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I am a new owner.
What are the normal, acceptable, questions to ask the potential renters over the phone/email?
What is the minimum personal info that the renter should provide to the owner?
I am asking this because I encountered a situation today; a potential renter did not want to provide his home address.
The thing to keep in mind is that the prospective renters will be your guests, on your property. As such, you have a perfect right ( and a duty to yourself and your property )
to find out as much information as possible about who will be renting from you.
An easy# way to go about gathering information is by an informal email where you can invite the prospective renter to tell you a little about himself and any other guests who will be coming. After all, they have read all about you in your Owner's Profile! You can ask where they live, but guests also like to protect their privacy. You do not need an exact address until you are ready to mail contracts or receipts to them. Guests may not want to give a phone number, though you should insist on this once they have agreed to the rental.
Asking ages can be considered a violation of fair housing regulations, but you may "remind" a guest of your minimum age requirements ( sorry, no children under 12, etc. ), for example. You can also get an approximate idea of ages if you discuss the guests' line of work (Will you be coming for the cattle ranchers' convention? No, I'm a teacher.) .
You do not need personal information until it is clear that the inquiry is sincere. It is a good thing to remember that many prospective guests broadcast multiple inquiries before narrowing down their decisions. Your goal as an owner is to "keep them on the line" by providing them with a cordial, timely reply to their request, answering any questions, and inviting them to contact you as soon as possible to secure their dates.
Once you are ready to send them a contract, you should ask your guests to provide you with contact information, which will not be shared with any other parties. Full names, mailing addresses, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers of all guests should be provided, and all guests of legal age should sign a rental agreement. If any guests refuse to provide this information, you should simply deny their rental request.
I'm a little confused. Is your contract something separate from your rental agreement? We have been renting for 5 years now but I try to have just one contact person with whom the rental agreement is made and they are responsible for the actions of their entire group, including any damage that might occur. I use the term Rental Agreement and contract interchangeably. We somtimes have groups with 17 adults for church retreats and I think it would be really hard to be sure I received a rental agreement back from each one of them.
Can you expound on this part of the management of your rental?
I've been wondering about whether I could request a faxed copy of their driver's license along with my rental agreement? We've been renting for 4 years and just encountered our first problem renters, college students on spring break. I worry about what recourse we have if they've done damage or caused us fines with our HOA. I don't know how to ensure that we're renting to responsible people.
On our rental agreement we request that they list everyone using our property and their ages. We limit the maximum number of people in our unit at any time to 8 and we only sleep 6. I know we can't do background checks but how can we protect ourselves?
Thank you for your reply. This is exactly my question; how can we protect ourselves to ensure that the renter will be a good one? What is the acceptable level of screening that can be done by us?
No method is perfect. You can typically get a feel for someone by talking to them and doing a quick web search of their phone and email they provide on the inquiry(if they call me, I say I'm not in a place where I can write and ask them to send an inquiry so I have their contact info and details and can reply).
When they want to confirm, my rental agreement:
- requires contact info (address, phone, email, # of guests, age ranges(baby/child/adult) )
- requires a credit card for security/liabilities purposes and authorizes me to charge them for damages(I've never had to do this in 4+ years)
- states that the primary guest must be at least 25 and present during the entire rental period
- allows me to remove under age renters from the premesis with forfeiture of all rental fees, charges for cleaning if there is a mess from a party, etc.
I've had a few teenagers inquire, but from their childish email address or from talking to them, it was pretty easy to tell if they were young and the threat of a financial hit to a credit card and being thrown out is usually enough to scare them off anyway.
Regarding not wanting to give an address, I simply wouldn't rent to them. Something is fishy. You need to know and address to process a credit card, mail an invoice. send keys or god forbid they burn the house down, get in touch with them.
I think you learned a good lesson. The proper level of screening is what you are comfortable with. If your BS meter goes off, don't rent.
My home is located in a very family friendly area, but close enough to a town that is very popular with teenagers and very young adults, (and becoming more popular by the day, due to a certain MTV show-Jersey shore ), I always insist the poential guests send me a copy of their license when they send me a deposit. I won't cash a deposit if it arrives without the copy,until I receive the copy of the license, which puts them in jeopardy of loosing the time slot. I always insist on talking to potential renters on the phone, especially during prom season and Memorial Day Weekend, as I can almost always tell if they are young. I have a minimum age requirement of 25 (same as a car rental) and caught one 21 year old person trying to rent last year after she sent me the rental agreement without her license, he tried to tell me that it was a suprise for her mother. Needless to say, she didn't stay at my house. You need to protect your self as well as your investment. I would also suggest checking out the Vacation Rental Security insurance available through Homeaway instead of taking refundable security deposit. For $49 per rental, it will cover you up to $3000, and renters will be more comfortable reporting damage knowing the money will not come out of their security deposit.
Thank you for your reply. Very helpful.
What do you think about the suggestion from another writer above:
"renter to provide a copy of their driver's license along with my rental agreement"
Is this 'too much' to ask for?
I don't know how Manouche gets everyone of legal age to sign a rental agreement. We sometimes have 17 adult guests and I think this would be very difficult to collect,as well as taking so much time I might lose another interested party as I was waiting for #1's info to come in. And if #1's info was incomplete (not all 17 rental agreements turned in) would I count it as loss and try to re-rent to another group (possibly with the same results?)
It is much easier for me, since my apartment only holds up to 4 people. My
operation is in Paris, so I email a copy of the rental agreement to all
parties (of legal age), who then sign, scan or fax and send it back to me.
It's very fast and efficient. If I don't receive all signatures, I will
rent to another party. My attorney strongly recommended I do this, as an
added security measure - insurance and so forth. I have experienced no
problems so far with people refusing or "forgetting" to sign.
Since you deal with large groups, you have a completely different set of
worries. How do you know for certain that "the responsible party" will
indeed be responsible for everyone else if something should happen? What
protection do you have? As is so often stated in this Community, you have
to go on instinct - even if that means you will suffer a loss.
I think anyone looking to secure 100% occupancy would be better off using a
professional management company, otherwise, be prepared to turn down the
few clients who won't meet your needs.
