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I'm new to vacation rentals and am looking to book a place on HomeAway. I've been in contact with the owner via email. He would like the security deposit paid via PayPal (which is fine) but wants the rest of the payment in cash on arrival. Everything I've read warns against paying with cash. There are no reviews posted for http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p935523 and the availability calendar is suspiciously blank. The owner has been a member since 2011. I've offered to pay the balance through PayPal or credit card but the owner will only accept cash payment.
Is this normal practice in the rental world? Am I just being paranoid? Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.
Also, I'm planning to call the owner in the next couple of days. Any thoughts on what questions to ask? Thanks again.
I assume that there is also no contract?
My guess is that this is because vacation rentals are now illegal in Manhattan <http://www.tnooz.com/2010/07/24/news/ny-governor-signs-into-law-measure-opposed-by-vacation-rental-owners/>
The owner is probably trying to stay under the radar / off the books. There's no way to know if he/she is at least reporting the income on their taxes or not as well.
It affects not just this owner of couse, but all vacation rentals in Manhattan (and some of the other boroughs too). You have the powerful hotel owners lobby to thank for this restriction on your freedom to do business.
The listing seems legitimate to me. As long as the owner is not asking you to send cash prior to arrival, I think you're okay with this rental. To be sure the owner is legitimate, ask for the website address that shows property ownership and this will prove to you that he is the owner. Sadly, some things that appear suspicious are being done because of stupid regulations such as noted by swiss-house It would follow that the calendar would be blank because if it wasn't, whoever regulates this law might peruse the listing and note short term rentals.
In DE, the powerful real estate lobby got a law passed that only licensed agents or owners can rent property. I can't list the name of my condo building or mention anything about rentals shorter than a week being available because Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae has new regulations that say shorter than a week rentals, among other things, make condos such as ours a "condo-hotel".
My point to this ramble is that some things may look fishy that are only being done because of ridiculous regulations enacted by public officials. Since I'm rambling, I'll add that my taxes pay the salary and benefits of these officials.
When you call him next week start talking about what each of you do for a living. Make sure that you tell him that you work for the IRS!
As long as you get an itemized receipt showing taxes etc for your cash, don't see a problem for you. Just make sure owner knows you are expecting it before you arrive.
The apartment looks lovely, and cash at check-in is actually fairly safe (assuming you are not walking into a deserted place alone with a wallet full of cash) because at least you can make sure the place is as nice as advertised before paying.
However, I wonder what risks a renter takes in an arrangement when the rental is not legal. Suppose the super of the building calls the police and has him put out? There's no contract or rental agreement to prove the renter has a right to stay there. Or if a dispute arises between the renter and owner, would the renter have any legal standing if there is no contract? If the renter is injured in the condo, would the owner's insurance pay or would they deny the claim due to the illegal rental? Maybe I'm just a nervous Nellie, but I would be a little worried about taking an illegal rental.
I just checked the listings on ha and vrbo and there are 100's of properties listed on the upper east side that accept credit cards, online payments and have tons of reviews. With so many options, I would pass up anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or that gives you a tinge of worry. Also, please do not rent without a contract! If an owner says they "don't do contracts", run the other way. You have absolutely no recourse if you pay cash for this apartment and something goes wrong. Please check the other listings available. www.vrbo.com and www.homeaway.com. I'm sure you will be happy that you did.
Let me also say that cash in and of itself isn't always a bad thing. A lot of properties in Europe only accept cash....however....there are other red flags on this listing. No reviews and an empty calendar....and your feeling of uneasiness. I'm also perplexed why an owner would say: Here are my rates....but I'm flexible and Here are my checkin and out times...but I am flexible.