12 Ways to Protect Your Vacation Rental from Damage

You try to believe the best of people, including your guests. You hope that they would never steal or intentionally harm your property, and most would not.

But the longer you rent out your property, the more likely the scenario will occur that someone will have an accident or that something will get lost, stolen, or damaged.  While vacation rental damage is rare, there are several steps that homeowners and property managers can take to help prevent damage or ensure they do not incur unexpected costs.

However, taking guest screening to the next level to effectively prevent damage can be time-consuming and technologically challenging. Phone screening, which can be a great way to prevent damage, can take time and slow down the rental process.  Bank-level identity verification is a great way to prevent damage or theft of your property, but usually requires the use of a third party or a tech-enabled property manager that does this work for you.

To try to reduce the likelihood of damage, we asked experts on real estate, investing, insurance, and maintenance for their best tips for preventing damage to your vacation rental before it happens. Whether you’re managing your property yourself or working with a property manager, these tips can help you prevent damage to your rental property.

  • Be specific with your rules. Create a rental agreement with very specific and clear rules. Include things such as “rinsing all sand off outside before entering, no sitting on furniture with wet clothing, keeping windows shut when air conditioning is running, and nothing down toilets except toilet tissue,” says Denise Supplee, a real estate investor and co-founder of SparkRental.com.
  • Make sure you are adequately insured. Insurance is an important part of renting out your property, so take care to find the policy that will provide the best coverage. “No matter how many preventive measures are taken, you cannot prepare for everything,” says Michael Thrasher, an analyst at ValuePenguin. “Accidents happen and even if someone doesn’t damage your home, they could injure themselves, and the homeowner could be found liable.
  • Hide the valuables. This might seem like a no-brainer, but look at your rental through the eyes of a tenant. What is most likely to get broken or damaged, and can it be removed so that you eliminate the possibility? Are there areas that could be dangerous to small children, such as unmounted furniture or swimming pools? Include cautionary notes, or restrict your property to guests without children if necessary.
  • Collect a security deposit or property damage protection waiver. Security deposits not only cover you when things are damaged but can also deter damage to begin with. “People tend to take care of your property better when there is money at stake,” says Supplee. Another solution is to request that guests purchase a property damage protection waiver. It’s a small, nonrefundable fee that functions like insurance and covers the guest in the event of serious property damage.
  • Inspect and document. Ensure that you have documented your rental in its pre-rental state, taking the time to include the details, such as fixtures, windows, lights, floors, and walls. “Make sure that there is a before and after inspection with pictures,” says Supplee. “It is easy using phone pictures and videos in real time, along with scanning inspection reports on the spot.”
  • Screen your guests. The old-fashioned personal touch is crucial. “We are all human, and taking the time to personally connect with a tenant, either by phone or in person, is the fastest way to develop a respectful relationship that will translate into better care for your property,” says Kimberly Smith, CEO of CorporateHousingbyOwner.com.  When you speak to them, ask them more about their vacation plans.  If you find out they’re throwing a bachelor party, you may not want to rent your home to them.
  • Hire a property manager. Many vacation property owners simply do not have the time to commit to the level of documentation and follow-up required to maintain the property in an optimal state. “If you do not have time to do some traveling back and forth to the property or are too far away, hire a property manager,” says Supplee.
  • Provide the necessary tools. If you expect to maintain a level of tidiness, make sure that you provide your guests with the necessary cleaning tools, detergents, etc. to clean up, says Olivia Joyce, marketing manager of the London, England-based cleaning company Pleased to Clean You, which specializes in vacation rental cleaning. Remember to make it easy on them, though—your guests are on vacation, and you want them to enjoy themselves.
  • Give your guests a checklist. “Miscommunication might be a huge problem, so a checklist containing detailed instructions will help greatly to ensure they won’t miss something and will clean the areas you wish to be cleaned properly,” says Joyce. For example, you may want to advise that your guests avoid using certain cleaning tools on your cooktop to prevent scratches. “If you want all blankets to be folded and put away, include it in your checklist so that they won’t forget,” she says.
  • Work with a cleaning company. Depending on the terms of your agreement, you may wish to hire a cleaning company and include the service as part of your rental fee, or refer your guests to your preferred cleaners, says Joyce.
  • Confirm your bookers’ identities.  Identity verification can be an extremely effective way of preventing damage and fraud.   There are third parties like Safely that can perform guest-screening services for homeowners. There are costs and additional steps for your guest to take, so weigh those factors carefully as you consider this. Alternatively, you could work with a tech-enabled property manager that does this as part of their service offering.
  • Don’t forget the pets. Being pet-friendly is a great draw for potential guests, but it also brings with it some liability in terms of potential damage. Be specific about your pet policy in your agreement, and consider covering yourself with an additional deposit to cover additional cleaning that you may incur.
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