Thank you for the explanation. Yes, having 4 people rather than 17 would make a world of difference! We mostly serve family reunions and other interest groups, for ex. 8 male hikers who enjoyed a nearby National Park. All of our groups have a person who is spearheading the gathering so our contract is with that individual and everything is signed by that individual (or married couple) and money is transferred through them for payment and refunds of Damage Deposit.
I spend quite a bit of time conversing by telephone and email so I have a pretty good idea of the kind of guests we're expecting. I also will forgo a reservation in a heartbeat if I don't feel it's going to end well. We have never had a really bad situation- although we did withhold a small portion of a Damage Deposit once. We are the 2nd most expensive home in our area of listings (93 listings), we only accept checks, no credit cards, and our security deposit is relatively high so this contracted individual must have several thousand dollars ready when they make the reservation.
Thanks for your reply. I still have one nagging question: what or who do
you contact in the unlikely event of "Plan B" - that is, the contact person
who signed the contract becoming unavailable or indisposed ( or worse! )?
Again, that's my husband the attorney speaking!
I've been wondering about accepting checks. What recourse do you have in
the event you receive a bad check? It is increasingly difficult for small
business owners here in Paris, most of whom have simply stopped taking
checks, even local ones from well-known banks. It's too difficult for me to
accept US checks, since I bank in France, in euros. I don't qualify as a
merchant for either credit card issuers or PayPal, as I don't rent often
enough to suit them. I use direct bank transfers, instead, which is the
same way I move funds back and forth.. However, many prospective clients
have read about scams - you know the type: someone writing in broken
English offers you a great deal, if only you will wire your entire
inheritance and first born child directly to their bank - and their
antennae start vibrating...I also offer clients the option of sending an
International Money Order or Cashier's Cheque. Any of the three methods
work fine, as far as Deposit and Down Payment, and if they wish, the
clients may pay the remaining balance in cash on arrival.
Like you, our property is in the upper price bracket, and I work at
establishing a good rapport with my guests all during the process. It
strikes me as strange, however, that people have no qualms whatsoever about
forwarding large sums of money through PayPal or other on-line agency, and
are squeamish about dealing directly bank-to-bank!
just wondering why the payment processing portion of Homeaway will not work for you over there? I use it exclusively and find it very easy and cheaper than using my own credit card processing.
PS i am interested mainly because i am considering starting another vaca rental in Cartegena, Columbia and wonder how the financial aspect of this will work considering my renters there will be from all over. My rental here in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania attracts mostly local (Philadelphia and New York City) so the credit card processing is easy.
cpnmikes - I imagine that the HomeAway/VRBO payment system would work in a foreign situation the same way as it does in the US. However, considering the many bugs system-wide since the recent changeover, I choose not to use HA/VRBO for anything more than a listing site. Frankly, even renewal is looking doubtful...
You might be better off sticking with other payment methods - there are many related threads on this Forum.
marz909...I think you need to do whatever (within reason) makes you comfortable when accepting renters. Having said that.....I have never been asked to sign a contract or give my personal information when I have been a member of a group staying at a vacation rental (my sisters and I have stayed at quite a few). I'm not sure that I would want to provide my personal information if I was not the person in the group that was the main renter.
We have 3 vaction rentals that sleep from 9-19 (depending on which rental) and only request that the original person that contacts us to sign a contract.
I do not agree with rph46 that it is reasonable to request the names, addresses and phone numbers for each person in the rental group.If you have done this and there is a problem in your rental, which of the group is going to be responsible for payment for the damages? How will you enforce this if they are not the one that has made the payments for the rental.
I think that the person who makes the arrangements and pays the rental fees should be the one that is responsible, especially if you require a security/damage deposit.
I do not ask for the address and phone number of all guests, just the one making the reservation. I ask for all names because I make all adult guests a part of the rental agreement. I have not had any sort of problem where I needed to come after a guest(s) for damages but, as a 40+ year landlord, I have learned to make all parties occupying the property part of the agreement. It gives me extra insurance that I can recover damages if they exceed the deposit. I know that this could be problematical for a property that can accomodate 19 but, my single property will accomodate only 4-5, and usually, some of them are children. Bottom line: That's my policy, and I am sticking to it.
rpb46...I like your last comment ..."Bottom line: That's my policy and I am sticking to it.
Basically that is what all these suggestions come down to...what we as owners have tried and found that works for us.
I think that a lot of questions and answers definitely depend on the size of your rental, your geographical location, the market that you are trying to appeal to, etc.. What works for one of us may not work the same for someone else. We have 3 rentals and though most of what we do for one is the same for all 3, but we have found that we do need to change somethings slightly depending on the rental itself.
It's not too much if it makes you comfortable. We only accept credit cards as payment (including the CVV code on the back) so we have all their information. Having this information makes people feel a bit vulnerable. We keep it on file for 30 days so if there's any damage we have the ability to charge their card for it.In the 10 years we've been in business we've only had to do this twice. After 30 days we keep the person's information (we get a lot of repeaters) but we destroy the credit card information. This process is explicitly spelled out in our booking material and the contract. Our condo unit is in Hawaii (though we live on the mainland) so perhaps it's a different situation for us than it is for people who would be renting on the mainland as it's a long way for our guests to travel for a scam. Interestingly enough the damage in both cases were from the local population and not from tourists.
I think it really depends on your area and your inquiry base. I think you need to do whatever it takes to protect yourself and your property (unless your policies cause you problems attracting renters). What is reasonable for one owner, may not be reasonable for another.
As a renter, I myself would not provide my drivers license number and as an owner I do not request it from my renters.
Having said that, our property is not in an area that would draw young renters and the house is very large so the inquiries it draws are large groups of families/friends that want to vacation together.
We have a pontoon that is available for our guests to rent and we do require a copy of the renters drivers license and their social security number as the potential for large-cost damage is there.
As a renter I would never give out my SS#. What I would be willing to
do is give out my homeowners insurance information in exchange for
renting the pontoon boat. We have rented house boats in the past and
this was the requirement of the agency. It worked well and we all had
peace of mine.
It is reasonable to ask for, and get, the names of all guests and the address and phone number of the person making the reservation. If they do not want to give you their address or number, I suggest that you decline to rent to them.
Also, be careful when restricting your rental to children above a certain age. It is a violation of Fair Housing law to discriminate against people with children when renting. This may not apply to a vacation rental but, if it does and a complaint is filed, be prepared for $25,000+ in legal fees and a huge fine.
