I love “Elementary,” the TV crime show starring an unreasonably lovable Jonny Lee Miller as a quirky Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as his smart, fashionable trusty sidekick, Dr. Watson. The subplot of the show that aired on February 18, 2016 made a point that’s relevant for all of us who rent out our homes while we travel. Joan, kept awake by loud rock music from the brownstone next door, bangs on the neighbor’s door to complain. “Oh, we’re only here for a week,” the young man says with a friendly grin. “Rented this place from an online booking agency. Listing said noise was not a problem.”
A well-trained investigator, Joan discovers that the “online booking agency” advertised several short-term rentals in the immediate area, promoting them as “party pads.” Before she can follow the trail further, she gets caught up in the murder investigation that was the real focus of the show. But just after the last commercial, she and Sherlock come home to find the street filled with fire engines. The “party pad” had burned down. It turns out, as it too often does, that the property owner’s insurance company refused to cover the damage, because he had been using the place as a short-term rental.
What a wakeup call for all us hosts who blithely assume that our homeowner’s insurance will remain in effect when we rent out our homes! As too many hosts have discovered, that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, most homeowner’s policies specifically exclude “business activities.” The bottom line? If you rent your home to vacationers or other short-term tenants, check with your agent to make sure that you’re covered.
And I hope you didn’t miss the other point of the Elementary episode: to protect your property and maintain good relations with neighbors, screen guests carefully to be sure that they aren’t the kind of people who will use your home as a party pad. In my view, it’s elementary, my dear Watson.
For more, see Nolo’s guide on the topic.