What Your Guests are Saying - Read Between the Lines

Your major goal with rentals is to fill your available weeks and maximize your occupancy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to accept every booking that comes your way.  Occasionally you’ll get that gut feeling that something is not quite right; a potential guest will say something that makes you feel uncomfortable or just doesn’t ring true.  These are the times you need to have a good conversation with the potential guest and make sure they are the right match for your property.  The clues you may need to do a little extra screening are often in the things people say and here’s some examples that might ring a few alarm bells:

How many cars can park in your driveway/yard/parking area?

If your place accommodates a large amount of people, this is a fair question, but when your maximum occupancy is 4 or 6, this is a good clue that there are going to be additional people staying, or stopping by.  Have a discussion with them about your policy on overcrowding or explain your insurance has a limit on occupancy.

My friends and I would love to rent your place for our prom party.  We are very responsible 18 yr olds and our parents have promised to be there throughout the weekend.

Don’t believe a word of it.  Mom and Dad may even be paying for the trip but you can be pretty sure they won’t be there for the duration.  Some of the worst rental disaster stories are woven around ‘responsible teens’ and I have been a victim too.  Many years ago a mom booked our place for a Mother’s Day getaway with her teen sons.  Mom did indeed have a getaway, but it was at home while the bunch of kids she had dropped off at our cottage proceeded to puke in the hot tub, destroy the stove top with boiled over sugar syrup, and upset the neighbors with 4am partying on the deck.  We were duped by a parent seeming to be responsible, so it makes it even more worthwhile to be wary of the kids doing the booking themselves.

Our dogs are really well behaved and only bark when there are strangers around.

Bearing in mind that (beside the owners) the only people around the dogs will be strangers i.e. your neighbors – these dogs are going to bark, and you are being given fore-warning so if you have an issue with it, this one will come back to bite.  

We only need to book for one night because we are attending a nearby wedding/anniversary/birthday party

This group is coming for one reason and that is to party.  Even if you are clear about numbers and not exceeding your occupancy levels, there is a good chance there will be more people than you expect.  If you have a great place, they will probably want to share it with their friends at the end of the evening, particularly if the event is in a local venue without accommodation attached.  Having a two-night minimum is a good idea.

For most of the week it’ll just be the four of us, but there will be a few day visitors at the weekend.  Is that OK?

When asked how many day visitors were expected the answer was ‘About 40 – we are planning on a small wedding but they won’t all stay the night’.  Tackle this from the outset with a clear policy in your Terms and Conditions of Rentals that limits occupancy for day and overnight guests.  Outline the penalty for exceeding those limits and having unregistered guests, making sure your primary guest knows there will be additional charges and/or the possibility of eviction. 

Screening is not an exact science and it often comes down to gut feeling and reading between the lines of comments made and questions asked.  Take care not to be discriminatory, and be aware of your State’s equality legislation – some do not allow discrimination on the grounds of age, and you need to step carefully before refusing accommodation to younger adults.  It’s always worthwhile checking into this before you screen them out.