It's not just Homeaway it's happening across all platforms. With all the advertising tons of hotel guests are now booking Vacation Rentals and they don't understand the difference. Your best defense is a strongly worded rental agreement with some real teeth in it when things go wrong. If you are not scaring away at least one bgad guest a year then your rental agreement probably needs revamping.
We stopped to take a break from renting this year and had similar experiences. Our worst guest this summer contacted us two weeks after check-out and informed us that they had an outbreak of lice in their family and that they were sure it came from their stay at our cabin. In reality they had brought lice to the cabin and it cost us $600 to buy new linens and replace pillows, bag up and put old linens in storage and wash/dry everything extra long on hot cycle to get rid of the lice eggs. The same guest also waited until we returned their security deposit to let us know that they ripped our screen door and took one fo the toys home by accident and asked us to ship back a pillow they left. They offered but never shipped the toy back.
Overall guest expectations have risen while taxes and booking fees have dramatically increased. Our local tax authority now wants us to get a business license, pay business property tax on everything in our cabin and then pay 12% TOT on every booking. When you add another 10%-15% for booking commissions and then put in cleaning, supplies, linen replacement and the constant damage, breakage and missing items it's no longer worth our time to rent. Our biggest issue is that we went from about 100 cabins on the rental market 10 years ago to over 500 cabins today. We cannot compete with Airbnb rentals where the owner is not properly insured, does not pay TOT and will rent their place for $100 to $150 a night.
totally agree with vrdoctor, It is across the board. I think it is because people that used to stay in inexpensive motels are now being advertised to and rent VRs. I also find that this clientele often has unjustifiably high expectations of property, while at the same time acting like house rules do not apply to them and very low expectations of themselves. I find a lot of them come from AirBNB but it runs across all platforms.