I opened the door to a shrill beeping noise. My first thought was, “I’m so glad that smoke alarm battery chose to die during the day time, rather than the middle of the night.” As I walked through the house to figure out which one was making all the racket, I discovered it wasn’t a smoke alarm. It was my carbon monoxide detector.
It made me think about the family that rented condo in Mexico and died from asphyxiation, likely from a water heater gas leak. It also made me think about all the times my friends have rented apartments and housed for their vacations. Did those places have adequate safety measures in place?
What You Need to Know If You Do It Yourself
If you choose to do it yourself and rent from Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO, read the fine print so that you understand what you’re signing up for.
Payment options – credit card, bank transfer, wire transfer, cash payments, large deposits, early final payments, non-refundable fees for cleaning. If anything looks suspicious, question it.
Contracts – Do you take issue with any stipulations? The stipulations may not negotiable.
Deposits, Change Fees, Cancellation Fees – Can you live with these?
Does this landlord have a license to operate a business?
Check reviews on the property. If there are multiple bad experiences, move on.
Does the landlord offer you any support services? Use of a local cell phone? Local landline phone? Do they have a number you can call 24/7 if you have issues? What happens in an emergency – medical, plumbing, storm damage, fire, lost key, theft or break-in, etc.?
Check in and Check out – Arrange the arrival time for entry into and familiarization with the apartment. Figure out how you will communicate in the event of delayed transportation – phone, text, email. Upon checkout, you may need to meet with the owner or agent to return the keys and get any security deposit returned.
Sharing a space with others may be more affordable than renting separate hotel rooms. It’s wonderful to have the elbow room a private apartment, condo, house or villa offers. I’ve been lucky in a few places to have wonderful landlords. Our landlord in Dijon drove us to the train station in the rain when we checked out. It would have been a long, wet walk or money spent on a taxi. In Rovinj, Croatia, we needed to seek medical treatment. Our landlord drove us to the nearest hospital (30 minutes away) and paid for the medical services.
Many properties offer multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, kitchen, washer/dryer, living/dining areas, and private outdoor space or balcony.
Not all rentals offer you a private space other than a small bedroom. You may be sharing your landlord’s apartment or house while they are still there. The landlord may not have a maintenance contractor or regular property inspections.
Payment – Rentals require a deposit in advance to secure the booking. It’s typically not refundable. Be aware of payment requirements such as wire transfers early in the process, large deposits, or any payment option that seems odd. Some properties may be cash (in the local currency) only. Credit cards are usually the best option.
Cleaning Fees – Typically paid in advance and non-refundable, regardless how clean you left the place. Don’t leave the rental dirty, beyond what would be considered usual and customary, you may be charged for an additional cleaning fee.
Housekeeping – If the rental is for a week or less, you will usually be on your own for the rental period. Do not expect the towels to be changed, trash emptied, or bathrooms cleaned.
Minimum Stay Requirements – It may range from 3 – 7 days.
Room Service – Don’t expect it. You may find restaurants that deliver.
Towels and Linens – In certain cases, you may need to bring your own.
Parking – Not all rentals have a place for you to park. Find out what the options are and costs for parking.
Safety – Verify that the home has a fire extinguisher, carbon monoxide monitor (if gas appliances), and smoke alarms. If it doesn’t, bring your own monitor and alarm.
Do your research and don’t go it alone. You don’t want to be miles away from the beach, out in the suburbs instead of the hip part of town, in an unsafe neighborhood, or in an unsafe property that may lead to unexpected tragedy.
Vacation home rentals are all over the world, from villas in Bali to apartments in Paris to historic homes in Charleston. When you work with me to reserve your vacation rental, you can be sure you are in a thoroughly vetted and reputable property.