If you do not want to rent to children the easiest way to get around that is to make your rental unit a 2-person unit only. Many people where we have our condo have taken to doing this because people on vacation often times do not make their children behave. I witnessed two adolescent boys fighting over who was going to get through a neighbor's screen door first. The door was almost torn off the hinge and they put a hole in the screen. When the parents showed up I told them what happened. The mother was like "boys will be boys". The father was a bit more angry about it. I told the mother it was because of her attitude and the boys' behavior was exactly why I no longer rent to families. Then I walked to the resident manager's office and told him what happened so he could contact the owner and charge them for the damage (the cleaners don't always tell the owners so they don't know who to charge). When I'm talking to parents of children who want to rent my unit I tell them up front if there are any damages, no matter how small, my cleaner will tell me and I will assume it's because of the children and they will be charged for it. So they need to keep their children under control at all times. Then I ask if they want to reconsider renting the unit. It's usually 50/50. It's a good way to weed people out. The good ones appreciate it. The inconsiderate ones get upset and those are the ones that I tell them it's not going to work.
In reply to rpb46: "Also, be careful when restricting your rental to children above a certain age. It is a violation of Fair Housing law to discriminate against people with children when renting. This may not apply to a vacation rental but, if it does and a complaint is filed, be prepared for $25,000+ in legal fees and a huge fine."
In our Guest Rules, we state that maximum occupancy is 2 adults plus up to 2 children age 12 and under. (This is due to the apartment not being big enough for more than 2 adults to have a comfortable stay. But we do have a a crib, Graco playpen, and fold-out sofa to accommodate the kiddies.)
Our attorney reviewed the Payment Contract and Guest Rules. She said that, due to the Fair Housing laws that rpb46 mentioned, you can't prohibit someone from staying there, based on age. BUT: although you can't prohibit the person from staying at your place, based on age, you CAN charge them EXTRA, based on age. (This is the opinion from our attorney ... if anyone knows better, please chime in!!)
Based on our attorney's advice, our policy is that our guest apartment sleeps 2 adults plus up to 2 children age 12 and under. If the "children" are age 13 and up, they are welcome to come, but there will be a fee for extra occupancy.
I think you are on thin ice. Even if you are not guilty, a Fair Housing lawsuit is hugely expensive. Rather than limiting the number of children, of any age, I would recommend merely limiting the number of people. As a Realtor for 40+ years, I am extra sensitive to Fair housing.
Hmm. Thanks for your comment. Well, I guess another way to phrase it would be to say that it sleeps 2 adults, with an additional charge per extra adult ... but kids age 12 and under stay for free.
That's exactly equivalent to our current policy, just worded in a different way.
Do you think that would pass muster with the Fair Housing laws?
Personally I wouldn't mention children at all. I spoke to a management
company on the island about it. As long as the ad specifically does not
say No Children or if people call and ask if their children can stay and
you decline you're within the fair housing act. However, you can get
around it if your rental is in a 55+ housing complex and you can
advertise it as such.
We're the opposite ... we actually CATER to families with small children. The place is on the first floor and all decked out for kids ... with 3-level crib, playpen, high chair, bibs, organic linens for kids, hooeded terry bath towels with cute characters on them, kid-sized bath rubs, European baby spa bath tub with bath toys, Primo toilet trainer and toddler toilet seat, toddler step stool so the little ones can reach the sink, fragrance-free baby shampoo and fragrance-free baby-friendly laundry detergents provided ... we are totally baby and kid-friendly. We also have a lovely backyard for the kids to play in.
We are not trying to limit parents with children at all .. that's why we didn't want to say the occupancy was just 2 ... we thought it might discourage parents traveling with small children, who are really a group of 4 or maybe even 5. (2 parents plus 3 small kids) But .. our place is not very big ... and it doesn't have a sepearate bedroom ... so it's really not suitable for more than 2 adults.
Not suitable for 3 adults, but perfect for 2 adults and 1-2 small children. How do we do the wording for that one, so it's okay by the Fair Housing Act?
I get it! "Perfect for family vacations with children in mind. This
one-room cottage is perfect for 2 adults traveling with 2 or 3 children
who would like to play in our back yard. All toys, equipment,
detergents and linens are organic and fragrance free. We'd love to have
you come share our place with us and you'll love the safe space we have
provided for you and your family."
It's not the best but it's the best I can do on short notice!
This is absolutely correct and in my last answer I wish I had been more
explicit. What we do is limit the number in our unit to 4. It's a
one-bedroom with a queen sleeper sofa in the living room. No exceptions
- not even babies. We cite the Fire Marshal rules and regulations for
occupancy. Secondly, we charge $10 per person for the 3rd and 4th
person per day citing extra laundry charges, wear and tear on the unit,
etc. When people contact me about their children I explain they'll be
in a 2nd floor unit, that the floors are very thin and there's not much
sound proofing. I explain that children tend to run and jump which
disturbs the people below them. I stress they need to be aware of this
at all times because I will get complaints from the people who live
there year round. If they're young children I explain that the bars on
the lanai (balcony) may not be safe for them, that they may get their
heads stuck, they need to be watched continuously. I also tell them
about a child who stuffed a toy down the toilet causing it to overflow
and I had to charge the single mother the cost of the plumber to come in
after hours to fix it. It makes people realize that they are
responsible for their children, their actions and for the expense
involved for any sort of damage incurred. Maybe 50% will rent our
unit. Those who do are usually very careful. It's those stories that
get to them, not the attitude of a snide owner. And when I tell these
stories, I'm usually laughing a bit, making a bit of a humorous story
out of it while getting my point across.
There are a few easy things that can be done online for peace of mind - the simplest is just to enter (separately) the potential renter's name and phone number(s) in Google search engine.
You'll be surprised by what can sometimes pop up this way, and it can help with the screening process.
I also think that getting every adult renter's signature on the crontract is an excellent idea, and will start trying this out shortly.
I just realized that my above reply was to one of the people that have replied to your question and not really a reply to your specific question.
Your question is worded as 2 different questions. One is regarding potential renters or inquiries. The second question, you use the word renter...do you mean someone that is going to make a reservation?
