Everybody's doing it: Renting out empty space in their homes, or even entire properties, via the online service Airbnb. It's a great concept both from the host's and the renters point of view --provided everyone plays by the rules.
Sadly, that's not always the case and the news media frequently report on homes that have been trashed, leaving owners not only to pick up the mess but also the bills for costly repairs and replacements.
According to Attorney and law author Stephen Fishman, the best way for hosts to limit the risks of trouble is to screen their renters over the phone. You should ask them the purpose of their trip, whether they've used Airbnb before (and if so, if they can provide references), exactly how many people will be staying, whether they smoke and whether they're bringing pets. If any answers don’t suit you, you can turn them down.
In fact, establishing good lines of communication with your renter and, if possible, looking in on them, is the best way to ensure they treat your home respectfully. But you can also check your renters out online, on social media sites like Facebook, and you should certainly make them sign a written rental agreement, as well as providing a security deposit.
Entrepreneur Laiza King, writing for the online news site Huffington Post, also suggests these 5 tips for protecting yourself:
1. If you're not going to be around, and the property is your main home, secure your mail, either via a locking mailbox or using a PO Box for redirected mail.
2. Lock your valuables away and make sure the contents of your home are properly insured. "Though Airbnb has an insurance system that covers certain types of damage, they don’t protect debit or credit cards, checks or financial papers, jewelry, etc," she says. (Speak to us if you'd like to discuss contents insurance for your rental property)
3. If you offer Wi-Fi, protect the details of your system. You can set up a guest-only network. And by connecting via a Virtual Private Network (VPN), their Internet activities won’t be traceable to your home. (Google "VPN" to learn more about how to do this.)
4. In addition to checking out the renter's profile, create an emergency plan for them, explaining safety issues in the home, locating features like fire extinguishers, and providing a list of emergency numbers.
5. Install a security system. "With a security system, you can monitor what goes on in your home," she says. "In addition, outfitting your home with a home security system may earn you more bookings as it provides your guests with an extra layer of security which may not be available in other rentals they are also considering."