As long-time short-term rental hosts, my husband and I have come to expect questions from people we meet who are thinking about doing the same. I addressed some of the most common questions in Part 1 of these short-term rental FAQs. This post addresses a few more.
Disclaimer: Although the information in this post is accurate as far as I know, it’s only an overview. In particular, the laws, regulations, rules, taxes, and insurance issues related to short-term rentals can be very complicated. Everyone’s situation is different, so I strongly recommend that you consult professionals such as attorneys, insurance agents, and tax advisers.
Will my homeowner’s insurance pay claims for liability or damage during rentals?
Maybe, maybe not. Insurance companies have different policies about short-term rentals. Some have exclusions stating that they will not pay claims if a guest slips on the stairs or there’s a fire while the home is being rented to a short-term guest. In that case, you might have to switch to a policy that covers short-term rentals or buy additional insurance to cover the period when guests are staying in your home.
For more, See “Insurance: It’s Elementary, My Dear Watson”
Do I need to hire a property manager? A professional cleaning service?
That’s up to you. We have never used a property manager, but we rent for a minimum of 30 days, so there is rarely any turnover, and we don’t mind handling all details ourselves. We do have people on call to help with problems while we’re away. We pay our regular housecleaners extra to do thorough move-in and move-out cleanings. If you decide on a professional manager and cleaners, be sure the amount of the rent is enough to cover the cost, with some left over!
What if my guests or I need to cancel?
Your rental agreement should include a clear cancellation policy that states whether guests are allowed to cancel and the circumstances under which they receive all or part of their rent and deposit back. We reserve the right to keep the deposit and any rent paid if guests cancel, unless we can re-rent the home. Your agreement also needs to state what happens if you cancel the reservation.
For more, see “Put Short-Term Rental Agreements in Writing”
What happens if guests damage my home or my belongings?
We collect a refundable damage deposit from our guests when they book. The deposit helps to reimburse us if guests cancel after the agreed-upon cancellation date or damage anything while they’re here. If there’s no damage, we return the deposit within two weeks of their departure.
Of course, the damage deposit covers only minor incidents. We understand that there’s always a risk of something happening that would require expensive repairs or replacements. But we’re willing to take that risk.
How do I protect my privacy and my valuables?
Before guests arrive, we put things we don’t want damaged and our private papers, such as tax returns, into plastic bins that we store in our garage. Some hosts who have the space keep valuables and private papers in a locked closet or even a locked room. (Personally, I’m not comfortable with a locked room when I stay in someone else’s home.)
If you don’t have any extra space, you can put things in plastic bins with “Please do not touch” signs on them and trust your guests to honor your request – most do. You could also move very important things to an office or someone else’s home while you’re away.
For more, see “Protect Your Privacy and your Valuables”
What about my neighbors?
Most people are understandably wary when strangers with suitcases appear in the hallway or on the street. We always let our close neighbors know when guests are coming to stay, and we give them the guests’ contact information, just in case.
What rules should I impose on guests?
The fewer rules, the better. We make it clear that there is to be no smoking anywhere on the property. Be considerate of the neighbors. Don’t park in neighbors’ spaces. No loud noises. No extra overnight guests without our permission
Should we let guests bring pets? Can I leave mine?
If you don’t want guests to bring pets, say so clearly in your listing, put it in the agreement, and reinforce it during your communications. We are sometimes willing to accept a well behaved dog, but we are allergic to cats, and we make that clear immediately.
Leaving your own pet is another matter. Does your pet respond well to strangers? Do guests mind caring for him or her? If you do leave your pet, make sure to leave food and detailed instructions for its care.
For more, see “Should You Allow Pets in Your Short-Term Rental?”
Should I let guests use my car?
Again, that’s up to you. Our insurance agent strongly recommends against letting guests use our car because of liability issues. Even if yours says it’s okay, consider the wear and tear of someone using an unfamiliar vehicle.
What other questions do you have about hosting a short-term rental? Ask them in the comments or on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!