Damage to Your Vacation Home But Unsure Whodunnit?

    determining the cause of damage at your vacation homeDamage is one of the most feared aspects of vacation rental ownership, but fortunately for us, it doesn’t happen too often. But what if you notice damage at your vacation home, but you have no idea who caused it? Damage with an unknown cause, especially for out-of-town owners, can be a challenge. Here are some steps to prevent this situation, and what to do if it has already happened.

    Preventing Damage Disputes

    • Have your housekeeper inspect your home after each guest. An overall inspection of your home should be part of your housekeeper’s cleaning process. He/she likely knows your home pretty well and will be able to spot missing or damaged items. It also helps to create a property inventory for your housekeeper to use as a reference. If your housekeeper completes this inspection after each checkout, he/she will be able to more accurately determine the culprit for any damages.
    • Send a detailed rental agreement to all guests. Your rental agreement should outline your security deposit policies and any penalties for damaged or missing items. Explain your inspection process, checkout policy, and deposit refund procedures to guests so they know what to expect following departure. You should require your renters to sign and send back your rental agreement before accepting any bookings.
    • Create a thorough check-in policy. For additional protection, have each set of renters inspect your home upon arrival and report anything that does not meet their satisfaction. That way, if your housekeeper missed something, your guests might catch it. This double-checking can help pinpoint the cause of any damages and prevent you from accusing the wrong party down the road.
    • Encourage guests to contact you if anything gets broken or damaged. Your guests should get in touch with you at check-in to report any problems, but you should also encourage them to contact you if something occurs during their stay. Things will inevitably happen when you have renters in your home, but by building a relationship with your guests and letting them know that this is your second home, they will hopefully feel inclined to fess up to any accidental damage. Or better yet – they might even replace the item themselves!

    Determining the Cause of Damage

    • Determine the magnitude of the problem. So, something has turned up broken or missing at your vacation home. Now what? First and foremost, before you start pointing fingers and calling witnesses, you need to determine if the damaged item is worth your time and effort. A broken teapot is a far cry from a broken flat screen television, so make sure to think practically instead of reacting out of emotion.
    • Discuss potential causes of damage with your housekeeper. If your housekeeper reports a damaged or missing item, you’ll want to have a thorough conversation about it before confronting your guests. Is he/she positive it wasn’t broken or missing beforehand? Is it possible that someone in the cleaning crew might have caused the damage? Could it possibly have resulted just from normal wear-and-tear?
    • Contact your guests about the incident. If your housekeeper is convinced that the damage of a certain item was caused by a specific set of guests, you can try contacting them to discuss the problem. They might have forgotten to report the issue or perhaps didn’t notice that the item was broken. If you have a signed rental agreement that detailed the stipulations for damages, you should be able to withhold money from their security deposit to cover the costs of repairing or replacing the damaged item.
    • Evaluate your options if the renters won’t take the blame. If your renters deny that the damage was caused by their group, you could be looking at a “he said/she said” situation. You have to determine whether you are prepared to take on the issue with your guests or simply cover the cost yourself and be done with it.
      If you prefer to pursue it with your guests, your best bet is to trust your housekeeper, 
       assuming he/she has never given you a reason not to trust him/her. Simply explain to
       your guests that you have established a loyal relationship with your housekeeper and
       that he/she is the person responsible for making the judgment calls in these situations.
       Now, if the renter asks to then speak with your housekeeper, that’s territory you
       probably don’t want to enter. Instead, offer to have your housekeeper sign a letter
       attesting to the damages.
    • Update your rental agreement. If you do not currently use a rental agreement or found that the damage clause in your rental agreement did not adequately cover your expenses, consider revising your contract. Your best protection against unnecessary expenditures is a thorough, signed rental agreement with each set of guests.
    With careful screening and clear communication about the penalties for damage, you shouldn’t have to deal with this problem. But in the event of damage with an unknown cause, you’ll want to exercise due diligence and review all the evidence before jumping to conclusions and withholding money from the wrong party.

    © Copyright HomeAway, Inc. 2010