Many vacation rental owners have concerns about guests causing damage to their property. Significant property damage is pretty rare–it only happens with around 1 in 41,000 guests–but it’s still a possibility. Choosing to screen your potential guests takes effort, but it comes with multiple advantages, including a reduced chance of property damage. In this article, we’ll cover the reasons why you might want to screen guests, as well as three methods to do so.
Why Screen Potential Guests?
When allowing strangers to stay at your vacation rental, there’s always a bit of a risk, but screening your guests can cut back on the chance of something going wrong. Screening also enables you to get to know your guests and how they intend to use your rental, which can prevent parties and other unwanted situations.
Prevent Property Damage
Typically, rental owners’ main worry is that unverified guests will cause damage to their property. By screening potential guests, you can get to know your guests’ intentions for their stay. Then, you can weed out those who you feel aren’t a good fit.
For example, a brief phone call with a prospective guest may reveal that they and a group of friends in their early 20s plan to have a party on your property. If you want to avoid that due to the property damage that may ensue, you can let them know that parties aren’t allowed or choose not to allow them to book your rental.
Maintain Good Relationship with Neighbors
When you have a rental property, it’s always important to remain on good terms with your neighbors to address vacation rental property neighbor complaints properly. If your guests are constantly noisy or park in your neighbors’ parking spots, that can start to cause some tension. And if your neighbors begin to complain or even decide to take legal action against you, that can be problematic for your vacation rental business. Screening any potential guests can reduce or prevent these issues with neighbors altogether, as well as problems with landlords or homeowners associations.
Unfortunately, it’s not unheard of for people to pose as others when booking vacation rental properties. Luckily, screening potential guests can prevent these fraudulent bookings, as well as credit card fraud.
What If You Don’t Want to Screen Your Guests?
Of course, there is also the option of not screening anyone who stays at your property. A huge benefit of this choice is that you’ll attract more guests and get additional bookings. But a significant drawback is that you may not attract good guests. Choosing not to screen your guests is a valid option, but it does increase your odds of property damage and other unwanted incidents.
Three Ways to Screen Guests
1. Phone or Email
Speaking directly with potential guests is a simple way to get an idea of who they are and whether or not they’ll be respectful to your property. Talking on the phone for five to ten minutes is usually plenty of time to get the necessary information. You could also send an email questionnaire or even set the questionnaire to automatically go out to potential guests. Automating the process means you don’t have to take the time and effort to send an email every time someone is considering booking your listing.
Through an email questionnaire, you can find out the purpose of potential guests’ trips, how many adults and children will be staying, whether they smoke, and if they plan to bring pets with them.
It should be noted that you can’t officially verify a person’s identity or age over the phone. However, having a short conversation is often enough to put your mind at ease since it gives you a feel of who your guests are.
There are some things you cannot ask potential guests. Any questions involving religion, race, gender, national origin, familial status, and physical or mental disabilities violate anti-discrimination laws. In addition, there are laws in many states and cities that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and marital status.
2. Online Search
An online search is another type of manual screening that you can turn to. You can use a reverse phone number or address search, or you can take a look at potential guests’ social media profiles.
There are a couple of drawbacks to this method. First, it’s hard to scale. Vetting all potential guests’ social media profiles may be easy enough to fit into your schedule at first, but as business picks up, it may become challenging to keep up with. Another potential issue is that looking at guests’ social media can increase the chances of giving into unfair biases.
3. Third-Party Identity Verification Software
Another option is to use a property management system that has built-in screening features or to choose another third-party identity verification software. This is a business-minded option that’s not quite as invasive as going through a potential guest’s social media profiles. It also tends to be pretty quick and low-effort. Most third-party identity verification software will ensure that your guests are legitimate and that they meet your minimum age requirement.
Purchasing the software or using a property management system does cost money, but it also saves you a lot of time and effort. It’s worth taking a look at your schedule and budget to see if using third-party ID verification software is right for you.
A Note on Credit Screening
In most cases, credit screening just isn’t feasible, especially for short-term stays. Generally, guests will be hesitant to share their Social Security number with the owner of a vacation rental, particularly if they’re only staying for a night or two. Requiring a credit check is likely to deter some guests from booking your listing.
Tips for Screening Potential Guests
If you decide that screening potential guests is the right choice for you, these tips should help you navigate the process successfully.
Keep your guests’ rights and privacy in mind.
Remember, the goal isn’t to learn every detail about a potential guest. Always respect your guests’ rights and their privacy. Stick to asking questions that are applicable to the situation and will actually affect their experience at the rental property.
Be clear and honest about what your rental has to offer.
Just as you don’t want your guests to lie to you, you shouldn’t deceive your guests either. Always be open and honest about the type of experience your rental provides, and don’t hide any of the flaws or drawbacks of your property. If your potential guests have small children and your house isn’t really kid-friendly, it’s best to be clear and honest about it.
Implement a comprehensive damage waiver or safety deposit policy.
Since screening doesn’t guarantee 100% protection from property damage, it’s always smart to have a comprehensive damage waiver or security deposit policy in place. Another wise idea is to have guests pay upfront. Once they’ve put money down, they’re less likely to cause issues or recklessly damage your rental.
Thoroughly document your property’s condition in between guests.
To keep track of wear and tear as well as larger issues, thoroughly document the condition of your rental property in between each guest’s stay. This way, you can know for sure when that scratch on the sofa appeared or when someone spilled red wine on your carpet. Documentation will also be important if you choose to file a claim or take any kind of action against your guests.
Trust your instincts.
If you have a nagging feeling that a certain guest won’t treat your property with respect, there are ways to politely tell them that they aren’t a good match for your listing. Always remain professional, and if possible, refer back to any rules in your property’s description that pertain to the situation at hand. At the end of the day, it’s your property, and you have the right to choose whether or not to allow potential guests to stay there.
- Screening potential guests can potentially cut back on property damage, maintain your positive relationship with your neighbors or landlord, and prevent fraud.
- If you choose not to screen anyone, you’ll attract a larger pool of potential guests. However, there’s no guarantee that they will be good guests. In general, rental property owners that don’t screen guests have a higher chance of property damage. It’s still pretty low, though–overall, about 1 in every 41,000 guests will notably damage a vacation rental property.
- There are three main ways to screen your guests: through a phone or email conversation, by looking into their online presence, and by utilizing third-party identity verification software. It’s not recommended to run a credit check on potential guests, especially for short-term stays.
- When screening guests, stick with pertinent questions and respect their rights and privacy at all times. Be clear and honest with guests, document the condition of your property in between stays, and have a comprehensive damage waiver or safety deposit policy in place.