Having an agreement with your guests is protection for both parties, and renting your place without one can open you to a range of issues. We live in litigious times and have a refund culture that is encouraged by the media and social networking – this is the perfect home for serial complainers to operate. Having a comprehensive set of Terms and Conditions that cover every eventuality serves to protect you in case of a complaint or claim you feel is unjustified
What goes in the Agreement
When you accept a reservation you enter into an agreement with your guests that describes the nature of the relationship. It states that you will supply the accommodation to a certain standard and includes the Terms and Conditions your guests will agree to. Because this is a legally binding document it is laid out in a formal manner and should be signed before the rental starts.
If there is any subsequent dispute on the nature of the rental, this document is concrete evidence of what was agreed with your guests.
The agreement can be a simple PDF document your guests can sign, scan and email back to you, or you can use a service such as Docusign and get an electronic signature.
What is Included
- The parties to the agreement
Your name, the address of the property, and the guests name and address. The guest whose name is on the agreement (the signatory) takes responsibility for all the occupants.
- The term of the rental
This identifies the start and end date along with the times of check in and check out
- Fees payable
This is the rate you have agreed upon and should include any additional fees and taxes
Terms and Conditions of the Agreement
Underlying the Rental Agreement are the Terms & Conditions of Rental and these need to be specific and cover all eventualities.
Since the Terms and Conditions of Rental are attached to a rental agreement it’s expected that they should be spelt out in formal and concise language. Many of these clauses will be supplemented with information in a Welcome Guide that is delivered in a friendlier tone.
- Cancellation policy
You need your guests to know what happens if they want to cancel. What will they get back? Will there be a penalty?
A clear definition of your occupancy limits is essential to prevent overcrowding. Show any restrictions in this section e.g. maximum number of adult occupants. Failing to do this can result in many more people showing up that you expected.
- Damage Deposit
If you are charging a damage deposit, then describe how much this is and the reasons a claim may be made on it.
- Condition of the Property
This section describes how you want the property left on guest departure. It doesn’t have to go into detail as that will be included in your Welcome Book, but it should state whether or not there is a cleaning service available and if there is an additional cost for this.
- Breakdown of Facilities and Amenities
Breakdowns occur and this is where most refund claims come from. Explain what is considered to be a refundable event and what is not. In general, failure of essential services such as heating in winter and refrigeration in summer, water and electrical supply (if not as a result of a power outage) would be cause for refund, but a malfunction in a non-essential service may not e.g. television, hot tub. Being clear on this upfront can reduce the nature of claims substantially.
- Pet Policy
Decide on what you will accept; types of pet, size, breed etc. and brief policy on where they can and cannot go i.e. pets are not permitted on furniture and in bedrooms
- Smoking Policy
Don’t take it for granted that guests will not smoke indoors. If they are smokers and there is nothing to tell them otherwise, they may assume it is OK. Make sure you included instructions on smoking in screened sunrooms too.
- Internet Usage
Guests will be used to unlimited internet access at home, so if you have any restrictions on usage, clearly explain what is freely available and what might incur additional charges. If you have a landline for guest use, let them know if they are able to use for long distance or need a charge card. This will prevent visitors from overseas racking up the minutes phoning home.
- Use of Other Facilities
This section covers any other facilities not specifically referred to in other parts of the Terms and Conditions of Rental. For example, a swimming pool, hot tub or sauna, watercraft, outdoor equipment, bicycles etc.
- Accuracy of Advertising
Since you might advertise in various places, there is the potential that information may be inaccurate on third party listing sites. This clause covers this possibility.
- Other Conditions
This clause covers anything else you might add at a later date and include in your Welcome Book and requires agreement that the guests will abide by other instructions outlined elsewhere.
- Liability Disclaimer
This is a written statement limiting instances under which you may be held liable for loss or damage.