Renting out your cottage is a great way to pay some extra bills when you can’t be there. Some cottagers we’ve come across rent one cottage out all summer and live in another – eventually they’ll renovate the rental, live in it, and rent out the other one. It works for them. Renting in general is so common in cottage country. But how do you know your renters will be good guests? How can you be sure they won’t trash the place, irritate your neighbours, steal things or all of the above? Of course, we don’t want to scare you out of renting your cottage! After all, cottage renters are usually good folk, and we’ve got everything you need to know to screen your renters so you can have a worry-free rental.

When you set out to rent your cottage, use these tips to screen your rental guests and rest easy:

Trust your intuition: It’s your cottage, so if someone doesn’t give you a good vibe, you don’t want them living in your home.

Your Ideal Renter: Figure out who your ideal renter is, so you can figure out who your not-so-ideal renter is. Do they have pets? Young children? Are they seasoned cottage renters? Do they smoke? Are they fresh out of high school (probably not!)? How many of them will be staying?

Have a conversation:Get to know your renter and their motivation for renting before they rent your place by asking key questions over the phone – rather than relying on email or a web-based rental application. Why did they choose this location? Have they rented before? What do they plan to do on the vacation? How long do they plan on staying? If it’s just for one night, are they planning a party (hope not!)? Of course, use your common sense, and be careful not to alarm your renters with questions that are too nosey, paranoid or suspicious.

Google: Ahh, Google! What did we ever do before Google? Definitely, Google your renters. Some of them may even have blogs, Facebook photos, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts that will help you check them out in advance and verify some of their information (you may even see pictures of pets that may not be as small as they implied…). It never hurts to do some detective work for the sake of your peace of mind – especially if answers are literally at your fingertips.

Get the digits: Check your renters’ address if you’ve got it yet. Otherwise, their area code should be enough. Do they live near your cottage? If so, why are they renting so close to home?

Avoid cancellations: Ask your renters’ for a deposit up front so they’re less likely to cancel on you, and make sure you clearly outline your cancellation policy.

Prevent damages: Ask your renters’ for a damages deposit and inform them politely what forms of damages might lead to you to keep the deposit.

We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to trust your instincts, and to go into this knowing what you want in your renter. You’ll learn how to screen from one renter to the next too. To err on the side of caution, however, be sure to remove or lock away any irreplaceable valuables. Overall, though, take these precautions and just relax and enjoy.

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