Note: This article was originally published on August 9, 2017, and it was updated on October 11, 2018.
While nearly all guests who want to stay at your vacation home will be legitimate customers who will treat your rental with respect and have a quiet getaway, there may be an occasional exception.
The best way to protect your vacation rental from parties that get out of hand or guests who leave with or break your personal belongings is to prevent such occurrences before they even have the chance to happen.
“As a vacation home rental owner, your greatest goal is to minimize any possibility of risk [to your property],” points out Ashley Parent of BlissyLife.com, “Even when your space is fully rented, if you don’t feel comfortable with the renters or they cause a great deal of damage, it’s not worth it.”
With today’s available technology, it’s not difficult to verify that potential guests are legitimate travelers. In fact, there are a few proven ways to protect your property.
There are different approaches to conducting guest screenings at your vacation rental – familiarize yourself with your options.
While not screening guests – thus allowing them to instantly book your place – will attract more visitors, the reality is that this strategy increases the chances of an unforeseen incident taking place.
“The risk of not screening guests is that they’ll trash the place,” notes Adam G. Dailey, who has three vacation rentals and is the author of How to Run Away from Home.
With no parameters in place, visitors could arrive with intentions that don’t line up with your expectations. “If you’re renting to a bunch of kids who are just coming to party, they won’t treat your property with respect,” explains Dailey.
While there are plenty of legitimate, responsible guests who will use instant booking features, you should not skip screening if you’re concerned about who is staying in your rental.
Phone or Email Screening
To learn more about who the potential guests are and the purpose of their stay, some vacation rental owners opt to speak with the guest on the phone, through email, or via listing site’s messaging features prior to renting the place.
By communicating directly with a potential guest, “you can find out a lot about a party and the purpose of their visit,” explains Mackenzie Fribance, founder and CEO of Second Home Life. “The worst thing for both guests and owners is a substantial disconnect between how the property is intended to be used and how the guest intends to use it.”
For example, if the place is not suited for families and a group of two adults and four children asks to rent it, a quick exchange can outline why the setup may not be the best fit. An explanation regarding a lack of child-proof outlets or safety gate on steps could prevent an unhappy vacation from taking place.
However, it won’t be possible to confirm the renter’s age or identity through email or the phone. In addition, there’s no way to tell for certain that the guest’s true intentions align with what you are told prior to the visit. It also takes time for all parties involved to communicate on the phone or in writing. Guests may feel intimidated or even turn away if the list of questions is lengthy.
To further complicate matters, HomeAway removed owner and property manager phone numbers from the rental listing, preventing hosts from screening guests in this method until after they book.
Online Search Screening
“It can be relatively easy to find out a fair bit about most people with a few minutes online,” explains Fribance. “Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other sites are great social sharing spaces and people tend to put a lot out there.”
A quick search with the person’s name, email, and job title can reveal a decent amount of information. It likely won’t show specific information, however, such as if the guest has been convicted of a crime in the past.
This method can inform a host of the potential guest’s maturity level but could easily veer into unfair bias.
Third-Party ID Verification
ID verification software can verify the potential guest’s identity through a quick screening method. Guests will likely appreciate the speed and business-minded approach.
ID verification checks can make sure the renter meets the minimum age requirement, as well as determine that guests are legitimate, real customers. The process also reduces the risk of a “stolen wallet” situation, which can occur if a thief uses a stolen credit card or driver’s license to try to prove his or her identity.
Since the guest screening is performed by a software, there is no risk of discrimination on the part of the host.
“The key to best practices in this industry is to always keep the rights and privacy of the consumer in mind,” points out Dusty Lefdal, founder of Employers Investigative Services, a pre-employment background screening, drug testing, and occupational health firm. “Only ask for the type of information that you can articulate is relevant to your situation.”
Being clear about the type of experience you want to cater to will attract more appropriate inquiries, adds Fribance. If your home is listed as having a game room, wet bar, and hot tub, it could draw guests who are looking to party. In your property description emphasizing the chance to play games as a family or enjoy a relaxing time in the hot tub after hiking with children will likely appeal to more families.
To screen our guests, TurnKey uses IDology, which verifies an individual’s identity and age for guests who are carrying out transactions in a setting where the consumer is not present. With the information provided, TurnKey can confirm that guests asking about a vacation home are not fraudsters and also meet the minimum 25-year-old age requirement to rent a home.
“By using identity verification solutions from IDology, rental owners gain peace of mind that the individual completing the application is in fact that individual,” notes Chris Pope, director of marketing at IDology.
In addition, “IDology’s identity verification process happens in real-time,” explains Pope. “This creates a much better user experience for potential renters completing the application process. If any of the identity criteria are suspicious, there are ways of escalating the verification seamlessly to help maintain a positive user experience.”
At the end of the day, no single guest screening method is ever going to catch every ill-intentioned guest – prevention is key. But, in the event that damage does occur, having a comprehensive damage waiver or deposit to cover can save you headaches down the line. Learn more about how partnering with TurnKey can keep your home safe here.