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Well, as I am relatively new to the rental world, I realize I may have overlooked a 'red flag'. My potential renter asked the question about whan the last day was to cancel w/o losing their deposit. Should have seen that coming.
This person wants to rent for the Labor Day weekend. She put down a $250 deposit which I told her was non-refundable if she cancelled 2 weeks or less before Labor Day. I sent her a contract 2 weeks ago, never heard back. Emailed her 1 week ago inquiring about the status of the contract - never heard back. Called her today and had to leave a VM and sent her an email telling her I need some sort of communication! I also told her that I need to hear from her within 48 hours. Question - I know I should have made different arrangements on the payment and refund policy but can I cancel the contract after the 48 hours is up as long as I send her deposit back? For lack of communication? Lack of sending the contract back? I did not specifically say when it had to be returned when I originally sent it to her (never had anyone NOT send it back right away).
I also have a clause in my contract that says "If it becomes necessary for the owner to cancel reservation prior to stay, all rental and deposit monies received to date will be returned to guest" but I'm not sure if this is enforcable.
Thanks in advance!
At this point, unfortunately, you don't have a contract with this person and should have never marked the days as booked on your calendar. They never send it back with signature to there is no commitment. Immediately put these days back up available on your property page. You need to set your rules and adhere to them at all times. This are my rules and they are non-negotiable.
1. Renter informs me they want to book.
2. Renter is sent an online reservation form to sign and give me credit card information.
3. Renter has 48 hours to return SIGNED RESERVATION AND DEPOSIT.
4. Renter is required to send 1/2 of the rental fee and a signed contract to secure the dates. I will not take one without the other.
5. Credit card is run and reservation confirmed.
6. Days are blocked off of my calendar.
I continue to market the property until I receive both and renter is aware I continue to market the property. This is my payment policy:
1/2 of the rental is due at booking and the balance is due 30 days prior to check in.
Damage deposit is run as a credit card authorization only on the day of check in. It is only charged if there is damage.
Thank you for your suggestions Sophie.
If someone paid me a deposit but did not send me back the signed contract and was not communicating I would hold onto the money (for the time being), keep the dates open and offer it to another renter if possible. If I did get another renter I would not try to keep the original deposit. To handle this situation your contract needs an expiration date!
At the top of my contract, right under the title, I have the following line:
This offer to rent expires X days after contract date unless signed and returned with required payment.
X varies with how far out the rental is but it is never more than 21 days. This is to avoid having contracts floating around out there that could suddenly come back to life after you thought they were dead. If you don't get another renter you can always accept the late payment and signed document (if sent) on the 'expired' contract.
Thank you Paul.
Sophie and kiawahcottage are both operating on the assumption that you do not have a contract because the renter has not signed and returned the written rental agreement to you. This was my first assumption also. Upon reflection, however, I am not so sure. You may in fact have an oral agreement to rent the property to her.
A contract is a "meeting of the minds" on the essential elements of the agreement. It is formed when one party makes an offer and another party accepts that offer. To be enforceable, a contract does not have to be in writing and it does not have to have all of the details enumerated. Contract disputes arise all the time because it was not clear what all of the terms of the contract actually were. You advertised your property. You and this woman discussed her rental of it and the terms of the rental. She sent you a deposit which is evidence of her offer to rent the property from you. Was the deposit paid by credit card or check? If it was paid by check, did you deposit or cash it? If the deposit was paid by credit card or if you have deposited the check, I think that you may have accepted her offer to rent the property even though she did not sign and return the written rental agreement to you.
You asked if you can cancel the contract in 48 hours if you send the deposit back. This indicates that you consider a contract to have been formed. Assuming that you do have a contract, a contract can only be cancelled according to its terms. From what you have posted, you gave the renter the right to cancel the contract without penalty as long as she does so at least two weeks prior to the date that the rental is to commence. Did your discussion or correspondence with this person (before she paid her deposit) also give you the right to cancel the contract without penalty?
I would chalk this up to "live and learn." I think that you have to wait and see what she does. We all learn as we go along. This is my third year of handling the rental of my property myself and I have made changes to my booking confirmation letter and rental agreement each year because of different situations that arose.
To prevent being in such a situation in the future, you must make it absolutely clear that there is no contract until the renter has paid the deposit and signed and returned the written rental agreement. I only accept personal checks and do not accept credit cards. When I receive an inquiry from someone through VRBO, I first do an internet check on them before responding. I then telephone them and talk to them in person. If we both want to proceed with the booking, I explain the procedure to them. I make it clear that I will hold their reservation for seven calendar days and that I must receive their deposit along with the signed rental agreement within that time period.
After talking to them on the phone, I immediately e-mail them a booking confirmation letter and rental agreement. Among other things, the booking confirmation letter states, "In order to hold your reservation, your deposit of $xxx.xx (representing one-half of the rental rate and one-half of the Maine State Lodging Tax) and the signed rental agreement are due within seven (7) calendar days of the date of this letter. If the reservation deposit and signed rental agreement are not received by this date, your reservation will be cancelled and the cottage will be made available to rent by others."
Whew! After reading your comments I decided to call the prospective renter, again. She answered! I told her of my concerns about the contract being delayed. She was very embarrassed about her delinquency, very apologetic. I think we are back on the right track.
In the future I will employ all of the above suggestions. Thank you all.
Great news! I'm glad that it worked out for you!
I believe that you are correct. Years ago, I needed some extra credits in school and I ended up achieving them in a semister learning "commercial law".
One of the very first things I remember learning was about contracts. I recall that a contract is verbal, as well as written....and even a handshake still constitutes a contract ---- it is a meeting of the minds ...it is an agreement between people --- and a verbal contract is enforceable. One only has to prove the "agreement" was made, for example in a court of law. In this case, the fact that 'paint' accepted money proves that there was "a contract"....(a verbal agreement if they spoke on the phone or in person) ....and if there was an email between the two parties that could be presented as evidence in a court (if it ever went that far). It probably wouldn't go that far, in this situation ---- but one never knows.
So, unless the written contract that was sent to the woman stipulates a deadline date for receipt with her signature ...and/or stipulates other terms that renders the contract void....and unless it also stipulates that the owner has the right to "cancel" under certain circumstances, this "verbal / email agreement" is valid....if she wanted to bring it to an attorney, or just do a bit of research on what constitutes a "contract", she'd discover that she does have a commitment that would hold up in court.
From the guests perspective:
1. The guest thinks they have accepted the contract and do not need to sign it.
2. The quest makes payments that the Reservation Manager system automatically accepts.
3. There was written (email inquiries at minimum) and probably verbal communicaiton with the homeowner, so in their mind they have done waht they need to.
From the homeonwers perspective:
4. The HA/VRBO "Clicked" terms and contract accptance covers HA/VRBO, but probably not the homeowner with regard to the specifics to the contract.
5. There is a delay in the HomeOwner receiving payment credit, so they do not have the ability to refuse/decline acceptance of the initial deposit payments. HA/VRBO payment system has the control and that is probably set on automatic.
After reading this thread, I am going to revise some of my proceedures and the wording in my contact to include the points raised by others to include:
1. Contract expiration time if not signed and returned by X date after tendering.
2. Wording that the contract is not inforce and reservation secured until the signed contract is returned.
3. Notice that, if the signed contract is not recieved by the homeowner, payments, less expenses/processing fees, recieved from the renter will be returned in X days (proably 1 week after contract expiration).
4. Return to a prior practice of also directly emailing the contract to the renter with instructions in addition to using the HA/VRBO system.
Thanks for the good points.