Millions of rentals take place across the world every year but when one instance of damage happens, the media treats it as if it is the norm. In fact the reason it makes news is because it happens so rarely.
However, the potential for having damage done in your vacation home is one that concerns owners globally and leads many to add high levels of damage/security bonds to their rentals.
There is no getting away from it – damage will occur at some point. It goes with the territory. Scratches on a table, Crayola marks on the wall, broken dishes and glasses; even damage to furniture. Most of these are minor and can be replaced or repaired at minimal cost but when the cost gets higher you might consider charging your guests.
Before you do, take a moment to put yourself in your guests’ shoes.
They are in a strange environment, and on vacation – two elements that can lead to a higher risk of an accident occurring particularly when children are involved.
It is also extremely rare for damage to occur through anything other than accidental means. Having the place ‘trashed’ by partiers or through negligence happens only from poor screening rather than it being a norm.
So, there is a risk in doing this business and you should expect that some damage may occur during a rental season. How much of the cost you pass onto your guest is your decision, but before you slap a high security deposit on top of your rental rate, think about this quote from customer service guru John di Julius
“Don’t punish 100% of your customers, or potential customers, for what you are afraid 2 percent might try to do”
For those owners who no longer collect, then refund damage deposits, the benefits in doing this are the reduction in hassle, both in administration and in emotional wear and tear.
How to Reduce Risk
It’s not necessary to strip out everything that you think might get damaged – just follow these pointers:
- Remove any item that has emotional or high value connections and will be badly missed if damaged.
- Replace any glass top tables (this includes patio tables) with solid topped alternatives.
- Use non-vinyl mattress protectors on children’s beds.
- Supply plenty of heat protectors for the kitchen countertops
- Provide table mats and drinks coasters – if they are there they are more likely to be used.
- Remove clutter in and around the home
- Supply enclosed candle holders and ask guests to use them
Your check-out list should cover what you want your guests to do before they leave the property, and it is fair to ask that it is left in a tidy condition, with kitchen counters cleared, fridge emptied and wiped out.
If the property is left in a condition that requires significantly more time to clean than is normally allowed, then it may be appropriate to make an extra cleaning charge.
When do you make a claim?
Before you start to rent, decide what situation would warrant a claim. Think each one through pragmatically and without emotion (as far as you can).
Put a $$$ value on it. It’s so much easier to make that decision if you know what your own deductible is. Let’s say you can accept a $100 loss then having to pay your cleaner an additional $30 for another hour of cleaning won’t be as hard to swallow. You’ll become more tolerant, and perhaps you won’t accept those guests back again, but you are less likely to get worked up over the crumbs on the floor and the garbage left in the kitchen container.
Most veteran vacation rental owners will tell you they have never made a claim. Where damage has occurred, they have accepted it as a part of doing the business, and moved on. They balance the rare occasion where a guest has disrespected the property against the majority of times when it is left in great condition.
But there may be times when you feel you have to on the burden of repair or replacement to the guests. Maybe it is for damage that you know could have been avoided if more care had been taken, or for cleaning that was clearly more than normal.
In these cases, make sure you have appropriate evidence to back up your claim. The reason for this is there will be pushback, particularly for a cleaning matter. Unless you can show photos of the condition of the property that prompted the claim, you can be sure the guests will strongly defend themselves and make a counter-claim.
Whatever you decide, make your decision quickly particularly if you are holding a damage deposit – within 24 hours of the property being vacated if possible. Leaving it any longer will hold you open to push-back from your guests who may claim that damage was caused by someone other than themselves.
Having said all this, it is worth reiterating that damage rarely happens and your emotional well-being could be better preserved by increasing your tolerance level, accepting the occasional glitch and then moving on.