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.
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.
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.
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.
I am new to renting and have a question. I read a book about renting vacation property, and it said when sending your confirmation letter and rental agreement, do not send them as attachments because some people may have trouble opening them. It said instead to copy and paste the docments right into the email that you send potential guests. But now that I think about it, can't people hit the forward button and then edit the contract? At least a PDF file could not be edited. Just wondering about any potential problems that could arise with just copying and pasting into an email, which I have done with my first two renters. Thanks!
I send my as a PDF attachment via email, and the only problem I have had was when a guest from England returned it in a different format but I was able to get it opened. You are totally right about not sending it in an email as it is way too easy to change (people can change PDFs but it is much harder). I think as long as you have already had contact with the person and they know you will be sending your Rental Agreement they should not have a problem opening a PDF (now days pretty much everyone has a PDF reader on their computers). Also it is much cleaner and easier for people to print off and sign a PDF than an email.
Thanks, lazym; I'm going to start sending them as attachments. As far as people returning contracts, I have one guy I kind of know (he does snowplowing for me), who told me back on 5/18/13 he wants to rent the second weekend in July for 2 couples. I told him I have a 3-night minimum and he said it would be for 4. Sent him a contract, etc. He texted back a couple days later, saying no, he meant 3-nights, not 4. Sent him a new contract. Didn't hear anything. I texted him a couple days later asking if he was still interested in that weekend...he said yes, didn't his buddy email back the signed contract? (which I was wondering, unless he scanned a signed copy, how does the signature part work?). Anyways, I said No, hadn't gotten anything. He asked if he could drop off the money and asked if there is a discount for "cash". I said No, no discount, just SIGN THE CONTRACT and drop it in the mail along with your check, no need to come over. That was last week and I still haven't gotten the contract. I'm not going to bring it up again. I did leave a message last night asking him about some lawn care he said he was going to do (he has his own business) and he never returned my call, but I didn't mention the rental at all. He wants the weekend after the 4th of July, you would think he would be worried that somebody else would book it. Does he think I'm going to hold it for him or what? NOT!
I agree with Carol - I would not leave this contract "hanging." This fellow mows your lawn, so he can obviously get the deposit and signed contract to you quickly if he wants to. I would call and email him (so you have something in writing) and tell him that unless he gets the signed contract and reservtion deposit to you by 5:00 pm on Monday, your offer to rent to him will be withdrawn and the property will be made available to rent to others. For future rentals, I think that it is a good idea to give people a timeframe in which they must return the signed contract and reservation deposit. When someone wants to rent my property, I send them an email with a booking confirmation letter and a rental agreement as attachments to the email. I clearly state in the booking confirmation letter that I will hold the dates for them for 7 days. I further state that if I do not receive a signed copy of the rental agreement along with a check for the reservation deposit within 7 days of the date of the email, their reservation will be cancelled and the property will be made available to rent by others.
Thanks, mlb. Actually, he doesn't mow my lawn, don't see him on a regular basis, but he is coming over tomorrow while I'm at work to do some fertilizing. I just called him back and said that I would print out the contract myself, leave it in the door, and he can take it home, read it, sign it, and send it back with a check. At least NOW I can give him my new updated version of the contract! Thanks again!
Carol, the contract says this. I have since changed it after reading information on these boards, but this is the one that was in his contract.
RESERVATION/DAMAGE DEPOSIT - A reservation/damage deposit of $200 is required. This must be received within five (5) days of booking the reservation. This deposit automatically converts to a damage deposit upon arrival. The deposit is NOT applied toward rent; however, it is fully refundable within 14 days of departure, provided the following provisions are met.
Actually, guess what? he just called now about the message I had left about the lawn last night, he said he didn't get home until late, and he asked again if his friend had sent in the contract. I said "no, but why couldn't you just send it in?" and he says he doesn't have a printer or it's not working, whatever. I said I didn't like the idea of forwarding the contract in email and that I will re-send the contract to him with attachments and then he could forward it to his friend to print out and send in. But I am thinking, when you forward an email, do the attachments forward also? I'm thinking they don't. Will have to test it out.... arrghhh..
Ok, thanks. Guess I don't have to worry about it now, because I'm going to print it out myself and leave it in the door. But I have another question...I will have a check-out list in the cabin, like stripping used beds and placing sheets and towels in a basket in the laundry room, leaving no dirty dishes on counters, etc., and to load dishwasher and start it, etc. Should all these things also in the rental agreement or is it not necessary? This is what is in my rental agreement now. Do I need to add to it?
RESERVATION/DAMAGE DEPOSIT - A reservation/damage deposit of $200 is required. This must be received within 7 (seven) calendar days of booking the reservation. The deposit automatically converts to a damage deposit upon arrival. The deposit is NOT applied toward rent; however, it is fully refundable within 14 days of departure, provided the following provisions are met.
a. No damage is done to unit or its contents, beyond normal wear and tear.
b. All debris, rubbish and discards are placed in recycle and garbage bins and soiled
dishes are placed in the dishwasher and cleaned.
c. The cabin is left locked (all windows and doors) and all lights and fans turned off.
d. No linens or towels are lost or damaged.
e. No early check-in or late check-out.
f. The renter is not evicted by the owner (or representative of the owner) or the local law.
g. No excessive cleaning is needed.
Sounds like a headache but that seems to be the way it happens when you are dealing with people you know because they feel more relaxed than if they were dealing with a stranger. Hopefully you printing it off means you get it over and done with. One thing I do if I have more than 1 family or people who are "friends" is that all of them must look over and inital the rental agreement so I know that everyone knows the ground rules. Found this to be best because normally with a family 1 person is sort of overseeing that the rules are followed but with larger groups of adults this does not happen and the little rules tend to get overlooked (for example I want every adult to know that no smoking is allowed anywhere on our property due to the fire danger).
As for having that in your rental agreement that is fine. But what I would do so they are exactly the same in the agreement and what you have in your VR is to do your rental rules as either an attachment or addendum to your Rental Agreement and there you can go into more detail (like check-out procedure) than in the actual Rental Agreement. This will also make it so you don't have to print out the rental agreement for every guest you have, you just have a copy of your Rental Rules (I would put it in a plastic protector and put out with any other information you provide your guests).
Yes, I think that's a good idea about doing another attachment, in addition to having a copy of the check-out procedure in the cabin so everyone can see it. But do you think I should do this attach this check-out procedure along with the rental agreement or maybe wait until I get the signed contract and then send the check-out procedure along with instructions on how to get into the cabin?
I would attach it to the Rental Agreement. That way they know exactly what to expect when they sign the agreement. You never know but someone might have a problem stripping the beds (I can't tell you how many people actually make the beds on the day they leave). I would put it as part of your Rental Rules, for me it works out that it ends up on a separate page but I send it out with the Rental Agreement.