I recently came across a review written by a guest that had rented another unit in our complex. In the review, the individual indicated that they found the other unit filthy, the property manager unresponsive, and the unit owner unreachable. This particular unit was under a condo rental program and the owner had apparently given instructions to the property agent that they were not to be contacted. This made me wonder if the owner was even aware of the issues with their unit and/or the demeanor of their property agent.
As an owner of a vacation rental, I have a “team” of people in place to help maintain my rental unit. I have a 1) a cleaning lady, 2) a guy to check and change light bulbs, 3) another guy to change the air filters, 4) a property manager, and of course, 5) myself. While I would like to think that I am the most important person of the group, in reality it is my cleaning lady followed closely by my property manager. Having been through a number of cleaning professionals in the past, I appreciate that when I walk into my vacation rental, the place LOOKS and SMELLS clean; that there are full rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom and soap by the sink. After a long drive or trip, being able to step into a clean bathroom is an absolute must and I am happy that my cleaning person has the same priority!
SAFETY IS IMPORTANT
However, just because I have a “team” in place, does not mean that everyone is doing their job well. Several months ago, I walked into a vacation rental only to find the smoke detector ripped off the ceiling and completely gone. In its place, wires were hanging as the smoke detector had been hard wired into the electrical system. My first thought was “How long has this been this way”? Followed by Why hadn’t my guests or property manager informed me about the missing smoke detector? Needless to say, I immediately had another smoke detector installed and changed property managers as the hanging wires/missing smoke alarm should have been discovered by him long before I arrived on the scene.
With this in mind, please report any UNSAFE condition that you may notice while vacationing as chances are the owner may not be aware that there is an issue.
Also, if you see a maintenance issue, please let your owner know. For example, my cleaning lady called to say that the downstairs toilet was not functioning properly. As it was a Sunday, and new guests were expected that afternoon. I called the plumber who was able to come right out and replace the toilet flapper. His bill included a surcharge for the “Sunday emergency repair”. Had I know that the toilet was problematic, I would have scheduled the service call earlier in the week and my guests could have avoided having to fiddle with the toilet during their stay. In both cases, it would have been a "win win" situation. With this in mind, please let your owner know about any maintenance issues you discover during your stay.
How to Spot a Legitimate Vacation Rental and Avoid Being Scammed
“Are you legit?” was the email I recently received from a prospective vacationer. Of course, my vacation rental is legitimate, legal, valid and a “real” vacation rental. However, this prompted me to think about rental scammers and what I would look for to avoid being scammed when choosing my family’s next vacation rental.
#1 – Does the property have its own website? In our case, we have www.cocoa-beach-condo.com as a resource for our future guests. We have spent hours maintaining the information about our Cocoa Beach oceanfront townhouse, the surrounding area, and have included photos, restaurant recommendations, suggested fun activities and other information throughout our website. Our investment in a website should signal to any prospective guest that we are a real and valid vacation rental.
#2 – How is the rental property marketed? For example, did you see our beautiful beachfront condo on a paid vacation rental site? If so, then we were required to provide personal information when we registered with this paid vacation service. On the other hand, a free service such as CraigsList allows anyone to post as long as he or she has a valid email address to confirm the rental listing. In all fairness to CraigsList, I do from time to time use CraigsList – and while effective, I am somewhat cautious with this form of marketing as Rental Scams can effect both the vacationer and property owner. With this in mind, I feel that CraigsList can often be used as the facilitator for these scams given that posting are easily created and disseminated quickly throughout the world.
#3 – Credit Card payments accepted? Given the stringent merchant requirements for a private party to process credit cards, it will be difficult for a rental scammer to process credit card payments. As such, in order for the scam to work, most vacation rental scams require rental payments by cash, check or money order. In our case, we have chosen to only accept payment by credit card. Rental scams come in many different forms and often include invalid checks or money orders. By accepting payment by credit card, we avoid this aspect of the rental scam completely – or at least try to.
#4 – Instincts are important. Simply put -- If something does not feel right, then move on.
In the end, we did respond to the inquiry as to if we were “legit” by referring the person to our website www.cocoa-beach-condo.com as we felt all the information about our beachfront townhouse and our rental process could be found there. Subsequently the individual did decide to rent from us. As for anyone still wondering – YES, We Are Legit!
Vacation home owners for over a decade, we are always looking for ways to provide more information to our guests about renting our vacation home. Family vacations are a time to reconnect and we hope this blog will help you enjoy your vacation in Cocoa Beach.