I do not think that you can reasonably expect potential renters to give you a lot of personal information when they are contacting you with questions on rates or availability etc (remember, they could be making 10 different inquires for different rentals and could potentially be spreading their information all over the place). People that have never used a vacation rental before are apt to be more reserved with the information they will give you than people that are comfortable using a vacation rental. I myself would not be comfortable supplying personal information if I was contacting you with an inquiry (even though I have stayed in quite a few rentals).
I have replied to inquiries with only their name and the information that I need to to answer their questions.
If you have someone that balks about giving you personal information when you are going to send them a contract, that is a different matter, then your "spidey sense" should kick in and tell you to be leary of them as a renter.
I think the suggestion about requiring a drivers license from the person that is signing the contract is a matter of choice to the owner. We do not do this for our 3 rentals but we do require a copy of their drivers license and the renters SS number when they rent our pontoon as their is a lot of liability with the pontoon.
Before I respond to an e-mail inquiry, I do a reverse phone look-up on the number on the inquiry, and see if that information matches the name on the e-mail. If the phone number is not available, I may try a Google or White Pages search of the name. I usually call to respond to inquiries, and when I do, I ask how many adults and children, the ages of the children, if they've been to our area before, and where they live (city and state). Usually, people enjoy chatting about their family and reasons for visiting. So far, (5 years in), I have not had totally different information from my searches and the potential renters - except for one occasion when nothing matched up, I got a really bad feeling about the guy, and said the week had just been booked. If home addresses are not on White Pages, they are usually on the deposit check, or I just ask, as I will need it to send the security deposit refund. I have also started asking for a cell number that someone will be using during their stay, as I have had a few situations where I needed to contact them (found wallet, blocked parking) before they returned home.
It's quite easy. I email them a picture of my driver's license with my pertinent information scratched out, and I request them to send me a picture of theirs along with the lease or agreement. I tell them that this is required so they can match the name and address of myself to the agreement and I can match theirs. It's a win/win situation and all of my tenants have complied. You MUST get a copy of their driver's license to match the agreement because what if they use a fictitious name and cause damage or theft? You will have no recourse to fall back on. If they don't want to give a copy of their driver's license, then match their check with the agreement.
I like the suggestions from k.rigganforce:
"Our bookings are 99% over the internet. To contact us they fill out a booking form. Some give us their full addresses, some don't. It doesn't matter at this point - it's a contact only for a quote. When I receive the request I figure out how much it will cost plus taxes & cleaning fee. I put all that information into a quote form which includes the rules for booking the unit. At the bottom is a form to fill out that includes everything we need from them except their credit card numbers (we only except credit cards). If that form is returned then I know they're interested and they're a good potential renter. 40% of what I send out does not get returned and I've weeded out a lot of people and saved myself a lot of work and phone calls. Those that do want to book I call to get their credit card info. When I call I'm friendly, funny & conversational. I get a ton of information out of them and they think I'm just being nice."
K.Rigganforce, I am going to look into setting something up like this. Right now, when I receive an inquiry by e-mail, I reply back with some standard info about our apartment, including all the links to facebook, yelp, our personal web site, and our other listings. If they gave me enough info in their inquiry for me to give them a quote, I send them a quote, too. Otherwise, I ask them to reply back with the missing information.
Then, if they reply back and say they are interested, for the price quoted, I e-mail them the Payment Contract and Guest Rules (PCGR). After that, I call them to see if they have any questions about the PCGR and to answer their questions about the apartment ... and this doubles as a way for me to get to know the potential guests better and see if I feel comfortable having them stay at our place.
I guess it is similar to what K.Rigganforce is doing ... but K.Rigganforce's method seems a little more streamlined, especially because it has the online form that people can fill out.
What a nice compliment, thank you! Go to our website at
www.molokai207.com. Look at the contact us section and you will see the
form to fill out for a booking request. Again, not everyone fills out
the address area but that's ok. They do if they're interested in a
quote. If I can help you in any way, contact me! Our e-mail address is
on our website.
Marz909, it sounds like you're having trouble with international payments. Have you tried accepting credit cards? From my experience, I have seen that the fee is about $50 for a $1200 transaction ... depending on if the person is using a Rewards card or not.
(Did you know that Merchants get charged an extra fee when the customer uses a Rewards card that earns points? I get charged 3.5 % when someone is using a regular card and 4.5% if they're using a Rewards Card. Of course, people always wants to use a Rewards card and get all those points for a big purchase like this ($1000s for staying at a vacation rental) ... so I usually get charged 4.5%! So sad!)
Despite the credit cards fees you get charged, it's worth it.
For credit cards, I use the system recommended by HomeAway .. I'm not sure if it's eligible for people in France.
(The above links offer different presentations of the information, but they are talking about the same credit card system.)
We have been wanting to offer a discount for customers who choose to pay without credit cards ... here is a link with more information about that.
Note that a discount that is subtracted from the regular rates for non-cash customers is viewed differently from a surcharge that is added on to the regular rates for credit card customers. The discount is possible, and the surcharge is basically not possible (if you want to accept multiple types of credit cards, such as Visa, MasterCard, and Discover). You can read more about the rules here.
Also, about PayPal ... I don't believe you need a Merchant Account to receive money in PayPal. Why not looking into setting up a regular Personal account and see if that will work for you?
We only use credit cards and we only accept VISA and M/C. We manage the
unit ourselves. We live on the mainland and our unit is in Hawaii. I'm
not sure if you know the U.S. well, but Hawaii is several hundred miles
away from the U.S. mainland out in the Pacific ocean. So for us
allowing people to pay us with checks and other forms of payment is not
a viable option. Credit cards are the only way to go!
I try ro speak to everyone who asks to rent , our places are in Paris
Sometimes an initial email enquiry rings warning bells . I do tend to go with my gut feeling , after 10 years of renting it is mostly right .
We do accept children of any age ---. most of our problems and damage have been with older people , those over 65 .
They just do not like to admit they are not Computer Savvy , but some very basic knowledge is needed to connect to our WIFI, especially using an I Pad . They do not like to do even Light housework , such as using a toilet plunger and changing lightbulbs
We also have just started using PAY PAL- two months ago- and it works very well so far
I would not dare to ask people for Drivers licence , but we do ask for street address , and often look up the reverse information on line
In future I will look up prospects on Face Book , although many older people are not on it .
There are several ways to eliminate problems. One is to have an age restriction, which most of you know.
