When you’re renting out your bach or holiday home, you’re in an entirely different position to that of a motel or hotel proprietor. It may be your second home, but you’re not going to be on the premises to check that your guests are treating it with respect. Since renters are aware of this, they’re going to expect some degree of screening before their booking is accepted.
If you’ve been renting out or managing a property for a while, you’ve probably devised a system of vetting renters. If you’re new to the business, there are a few simple steps you can take to reduce risk and improve your chances of only renting to people who will take good care of your property.
Attracting the right guests in the first place
Before you even start getting enquiries and vetting holidaymakers, there are some things you can do to improve your chances of getting the best possible tenants. You have the right to choose who stays, but you must keep in mind that under the Human Rights Act (1993) you cannot discriminate based on (but not limited to) age, gender, or race.
Decide what restrictions apply to your property and state them in your Special Conditions (and your Rental Terms). For example:
- No parties and no additional guests staying beyond those booked.
- No smoking inside our in the property grounds.
- No tents or additional overnight guests without prior permission.
- No pets allowed on this property
- No open fires
If families are your target market, ensure your listing targets this demographic. Look to offer suitable facilities such as a cot or portacot, a high-chair and a toy box.
Bookabach member feedback
If someone has a history with Bookabach then they’re likely to have established feedback from another owner/manager, so always check it. You’ll find their feedback (shown as stars), next to their name in the emails, Notifications and booking information - or typically wherever you see their name. Click the stars or the feedback link to view their feedback.
If no stars are visible, chances are they’re a new member and haven’t yet earned feedback so you’ll need to do more thorough vetting.
Also, don’t forget to help other owners/managers vet their future guests by always giving fair and accurate feedback on guests that stay with you.
Vetting by phone
If they have no prior member feedback, it’s always a good idea to phone the numbers supplied by the renter. Check the numbers ring through, and you can get hold of the person who enquired. Typically you may want to ask about:
- The number of people who will be staying and their ages.
- The purpose of their holiday.
- Will there be children in the group?
- Are they bringing any pets?
You have to be 18 or over to use Bookabach but if your guests sound very young ask if they can provide a reference or whether you can chat to a parent, or whether an employer can provide them with a reference. If you speak to a “parent” as part of such vetting, ask for their name and address too. Check the White Pages and call back on the landline they’ve given you.
If your gut instinct warns you, you’re free to decline a booking. If you’re in a remote or isolated location, think carefully about why they want the place (see sidebar piece on Avoiding unwanted “home-baking”). Chat with them and try and get a feel why they seek such a location. If unsure, decline the booking, or advise that a gardener or similar type of person may be about the property during their stay.
Are they likely to take offence to your questions? Unlikely: a phone call gives you an opportunity to let them know that this is your second home, but it should also help them feel confident that the information they see on a listing reflects reality, thus establishing a degree of trust for both of you. Don’t go overboard, though: you could scare everyone off if you sound too paranoid!
Find more about them online
More and more people (especially the younger folks) are spending significant amounts of time interacting via social media. Websites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can provide useful insights on people. You don’t have to be one of them to take advantage of what sites like Facebook offer in reagarding intelligence on people. Scary, isn’t it?
Be aware that Facebook users have the option to restrict their content to their “friends” so you may not find anything more on them than their name. But if they’ve made their page public, take a look at their “Info” page, which lists things like their interests and employment. You may also want to check out their photos (most Facebook pages include albums as well as their profile pictures), and their “wall”, which is where they interact with their friends. If a potential renter is a party animal according to their Facebook content, that could be a big red flag. On the other hand, you could be missing out on guests who are perfectly well behaved, responsible fortysomethings who feel the need to show the world when they put on a wig and dance their heads off before heading home to bed at midnight. If nothing else, Facebook should give you an idea of the age group you’re dealing with.
Other online tools such as LinkedIn, Google and the White Pages are also useful for screening – you can check whether the phone number they’ve given you matches their directory listing, whether their email address exists and so on.
Screening guests from overseas
Renters from overseas are less likely to have any rental history on Bookabach but, there are simple checks you can do to make sure they are who they say are. Ask for a postal and street address and if you suspect you’re being scammed, check their address on Google Maps, Google their names and check if they’re listed in the white pages for their country. Their email domain (the bit after the “@”) also provides useful information – if it’s the domain of a bona fide company, and you can get hold of them on this email, then this gives some degree of comfort. If it’s a generic email account (Gmail, yahoo, Hotmail) - well it’s just not that useful.
The final word: Go with your instinct
It’s not unreasonable to choose to rent to families or older people only and to state this in your listing. It’s okay to have a preference but be upfront about this in your listing.
If speaking to a renter doesn’t reassure you that they are desirable guests or if you have a gut feeling that you don’t trust them, just politely decline the booking.
And finally, if all this seems too complicated or risky, you may prefer to have a property manager take care of it for you. Contact us if you’d like to be put in touch with a property manager in your area.
Decided you’re not cut out for property management? Contact us, and we’ll put you in touch with a Property Manager.