Travelers looking for a place to stay for a few weeks use booking websites like Homeaway.com, Booking.com, and Airbnb to locate short-term rentals at a lower price than most hotels. Homeowners can also use these sites to rent out their empty apartment or guesthouse to earn a little extra money as well. There are a few things you need to know whether you are a traveler or a homeowner. Scams are everywhere on the Internet, but if you follow these tips you will avoid those situations. If you’re not sure how these laws apply to you, contact your provider law firm.
Can you legally rent out your house?
The answer to this is…it depends. The local laws in your state will dictate what you can and can’t do. If you rent an apartment and want to have someone stay in it while you are out of town for a couple of weeks you will want to check the terms of your lease or speak with your landlord about having a guest. If you are a homeowner and live in an area that is part of a Homeowner’s Association you will need to check your paperwork to see if there is any clause prohibiting it. If you are permitted to rent your house or apartment, keep in mind you will be responsible for them the same as a guest.
If you are considering this you have no doubt heard the horror stories of things that have happened like listing not being advertised, guests that refuse to leave, or reports of damaged property. While things like this have happened in rare cases, they also have thousands of successful stays with great hosts that made their trip memorable. You shouldn’t worry about all the things that “could” happen, but do protect yourself from potential problems. Research the topic very thoroughly and know the law before deciding to be a host.
Are you protected by homeowners’ insurance in case of liability?
This will depend on what type of coverage the host is carrying. Before deciding to take this on check your homeowner’s policy for restrictions. Some policies do not allow you to sublet the property they have insured. Some have implemented a secondary insurance coverage but you would need to check into the coverage and understand the limits before you begin. If there is ever any questions about a situation, always check with your law firm first.
Watch out for scams
Because these sites book online, you will need to be on the lookout for scams. Scammers are getting smarter, but you can usually spot most things that seem too good to be true. Some things that raise a red flag include prices that are “too low,” hosts that ask for payment through a wire transfer, or want to handle communication and transactions off the site. Never send anyone money in a situation like that because most assuredly you will not see it again and will not have a reservation either. The booking site handles payments, communicates with the host, and makes all the arrangements for you.
Always Check the Reviews
Reviews are extremely important for listing sites. They help identify troublesome guests and bad hosts. Read reviews carefully before making a reservation and look for warning signs about the rental and the host. Do reviewers praise the rental unit but complain about dealing with the host? Is the location worth the potential hassle?
Before making any decisions as a traveler or a host, always look for and read the reviews on the site. It may seem a little odd if a host has no reviews but they may be new and just haven’t had any guests yet. Check their stats. Have they been verified? Send them a message and see how quickly they respond. You can make up a list of questions to ask to see if they seem to be a credible host. Ask if they would be willing to chat via Skype or webcam.