In a recent blog post, one host detailed his rental horror story, when a guest booking with VRBO robbed his property. The fraudulent guest used a stolen credit card to book and the host wasn’t notified that the payment was not going to be issued until the day of check-in. It wasn’t until after the thief robbed the property that it was made apparent. According to the host, VRBO offered little sympathy and no resolution or reimbursement.
If you do a quick Google search of any rental site, you’ll find other hosts with similar stories. However, barring all rental sites is an unrealistic solution. Scammers are still out there. Legitimate guests aren’t going directly to your website (if you even have one). They aren’t searching for you by name on Google. Most likely, they are browsing popular rental sites and trusting those to provide quality listings. It’s how people today book lodgings.
This means that as a vacation rental owner, you are susceptible and affected by the policies (or lack thereof) for the rental sites that you use. How can you protect yourself as a vacation rental host? Here are some options from the rental experts at BookingTeam.com:
1. Stop putting your listings on VRBO/HomeAway entirely.
This may seem a bit drastic to some hosts. If you can bring in enough bookings through other sites or by utilizing services like BookingTeam.com, you may find it worthwhile. If you want to keep your listings on VRBO, make sure to have a thorough booking and check-in process.
Collect the proper documentation from guests. Always collect IDs, make photocopies, and store it in a secure place.
2. Look for warning signs and cues before the arrival date.
Some scammers and thieves are clever and creative. It seems that every year, they come up with countless new schemes to get around the system. However, there are some red flags that can hint to a possible scam underway. Here are some:
- Guest has little to no profile or online information.
- Inconsistencies in email and communications.
- Poor grasp of the English language.
- Last-minute bookings.
- Offers to pay more than the charge amount.
If you’ve been in the industry for a while, you may get a sense for when things just don’t feel right. When they don’t, follow your gut and trust your instinct.
3. Prepare as if rental sites won’t have your back should trouble arise.
Of course, many rental sites have some type of “Protection Plan” for hosts, but often, it only covers minimal damage and reimbursement. There’s also a lot of red tape and paperwork to fill out before you can get approved, and if you do, expect to wait a long time for a response, if you get any.
It is unfortunate, but theft is a risk that hosts may face and rental sites don’t always have your back. This is why you need to do all that you can on your own to prevent and protect yourself against scams. When someone books with you, check out their profile if available. Communicate through email well before their check-in date. Make sure that you have proper insurance on your properties to cover theft or damage (Homeowner’s insurance doesn’t count for short-term rentals.) Inspect the property for theft or damage before and after each check-in. Make sure to keep documentation and take up-to-date photos of your property in case you need to file a claim.
In today’s digital age, listing sites are integral to a vacation rental business. As a host, you have to be aware of the practices and policies of these sites and how they can affect you. Most importantly, watch out for any early signs of potential fraud. This may require extreme vigilance, time and support. At BookingTeam.com, we help hosts manage various aspects of the vacation rental business, from scheduling housekeeping to sharing listings on rental sites. This way, hosts can focus on the core of their business and better protect themselves against potential threats.