The other way to do a mini background check is to put in the address, or home phone number of the person that is booking with you. The internet should provide you with reverse information. If the address is unknown.....that could be a red flag.
One of my VRBO friends always asks for a copy of the Drivers license.....that way they can be found in the event that they do damage, or worse.
I personally haven't had any issues with booking AND I use paypal for most of my bookings. In fact, if they want to book less than 30 days out, they MUST use paypal. No checks accepted. That usually helps with the payment part.
Over 10 years we have settled on a routine reply letter which includes: "REQUIRED GUEST INFORMATION: Your full name, correct email address, home mailing address and home phone number. Arrival (check-in) and departure (check-out) dates. Total number of guests in your party (up to legal limit of 8) with names of ladies, gentlemen, boys, girls, very brief description of each, age and vocation. Description of any animal pets (which must be approved in advance). Name of referring person, if any. Occasion or reason for your visit. Any special needs or requirements. We would also appreciate knowing how you found us. Please notify us in advance of any changes. All homes, including ours, are monitored by local property managers and neighbors who know exactly who and how many guests (and pets) should be in our home at any time and any difference could cause difficulties later. " If a prospective guest fails to pass the "smell test" even in the slightest way, we refuse to accept them. This has proven to be the best course for us. Hope this helps, John.
I get most of my inquiries on line. usually an interrested party will email me back and forth and ask a lot of questions. I don't ask them any personel questions untill they are ready to book, and then they have to fill them out on the contract. I need to get their address and phone number and email. I give them a week to send in their deposit after that, I open the week again. I only allow 6 adults to sleep in our condo although it could sleep more. But then that is more people to cause damage and use excessive utilities. I do rent to minors in June, but I require a larger deposit and parents addresses and phone numbers. We are a beach community so June is big on graduation and it helps with booking solid and at a higher rate. Usually, these kids don't complain and love our place. I haven't had any problems with then so far and that is why i continue renting to them.
I think most have covered the issue. But, here's my policy ( and I stick to it).
My online requests have an email address. I google it and look it up on Facebook before I ever respond. Amazing what you'll find on somene's FB page.
After I screen them I will send them a copy of the agreement to look over. It REQUIRES a home address and phone numbers ( I suggest you use them to contact the prospect)
My rental application/agreement specifically states that the person signing the agreement must provide a copy of their driver's license and front and back of their credit card ( this protects both you AND the renter). The agreement also requires them to sign in several places that they are the responsible party for various things ( no extra guests or pets than stated on the application, no proxy rentals, all damages or excessive cleaning fees will be charged to them, failure to follow checkout procedures, no loud parties, etc means they forfet all damage deposit & rental money- in the horrible case they have to be evicted.). This person has to be 25 years old.
If they are willing to comply then I'm willing to rent to them. I think it's important to SPELL OUT your expectations and make sure your have a signed agreement.
I do let them them know I shred all personal information once my housekeeper has made her inspection after they check out, and I have returned their damage deposit.
Hope this helps!
The quality of the people, who have rented my cottage, has been 1st class. I pick up the email address and phone number when they make the initial inquiry.If they wish to rent, I get their name and address and the names of the other adults in their party. My rental agreement is in the form of a letter which is addressed to all adults. I have never had anyone balk at giving me the information that I requested.I am not on a beach or in a resort. If someone were to object to giving me their onfo, I would not rent to them PERIOD. I guess this eliminates the wild party crowd and low lifes. Quite frankly, I do not think low lifes would rent a 900 sq ft, 2 bedroom cottage in the middle of the countryside, for $825.00 per week.
Most of my renters are professional middle age folks who are very civilized. This is great because I find that the older they are, the better they treat my place. They vacuum, do the laundry, make the beds, wash the dishes, fill the bird feeder, etc.
I find that the younger the guests, usually couples, the more work there is to get the place ready for the next visitors. My worst scenario is a couple in their early 30s with a couple of little kids and a black lab who are checking out at 12:00 noon on the same day that someone is checking in at 4:00 PM. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the young couple does not actually leave until 1:00 and the new guests arrive 2 hours early. Nothing against Labs. I have owned a number of them. They just happen to shed more than any other breed. My ideal guests would be a couple in their 70s with no pets. I am happy to say that I have had a number of them.
The good news for me is that I rent in a state that has restricitions that can limit renters to couples and families and the signer of the agreement must be 25 years of age. Since the agreement does not accept guarantors, that limits parents renting for their graduating children on "senior week". When I get an inquiry for "senior week" (which is actaully a month depending on graduation date), I remind the sender of the state requirements (and usually they never respond back). And really folks, potential renters put a name and email address in the inquiry -- firstname.lastname@example.org or hotbabe should send up a flag. There are also first names that were not common fifty years ago. I also question any email address that ends in .edu -- it could be a professor or employee of a university and a google search on their site will confirm that. Generally, there is also an area code in the inquiry -- that will give you a city and a whitepages search may also give you the age and address of the person (although many young people use cell phones). There's also facebook and linkedin if you are looking to do research. I send keys so I need an address. No address -- no entrance. I do also require the names of all people in the unit.
And finally once they are there, I pay my cleaning company (under ten dollars) for a mid week check up. They go in to "freshen up" the bathrooms and count toothbrushes. If there are beer cans all over the place and more than 8 toothbrushes (8 is the building limit), I am notified.
Works for me (usually) -- have had less damage personally renting than I did through agencies.
You have some great ideas. I personally like the suggestion about having your cleaner go in at mid-week for freshening up. I don't usually have college age people staying in our unit but we have found that elderly people can be as messy. I don't know if it's because they don't see as well or if their attitude is they're on vacation and they don't have to do anything because they've paid a cleaning fee. We even had one couple saw off the padlock on the owners closet & steal toilet paper! The saw probably cost more at the hardware store than the toilet paper would have cost them at the grocery store.
What a terribly sad story, but funny, too! OMG! I can't believe you had guests who sawed the padlock off the owner's cabinet!
That is just so disrespectful on the part of the guests ... wow ! I can't believe they did that. Did you take the full amount of those people's security deposit?
I know, it doesn't cost the full amount of the security deposit to replace a padlock, but somehow I feel it's justified ... probably it isn't truly, in the court of law, but in my heart it is. Because if I were you, I'd feel personally violated, because they SAWED the padlock off, just so they could get in to the owner's cabinet and steal whatever they could! I'm sure they were disappointed when they found out that it was just toilet paper in there. But geez ... that is just so wrong.
