While short-term rentals got hit hard when the coronavirus first hit, many vacation rentals throughout major metro markets of the U.S. are booming at the start of the summer season. As stay-at-home orders lift and the economy starts to reopen, people are looking for a way to escape their self-isolation bubble and enjoy the summer without the headache or safety concerns associated with long-distance travel, with many booking local short-term vacation rentals.
Less global, more local
Most vacation rentals are traditionally rented by out-of-town guests looking to enjoy a weekend getaway or weeklong retreat or as an alternative accommodation for business travel. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, bookings were rarely from local guests, but that seems to be changing. Jennifer McMurtray, a real estate investor who owns several Airbnbs in Central Florida, has seen an increase in local bookings since the pandemic while also seeing a large number of people who are either moving in or out of the area and need a furnished home while their move is accomplished.
Adam Garcia, another investor who has a home listed near Disney in Orlando, Florida, on Airbnb, stated that "April and May were practically empty, but June bookings were close to 60% occupancy. Before COVID-19, bookings would come from all over the U.S. and the world, but now the majority of stays seem to be short three- to five-day trips from people based in Florida."
While increased guests would seem to be welcomed after months of restrictions or reduced bookings, the new type of guests bring a new set of challenges. A number of hosts are complaining of increased parties and illegal activity in their rental properties, mostly from local renters over the past month. Even with explicit rules and restrictions prohibiting the illegal activities or parties in their rules and guidelines, some guests are booking short stays and using the rental to throw a party, leaving the property owners with annoyed neighbors and damaged property.
This leaves hosts and property owners in a tough position. While most can follow the procedure for notifying the platform or leave a negative review about the guest, some guests are canceling their accounts after their stay is completed, making recovering financial reimbursement from the guest for any damage caused to the property difficult.
Keeping parties at bay
Unfortunately, simply stating "no parties" in your rules doesn't mean guests will abide. The easiest way to keep guests from throwing unwanted and unauthorized parties is by increasing your required stay to at least three nights. This reduces the likelihood of someone renting the property for a night and makes a big difference in clientele demographics.
It's also helpful to do your due diligence on the guest. Ask why they are renting the property, who will be there, and what their intentions are for the use of the property during that time. While a guest can easily lie to you, it helps build your case against the guest if they break the rules. It's also important to make sure it states in your house rules that you do not allow parties or illegal activity and the repercussions for breaking those specific rules, such as "the police will be called and immediate eviction will be filed with no refunds."
You can also choose to have cameras at the property to help keep an eye on guests' behavior, although this should be done with caution as each platform has specific rules requiring clear disclosure about where cameras are located and whether they are actually recording available prior to booking.
Many cities, counties, or states still have regulations limiting the maximum number of people who can gather. If your local area has certain restrictions, you can add this to your house rules, stating that no bookings can accommodate guests over the maximum number allowed by state, county, or city law.
While not every local guest is booking a vacation rental with bad intentions, it is something to be aware of as a short-term rental owner. Using the tools above can help you combat this challenge while still maintaining increased bookings over the summer and beyond.