Regularly, when summer vacation approaches, the media draw your attention, with great fanfare tragicomic stories, on fraud to holiday or on various problems or disappointments which the future tenants may face. From a dream villa …which does not exist to the hacking of the owner’s email address, from vacation rentals that do not correspond to reality to the conspicuously absent owners in case of problem: these are some of the disaster scenarios that may discourage holidaymakers to choose this kind of holiday. Yet it offers many advantages, as I have already explained in a previous article, and satisfies each year millions of tourists worldwide.
Often, the media only consider the solutions once the damage is done, but often skip the simple steps that can limit the risks. Since prevention is better than cure, I think it is helpful to recall some behaviours of common sense, allowing you to make your choice with confidence.
Do not give in to panic: fraud remains isolated and the huge visibility offered by Internet encourages owners to offer the best conditions to their guests in order to avoid a bad review that could “kill” their holiday rental for several seasons.
A holiday break should be fun and only fun. Before you get carried away by your enthusiasm, be on your guard and everything will be fine.
Here are my tips:
1 . Cross the information found on the Internet: if the house that seems to meet all your criteria has its own website , check if it also appears on well-known holiday sites as HomeAway, OwnersDirect, HolidayLettings or others. In general, the owners seek high visibility and advertise their property in several sites. Some sites specify for how long the owner has been member, which is totally reassuring as to the existence of the holiday rental and its quality. Indeed, the owner cannot remove negative reviews. He may, for against, respond to them and justify himself, which might also be very instructive. Some owners also display their picture.
2 . Contact the owner personally: in general, the major sites of holiday rentals give the owner’s telephone number. Call him and ask him all the questions you have in mind. Of course, this does not completely rule out fraud, but a personal contact will allow you to ask a lot of very specific issues about the house and its surrounding. If you feel your interlocutor is hesitant or even destabilized, mistrust…
3 . Ask for his address ( the permanent one and not his holiday rental ) and check on Google if he actually lives there . You can also ask for his number of identity card or his profession. Cross this information with Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. An owner who has nothing to hide will have no difficulty to provide you with all this information and will understand your approach.
4 . Request an invoice related to the holiday rental: such as electricity or water, on which the name of the owner appears.
5 . Get more photos of the house or property than those published on the Internet: an owner should be perfectly able to send them to you.
6 . Make sure that there is indeed a rental contract, ask for it and read it carefully. If necessary, have it read by a lawyer or a real estate agency
7 . Beware of owners who do not update their calendar in which the whole season still seems available , while summer approaches . This procedure allows fraudsters to rent several times the high season, more profitable.
8 . Avoid too tempting offers : have in mind the famous “too good to be true”! Compare the property that interests you with other similar properties on the market. If the difference is too big difference, it’s worth digging and try to understand why. Scammers use this technique to seduce their victims.
9 . Pay attention to the means of payment : You have now made your choice and it is time to pay money. It is common practice that an owner asks for a deposit of 25-30 %, the balance to be paid a few weeks before your arrival. Some owners will accept you to give them the balance on arrival, but in general, they are reluctant because they then face a serious shortfall if the tenant does not show up. Do not hesitate to pay by credit card or PayPal and offer to pay the fees linked to this kind of payment: it is unlikely that the owner refused and you will be completely protected. Refuse to pay by Western Union because the service offers no protection. Accept to make a bank transfer only if you have met all warranties set forth above.
10 . Some countries require in principle that the owner has a specific license to rent their holiday villa or appartment. In Greece, it is called “EOT license.” This document provides, inter alia, that the holiday rental meets the criteria its category requires. EOT licenses mention the name of the operator, they are published on the Internet and therefore verifiable.
11 . To avoid any unpleasant surprises during your stay make sure you have a local contact in case of problems. If the owner does not live in the area and the property is not managed by an agency, he MUST provide details of someone who can help you if the washing machine breaks down, if you forget your keys inside the villa or if the turquoise colour of the pool water has turned to flashy green….
12 . Feel free to ask any questions BEFORE you sign the contract: most owners want their customers to be fully satisfied in order to benefit the famous word of mouth and good reviews on the Internet. Clarify in advance the services that are included in the rental price and which ones you will be charged extra: utilities, air conditioning, cleaning, linens, etc. Learn about the distances to the beach, town, shopping and entertainment. Make sure the rental meets the needs of all members of your group: young children, older people or disabled persons. I always invite my future tenants to ask me questions.
13 . A tour of the property: Most landlords will ask you a security deposit, refunded on departure or a few days later. Suggest to the person who will welcome you to make a tour of the house and property with you. If this is not possible, do it by yourself just after you arrive. If you detect any damage, take a picture of it and inform IMMEDIATELY the owner. This will avoid future disputes.
14 . Do not hesitate to take out cancellation insurance : this investment will give you peace of mind , especially if your rental is expensive . Nobody is immune to unexpected and you cannot require the owner to lose part of its season.