Oh my stars....that is just amazing! What colossal nerve. I would have with held the entire security/damage deposit.
It doesn't matter that the padlock does not cost whatever the sec. dep. may have been. It's the idea of what they did and that they did something intentionally that they knew was wrong.
k. rigganforce...I agree with you regarding older people being just as messy sometimes and agree that it is probably that they do not see as well and do not get around as well. I used to own a cleaning service and a lot of my elderly client's homes were very dirty. It seemed that any areas or surfaces that were close to them or easy to see, were kept the cleanest and any areas that were hard to see or reach were not so good.
I also agree that sometimes people just think...hey I'm on vacation.
We don't charge a security deposit. We keep their credit card on file
for 30 days after departure. The housekeeper/island agent had just
bought the toilet paper and knew exactly how much should have been in
there. We charged the couple for how much they used, handling fees, the
cost of the lock, another handling fee, mileage and I don't remember
what other fees we added in there. By the time it was all totaled up a
$10 lock and a $10 package of tp cost them around $50 (remember, this is
Hawaii - things are expensive!). They gave our unit a bad review on
another website which I returned the favor by giving them a bad review
as guests. Their names are on the black list at the 3 resorts on the
island as well. Unfortunately for them it cost them more in the end
than it was worth.
Oh there was more than just t.p. in there. We keep all the extra soaps,
cleaning supplies, linens, etc. in there as well. The closet is stuffed
to the gills. They just seemed to want the t.p.! LOL
I always call on any inquiry that I have and ask the people there name and address. Then before I send them anything, I look them up on facebook and myspace to see if I can see what type of photos they have posted. Some times it works, sometime not. But once one of the renters photo on facebook was of her dancing on a table holding a beer. I called her back and simply said that I was sorry, but my wife had already comminted that week to someone else. Once I broke my own rule and rented to college age people because their facebook photo was of them singing in a church choir.
I use the internet exclusively unless the prospective renter calls me. I send a response as quickly as possible, and now use the convenient HomeAway response app. I tell them about the availability, the cost, including cleaning fee and tax, and non-refundable deposit to guarantee a reservation, send them to my website for more info about the area and photos. I then tell them if they are interested I would be happy to send them a copy of my rental application and agreement so they fully understand our policies and then can make a decision about whether this is the right place for them. I tell them we accept checks for payment, and that if they wish they may pay the deposit with paypal.
My application REQUIRES a photo copy of their driver license, name, address, employer, phone, names and addresses of all guests accompanying them, and car license plate numbers. When one stays at a hotel or motel one must give this information, so it's certainly not odd to require it. After all, this is my most valuable asset I am lending to them.
I accept checks and require full payment no less than 15 days in advance of arrival. So far I have had one bad check and that was for the security deposit. I have had one renter who paid his security deposit with his credit card and that was the one person who charged back the fees entailed for his misuse of the house. As a result of that I realized that credit card payments are not any more secure than checks, particularly if you require them far enough in advance for them to clear your bank.
I always check the phone numbers to see if they are for the same area code as their address.
I've discovered that being very straight forward about my expectations is the best policy. When guests arrive I remind them of the various points in their contract with me by having a clear list, which accompanies my receipt to them for their security deposit. At first this seemed so hard to do, so uninviting, but over the years I've discovered that some people need to hear that there is a consequence for smoking in the house, using glass at the pool side, allowing their children to swim without parental guidance, leave garbage, not clean up after themselves or (heaven forbid) decide to use my house as an after wedding party site!
My house is beautiful, the value guests receive is evident to them, they feel welcome from the start, and this softens my "clarity".
It is impossible to "know" that guests will be honest and good, but most are. I remind myself of this when I become fearful, and try to use a clear application and agreement that states my expectations, as a deterrent to those who want to use my house in ways I do not want them to. I always try to maintain that my guests deserve the very best from me and I try hard to give them warmth, respect, privacy and the best I can muster for their vacation enjoyment. They are as vulnerable as I. It's their valuable vacation time.
As an owner, I do ask for pertinent info such as names, ages, address, cell phones, credit card #, etc. and they sign a 4 page stringent contract.
HOWEVER, as a renter I would NEVER give an owner my drivers's license #, my car license or my employer and their phone #.
I just can't imagine renters being eager to give that kind of information out.
I haven't read all the replies but really who checks in anywhere without credentials ?
Can you do this in a hotel? I don't think so.
I also have a min age requirement and ask for a security deposit. I usualy have a simple contact for the individual responsible but it's not a bad idea to request all credentials from the adults within the party.
Anyone, responsible and honest complies without hesitation and it may deter some parnanoid ppl out there but it assures better renters.
Take a security deposit or have insurance. Again, if they back off it's better safe than sorry.
As I've said, I do require a copy of the renters credit card and driver's license. One thing you can do is allow them to black out their SS# (if their state puts it on their DL) before they copy or scan it to send to you.
The reason I require a copy of their ID is to insure I'm dealing with the person who's credit card I'm charging ( having had mine stolen once!)
It's not completely fool proof, but certainly makes them know I mean business. Once I explain that requiremen,t no one seems to mind at all. I also let them know I shred and purge all personal financial info once their check out is complete and the damage assessment has been completed.
You have far more than enough info on the topic here. After renting vacation homes since 1978, I must have seen and heard it all and could write a book. Can rent out vacation homes in my sleep now and know by instinct to refuse a tenant who does not 'smell' quite right. However, like in nuclear industry, when your Radiation Dosimeter reaches the limit it's game over. Same with my Moronimeter, so I just closed shop and rented 3 homes long term a and kept one for personal use only. No more weirdos, no more headaches (which, incidentally, do come with the turf). Soon life will be nice and simple as it should.
Many of you say that you don't ask for a copy of a drivers license. I would not rent to someone who refuses to give me a copy. That is a big red flag. Usually someone under the age requirement of 25 that I have, but you never know. We are business people, and know that we are doing nothing but protecting our selves by asking for identification. If a Realtor or Hotel clerk asked for your ID you would gladly give it to them. And if you refused, they wouldn't do business with you. What makes us any different? If you don't treat this as a business, and do what a business would do, you are asking for trouble.
