How to screen (vet) your guests

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.

More info

Citizens Advice Bureau - Discrimination and Human Rights

Decided you’re not cut out for property management?  Contact us, and we’ll put you in touch with a Property Manager.

How do I accept or decline a booking request?


 

Scams, Phishing and Fraud

Welcome to the internet!  As soon as you advertise your holiday home online and start getting enquiries, you are exposing yourself, and the people who enquire on your property to many scams.  There are some common sense things you should do to keep you and your guests safe:

Above all, please be vigilant, and don’t be shy about calling Bookabach Customer Service if you smell a rat.

More info:

Blog: Scam Alerts
Resources: How to keep your account secure

Avoiding unwanted “home-baking” (Meth-labs)

It is an unfortunate fact that remote holiday homes can be targeted by criminal gangs to set up clandestine methyl amphetamines (P) labs.  The fumes and residues produced when Meth is cooked are highly toxic, and testing and decontaminating a house after a “cook” can cost a fortune: around $3000 for testing and between $10,000 - $50,000 for a clean-up. The actual costs are even higher when you consider the loss of value of the property, loss of rental etc. – and then there’s the emotional cost.

Here’s our advice:

Be mindful of requests for unusually long stays in a property in a remote location or when the weather or season isn’t appropriate, and someone offers cash deposits immediately to secure a confirmation. Ask why they are keen on such a property when it isn’t desired at that time of year. They may be an artist or writer, and entirely genuine, but if you aren’t convinced, decline the rental.

Vet by phone. If what they say just doesn’t ring true, follow your instinct, Don’t assume that the well-spoken and polite prospective tenant is a better bet than the average, as tenants seeking to rent a property for less-than-honest purposes are often the most well spoken and most respectful of all!

Consider installing a chemical alarm.  There’s a relatively new product on the market called MethMinder that detects the presence of Methyl Amphetamines (or the chemicals used to make them).  MethMinder is a silent alarm that’s monitored – not unlike a home alarm.  Having one (and indicating that you have one) acts as a powerful deterrent. For more info see www.methminder.co.nz.

Make sure your insurance covers short-term holiday letting and the P-Lab scenario.  Please see our article “Got Insurance? (No really?)”.

Piwa perched