to get EITHER a deposit OR a contract! A bunch of college kids threw an unallowed party and had a waterballoon fight on the woodfloors and punched holes in walls. I had to use every inch of diplomacy/threats/kindness/guilt, but I got paid.
I also like the "authorization" idea someone had; works the same way: you don't charge until you need to. Try that or my clause saying your credit card is our security; that way you are guaranteed enough to pay for even larger items than you could ever charge enough deposit for, like a ruined floor. And ALWAYS get your OWN copy of your contract, with complete renter info on it! Good luck (and p.s., we've had no theft at all in five years; I wouldn't worry so much about that, as others are saying).
I've been renting our beach condo in Panama City Beach for 6 years and have never had a problem. Actually, I tend to find more stuff in the condo every time I go down, not less
We also have a $250 security deposit and my cleaner is responsible to making sure everything is in order.
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We have two properties in Las Vegas. A football coach rented one from July last year until Apri, 2012 this year.
By October he was late paying his excess power bill and had managed to over ride the block on pay per view and viewed adult movies on our account. When confronted with this he first said "I thought it was included". I told him you've managed to over ride the block that didn't happen by accident. He agreed to pay. Things only got worse. He called and said he couln't make the rent and wanted to miss a month. We told him sorry we can't help you.
He missed anyway. We then told he had a late fee and must vacate if he can't pay. He became abusive issued threats and made accustations that we'd harrassed him. I had a notice pinned to the door quit or pay. He called and threatened again telling us that we'd never get him out. We then pinned a 24 hour notice of inspection. This got his attention. He emailed and said he'd left.
We we inspected the property he'd left it filthy. He stole: towels, linnens, toaster, iron, ironing board, kitchen utencils, pots, pans, plates, dishes, rugs, laundry basket, blender, vaccuum cleaner, tv remote's cutting board and more, essentially everything he could pack into his car he took. He didn't take items that are easily identifiable, that is with serial numbers like tv's.
Don't expect any help from the police they said "it will affect our statistics if we investigate and can't get a conviction".
Get a security deposit of at least $1,000.00, ID, employer, plate tag and as much information about them as you can.
I lost a total of $4,000.00 and that's after we kept his security deposit of $1,000.00.
To all the people that say they've been renting for years without any trouble. Me too. Except for him and another that trashed the bedding.
I suggest a black list of thieves and rent evaders. Hopefully this will help potential victims to avoid the likes of the football coach from hell.
Another horror story!!
Small claims court in Las Vegas will accept claims up to $7500 as long as the person you are suing lives or works in Las Vegas. Do you know where he works? Here's the court filing info:
If he's a football coach, it would be very embarrassing for him to have his wages garnished wherever he works.
My contacts in the rental industry rely on proper screening of guests and security deposits to manage the folks renting their places. Not a guarantee, but definitely a first step toward preventing thefts.
How do your contacts in the rental industry screen guests when rentals can be accomplished on line, no questions asked? How do they know that the bride and groom to be and his mother and cousin would have the entire wedding party at the house for parties and let so many people sleep there that some even had to sleep on the screen porch? When I emailed the guests-to-be prior to their stay, and they told me they were getting married, I became very suspicious. I asked the rental agency (only 2 blocks from the house) to please keep an eye on it for us. We were so worried that we drove down (total of 4 hr), spent Sat night in a hotel, and arrived after check-out time. They had totally trashed the house including the rugs. There was no security deposit, just damage waiver, so the renters had no liability. We were still helping the cleaner get the place back in order, and the rugs were still wet when the next renters arrived. BTW, they didn't steal anything.
Bottom line, the rental agencies have no way of truly screen prospective guests, nor are they willing or able to monitor what goes on in the houses. Once we were staying with friends who live on our street and we saw that one of the rental houses was obviously way overcrowded and one of the crowd was racing (speediing) his truck up and down our street where children walk and ride bicycles. I called the agency for that house, and they had no interest in checking up on the situation. I finally called the police and they put a stop to the racing, but I feel sorry for the owners. This was a highly respected rental agency, also just 2 blocks from that cottage.