I do a preliminary screen of each inquiry I receive. This is often very simple since there is so much information about each of us on the internet, unless you have had minimal activity on the web (have you googled yourself recently?) A simple google search of a name, email, or telephone number will lead you to an assortment of information such as home address, employment, community involvement (schools, houses of worship), etc. It's rare that I am unable to find information.
If an inquiry becomes a potential renter I consult the web for information on their home. Since my peak season rates are high I need to be assured through employment or home ownership that the individual has the ability to make the payments required. Once you have a home address it's simple to look up the property on trulia or zillow to provide an idea of the individual's situation.
As far as questions to ask I don't ask for much personal information (I usually know more than enough through my internet search, lol). I frame my questions as being about suitability of my home for their comfort and interests. I ask about size of party, ages, relationship (one family, two families, family with exteneded family, etc), what the party hopes to do during their stay, if there are activities they would like information about, etc. I find that these questions draw out a great deal of information when I make it clear I want them to be comfortable in my home. It's a conversation, usually by email, and I haven't had anyone refuse to answer my questions. I emphasize that each rental home has a bedroom and bath configuration that suits different numbers and types of groups and that my concern is for their enjoyment of my home.. One family vs two families vs multi-generational groups require different sleeping arrangments, privacy, etc. My interest is appreciated.
My rental agreement (or contract) makes it clear that the signateur is responsble for the entire party. I do not have every adult sign the agreement. I do not require a license or social security number. I wouldn't provide this information and would not require it of my renters. In all my rental experiences I have not been asked for this type of identificaiton, in the US and overseas, and I would rent elsewhere if this was required. In over fifteen years of renting I have never had an issue with my guests nor their payments.
I think different properties require a different screening approach. My home sleeps eight to ten, is clearly set up for families (I advertise children's high chair, booster seat, play table and chairs, two portacribs, etc) and my guests with a rare exception are one or two families with children (the youngest a newborn and the oldest a medical school student). It's a New England summer season home and the week minimum bookings are in place by the previous Fall / early Winter. I am not turning payments around in a matter of days. I accept personal and bank checks. For the odd last minute Spring or Fall booking I require overnight delivery of a bank check to secure the rental agrement.
I have found that it becomes much easier over time to interview potential guests. Keep a list of quesitons handy and with time it will become second nature to draw out the information you need to feel confident about the nature of your guests. And be sure to LISTEN; it's possible to be too intent on getting answers to your questions and miss information offered in the course of a conversation
We have a vacation property and 'senior week' is a potential problem. Maryland has some helpful regulations -- like, minimum age to sign a rental agreement (25). I do look a bit harder at June rentals, because that is when graduating seniors tend to come to the MD shore. I use the rental form provided by VRBO and my best friend google (or his relative, whitepages.com) to search the name, email address or phone number. If you have a phone number, you can get a state from the area code. Whitepages sometimes gives an age range. If the email ends in .edu, I go to the college or university web site and search their directory to see if the potential renter is a student or on staff (sometimes you can search a company web site if the person sent the email from the work email system). There's always social media sites -- Facebook or Linkedin. You would be surprised what information is in cyberspace. If any red flags go up, I'll call the phone number -- mid day for a personal number and after 7:00 PM if I think I have a work number. I listen to the voice and the message. I have been renting for years on my own (and I am in HR. I hear stories all day -- some accurate -- some with a spin - so I am comfortable "connecting the dots")
Once, for a potential June rental, from her state and area code location, I found her on Facebook with the name of her high school and year of graduation (she was legal, but, either under 25 or a child 'left FAR behind".) The Facebook picture, only one girl in the pix, and a bunch of males in front of what looked like the space behind a bar - in front of the wall/mirror. Males wearing white shirts -- some with rolled up sleeves -- so my guess was, it's an eating place that serves. The caption was "I like to party". I thought "not at my place, honey". I sent her an email response quoting the MD age restriction for signing rental agreements and never heard from her.
I require names of all who will be in the unit and ages of anyone under 21. This condo building has a "no pets policy" for renters and a capacity limit per unit (8). Renting over the net can be a challenge, but there is free information out on the Internet to help you determine if the person is who they say they are.
Just as an aside, I use a cleaning service and I pay for a "mid week" drop by. They clean (wipe down) the two bathrooms -- and of course, while they are there, count tooth brushes and look around. (they lie -- goodbye -- no, seriously if the place looks OK -- I may let it slide -- but if there are 10 toothbrushes in the bathrooms or Rover is in there munching on throw pillows, lounging on the sofa and using the leg of the dining room table as a fire hydrant -- that is another story). I am not saying I have never had issues, but have had far fewer than others who rent through local realtors. So, If you feel uncomfortable, start googling the information they provided. OK -- that's my story and I'm sticking to it!!
Like many people on this post, I did not ask for ID and believe most people to be honest. Unfortunately I got scammed this week. Someone booked the unit using a fake credit card and ID. I only discovered it when the police called me because they had been tracking this person for a while and was ready to make an arrest. I had no suspicion, even talked to the guest by phone and in person many times and they seemed "normal". I am expecting a chargeback of over $6000 from the credit card company and now have a very different perspective.
I'm so sorry to hear that this happpened to you. Was this in San Francisco?
I don't know how credit cards handle cases of identity theft, for the merchants.
What happens to the merchants who initially received the money for the fraudulent charges paid via credit card? Are they left up "s" creek without a paddle? I sure hope not.
SF-Noe, I'm sorry to hear this has happened ... but honestly I don't see how could you have prevented it. If you had asked for I.D. and credit card info, and if the renter had provided fake versions ... how would you know?
We rely a lot on trust in this industry. But how can we protect ourselves from scammers such as the one SF-Noe has had to deal with?
Yes, San Francisco. From what the police explained, there's a large network of people skimming credit cards, then selling it to "professionals" who create the fake identity, then selling it to criminals to rent homes to make and deal drugs. The police said, in the past, it was more common to operate out of hotels, but now the criminals prefer vacation rentals.
It was a young woman, early 30's, and booked for one month. The police had been following her for a while, said she had just checked out of another rental, using a different fake credit card. On a side note: I met the people staying in the apartment and they seemed polite, look like "hipsters" in The Mission, or people who would work at the farmer's market, restaurants or Whole Foods. Nowadays it's hard to identify a "criminal", especially in SF, without discriminating.