Regarding theft, we've never had a renter steal anything. During the 4 years we used the agency, all theft was done by their employees.
declutter - and make it clear that anything missing will be immediately charged to clients credit card. http://colortreemedia.com
Sad as it is, some people are just going to steal from you. But, I've never heard of anyone walking off with TVs or computers or appliances! Goodness! Your housekeeper would notice those things missing, and you have a signed contract.
I've had people walk off with the oddest things. Spices, coffee filters (REALLY!!) & have lost a few books from our library that has books, CDs, games, etc. I've learned to buy all on sale and even posted a small sign in our library room that says " These are here for your enjoyment during your stay at our Cottage. Please leave them for our next guests enjoyment."
Does it work? Not always.
My mantra is now " Nothing of sentimental value to me" is left out.
I'm confused about terminology:
"There was no security deposit, just damage waiver, so the renters had no liability."
How do you define the two?
I usually refer to the "security deposit" as the payment taken when the reservation is taken, to "reserve" the home for the renter.
I refer to the "damage deposit" as an amount taken before arrival and used to cover damages during their stay, with the remainder (normally 100%) returned when they leave after inspection.
But what is meant by "damage waiver?" Typically a waiver is a document that absolves one party from responsibility in case something happens to the other party (like an injury waiver that protects a contest organizer if a contestant gets hurt). Does your damage waiver protect your guest from responsibility for damage?
This may sound crazy, but it's worked pretty well so far. For about six months, I've been offering my guests a choice. They can give me a $250 Refundable Security Deposit (different than the booking deposit to reserve their dates) or pay me a $50 Damage Waiver Fee. The $250 Refundable Security Deposit is just what you all think it is, a fully refundable deposit pending any damaged or missing items. I've been renting for just over a year and have yet, knock on wood, to have to withhold anything. Based on that experiece, I decided to try offering a $50 Damage Waiver Fee. Basically, the guest is paying me an additional $50 that is not refundable and I use it to self-insure. My guests are split about 50/50 on which they choose. I've now collected more than the amount of the Refundable Security Deposit and if there's no damage, it adds to my bottom line. If damage does occur at some point in the future, I've got more than that guest's $250 for repair or replacement.
Why should some insurance company, who can refuse to cover whatever they want, get to keep my guest's money. It might as well be me instead. Plus, I use that money to replace things that wouldn't typically be charged against a Refundable Security Deposit, such as worn out linen or a broken wine glass.
You have a good point, it is more profitable for you to self insure for $50 than to pay it to an insurance company, until you have a major claim. Insurance companies look at their overall risk, you only have one risk and it is all or nothing.
Frankly, major claims (Over $500) are rare, but once they exceed $500, the damage must be widespread from a bad guest and will easily run into thousands, which no Security Deposit would cover anyways.
If you read other posts, there are some horrible stories, though very seldom, of guests renting for 5 people and bringing in the Simsons family or Pan Am flight attendants (Search these titles) for a huge party, major damage, smoking in a non smoking home, excessive cleaning, broken doors, etc. Then your savings would be gone.
Now, if that happens probably the guests are not going to pay you other than the $500 deposit you hold or the $50 damage waiver fee, since they are abusive to start with, and you would have to take them to court, which is another hassle. Even if you have them on camera (See the Fourth camera post, very interesting)
My policy has been:
Recommend them the Homeaway Damage Waiver Coverage for $39-$59 (Depending on length of stay)
Get a Credit card for security to cover what the DWC does not cover.
This way they know I can go after their credit card for an unlimited amount if they violate the contract, which is not covered by the DWC.
You may continue doing what you are doing, or when you have a gut feeling about the guest, get the insurance and credit card, just in case.
You're right, Gabriel, it is a risk. That's why I said it may sound crazy. My hope is that when I do have a major claim, I've got enough collected to cover it, or soon will. If I never have a major claim, it's bonus time. If I have multiple major claims, I have a problem. For now, at least, I'm willing to take the chance.