How did she pay - I know you said she was using credit card, but did she pay directly to you?
I only use online payment thru third party like AirBnb, Flipkey and now VRBO/HA payment system.
I accept paypal as well, but that is mostly cash or even if it is credit card, it is still thru their system.
Just wanted to see what I can do to avoid these kind of thing.
Thank you for sharing this.
She booked and payed online using an AMEX card. It was processed and approved by a merchant payment. The police contacted AMEX and flagged the card. Otherwise, it would have gone through the usual route, 30+ days later, when the real card holder receives a statement and dispute the charges.
I assumed you accept credit card payment on your website, is that correct?
Sorry that this happened to you. Someone else mentioned about people using VR's as prostitution place! Boy, I guess these people are very creative.
Ok. That's interesting. I'm thinking this type of scam may target longer term rentals (long term as compared to a weekly rental) as the needs of these "guests" are likely to require a lengthier stay. But, I'm guessing. I'm also wondering if certain locations are more likely to be a target than others. Since the majority of us do not have any experience with criminals renting our properties, it would be helpful to know what might stand out about these individuals, once an owner has become aware of the potential risk - a profile of sorts. Did the police offer any thoughts on how to avoid this problem in the future?
What a mess . . .
Long term rentals (30+ days) would require me to do a much more in depth screening. We have owned "regular" rentals in the past, so I'd do the same type of screening I 've done for those. ( Employer, bank eferences, etc.) .
It's good to know that we owners of VRs are now targets of this kind of mess! It certainly gives me pause....
Thanks for the heads up & sharing your experience.
I'll go ahead and reveal my ignorance of drug operations. Do illicit pharmaceutical operations set up for a week? A night? I would think it would be tedious to move operations on a regular basis. But, I know absolutely nothing aboutg illicit drug operations.
You're fortunate this was discovered before he/she/they moved into the house. It could have been much, much worse.
What owners should find really scary are methamphetamine labs. It does not take much equipment, so it is easy to set up. The equipment can be so compact that some labs are located in automobiles. While it has become more difficult to produce meth in clandestine labs since pseudoephedrine has been more tightly regulated, a cook can produce hundreds of thousands of doses in 2 or 3 days.
The process of producing meth produces potentially explosive gasses. I one time had a client with a rental house with problem tenants; when the sheriff's deputies showed up for an eviction they discovered a meth lab had exploded just before they had arrived, and the house burned to the ground because the fire department refused to fight the fire due to the presence of hazardous materials.
Operating a meth lab can leave residue of hazardous materials that requires special cleanup. The cleanup can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars, and it is the property owner who is responsible for the cost. Even after a cleanup, when one sells the property it probably is necessary to disclose that it had been used as a drug lab, which can diminish the value.
Thank you sage. Your answer addresses all of my questions.
I'm adding meth lab to the list of possible illicit uses of property, following prostitution and filming of pornography.
I'm imagining a series of questions that might screen for such intentions and coming up with some humorous, but disturbing, options.
I'm not likely to be a target, the location and price of my house would make it less desirable. But, I suspect you can never be sure about such things.
Perhaps advising potential guests of a mid-stay check in (to assure their comfort, of course) is called for. There are some advantges to being in the neighborhood. For those of us that are a distance from our vacation house checking on our guests' comfort wouldn't be as straightforward.
Never underestimate the stupidity of people in the illegal drug trade.
We live about a hundred miles North of New York City, and dealers often drive up here on the interstate to sell their stuff. The New York State troopers can spot them from a mile away because they are "in uniform".
The uniform is a brand new car such as a Cadillac Escalade or BMW 6 or 7 series. It will be black, and very shiny.
If I were transporting something and didn't want the police to notice me, I would be driving something like a five year old Camry or Accord four-door sedan, that had a couple of small dents and hadn't been washed in a couple of months. Maybe a bumper sticker: "Support Your Local Police", or "Ban Assault Weapons". I would also try to use secondary roads that are more likely to be patrolled by a local deputy sheriff than the State Troopers.
WOW...all very interesting. Now I am beginning to think that the guest that I booked to just today may be a potential problem. The reservation was for only 5 nights, but it was an overseas transaction from India. Our rental is in central California. I use PayPal and if the deposit transaction by credit card is not cleared by PayPal in 24 hours, I will cancel the reservation. The transaction is under review. I have not spoken to the renter via the phone due to the time difference and all correspondence via email has taken 24 hours per email.
That said, we will not book our rental for more that 2 weeks. The reason being is if there is a problem with the guest we would rather have them leave sooner than later as we live on the property. Not to mention that it would be VERY rare for someone to want more than 2 weeks.
I am sure that most of us saw the post about someone that can make fake id's for anything and anyone. It has since been removed....(thank you HA team). However, it brings to mind that even getting an ID from someone does not always protect you from a scammer or would-be robber.
I think it is very important for us to get information from the guest, as well as check out their background on the internet, if possible. I also think it is very important (for me) that they pay through Reservations Manager so that if there is a problem, it can be traced back. I don't accept any personal checks at all, and never will. There are so many scams with personal checks. AND, I don't book anyone where the funds are already deposited into my account. It can't just be accepted by Reservation Manager, it actually has to be deposited so that I have control of the funds. There is only one time that I accepted "cash" and that was because the folks were already on their way and I had my cleaning lady meet them. Other than that.....I am pretty careful...especially after reading that post (since deleted). We can't be too careful anymore.
I guess we all have had different experiences. I have been renting for 15+ years and have NEVER had a problem with accepting personal checks and actually prefer them over any other method. I will not accept cashier's checks, money orders or even cash. If someone wants to pay by cc, I use PayPal and have had pretty good success using PayPal as I trust their screening method. I do not allow someone to book within 24 hours of arrival - everything must be "a done deal" before arrival - signed rental agreement and full payment. Most of our reservations are advanced reservations, so there is plenty of time to receive a personal check and have it clear prior to arrival.
I did not get to read the post that got deleted - too bad...but I can a imagine the issue if it involves the use of a fake ID. I recently had my cc number stolen and used clear across the country. Luckily the cc company caught it and was able to cancel the card early on. Identity theft as well as stealing cc info is a big business. We each do whatever we have to do to feel comfortable.