I thought of this method: Put a clipboard in a very visable place. On that clipboard is a checkoff form for "maintenance" with "rental date" with every single item in the house listed.
It is probably not feasible to actually use it but I think it would help prevent thefts.
Every single item in the house??? That may work if you're renting the smallest basic studio or cabin, with not much in the way of supplies. But a whole house? That would be 20 pages long; can you imagine listing every pot, pan, sheet set, table cloths, artwork, decorative pillow, extra bedding, towels, clocks, and on and on and on? I suspect that would be impossible to list, never mind use, for most well-stocked houses. Nor do I think it would do much good, because I think most "theft" is unintentional, meaning they had an accident and ruined something, and threw it out to hide the evidence. No one will be stupid enough to think you won't go after them if they steal the t.v. or stereo. I agree with those posters who say most loss will be from misuse and accidental damage.
We just slipped up on our screening and had a group of 20 and early 30-somethings who drank enough in 3 nts. to float the Royal Navy. It took us two hours just to go through their empties for recycling. And I noticed that a brand new bathroom rug and a never-used new king sheet set or nowhere to be found, missing from the same master suite. We suspect, due to the heavy drinking, that someone was sick and ruined one or both. We even went thru the trash to no avail, but they could have dumped them elsewhere. Twice we've had brand-new huge pots disappear, most likely hidden in the trash, burned beyond cleaning, in the hopes we wouldn't notice they were gone until it was too late to know who did it. I just wrote an email to my rowdy renter telling him if he doesn't know where the new rug and sheet set is, I'll be charging him $85. I don't feel I need "pictures" or anything else. I know they were there because I'm the maid, and they sign a contract that their credit card is on the hook for damage or loss. He's not going to fight me on it, after breaking all our rules. I've only charged 4 times in 5 years, and never had anyone fight me on it, though one gave us a bad review (over $50), which didn't hurt us at all. I even got one guy to pay close to $2,000 with NO contract (I know, I was dumb!) If you're telling the truth and they know it, most people won't fight you on it. But we never charge for small things.
I do have a small cabin-like home (adobe home) but common sense prevails.
Example: The list includes "pots & pans", "utensils", "bath linens",
"dishes", "glassware", "bed linens", etc.
Sorry, my misunderstanding; but because it's not specific, I think a thief might still think it wouldn't be noticed or couldn't be proven. Although it's a good idea anyway if you don't do the inspections yourself, but have cleaning staff do it, then yes, that's probably the only way you'd know something was missing. But if you know something was stolen by that group, and you have such a clause in your contract, I'd charge for it (with proper notice) regardless. The worst that could happen is that Visa or MC would reverse the charge if they fought it and won. But you can always answer a bad review with the truth that they stole, especially if your other reviews are positive. People STILL bring up and laugh about our one bad review, calling him "that crazy guy," and rent anyway, because of my truthful and thorough response.
Here's what I've done. I 've taped a list of items inside my kitchen cupboards (Plates- 16, coffee cups- 16, Serving Bowls, blenders, mixers, etc.) It helps my guests know where to return items after use, & helps me keep somwhat of an inventory.
Of course, nothing is fool proof. But I don't have anything in my home when I'm not in residence that I'm emotionally attached to. Large items like framed artwork, furniture, TVs or stereos - god forbid! - if they go missing, I would call the police and file a theft report.
I've found the following items need to be replaced/added to each year.Odd, but who knows what happens to them!!!!
Forks, steak knives, teaspoons (all other utensils seem to stay)
Plastic glassware (maybe goes to the beach?)
Beach towels ( and I only furnish the cheap ones!!)
I provide a small library of books, CDs, DVDs and various games, and those never seem to vanish. In fact, guests often add to the collection.
It's a good idea to keep a detailed inventory of your home's furnishings, just as you'd do for your own home, for insurance purposes.