By The Hospitable Team
Renting out your property short-term on OTA platforms like Airbnb can be a source of a good income, but although it happens rarely, you may face the risk of Airbnb squatters. These unwanted guests who refuse to leave your rental can be a huge inconvenience, and in some of the worst cases, they may cause damage hurting your wallet and reputation.
So, it’s better to educate yourself about how you can prevent squatting from happening in the first place. Find out which red flags you shouldn’t ignore to avoid dealing with Airbnb squatters that just won’t leave.
You may also want to learn how to deal with other common Airbnb problems you may face as a host.
Airbnb Squatters: What Are They?
Traditional squatters usually target vacant and abandoned homes to eventually take ownership of their target property through a process called “adverse possession.” In the rental industry, a “squatter” is someone who stays longer than their agreed-upon dates.
Unfortunately, squatting isn’t limited to long-term rentals. Vacation rental properties listed on Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com can also fall victim to squatting, especially with the recent trend for longer stays in properties designed for short-term vacations.
Airbnb squatters are guests who fail to check out after their check-out date. In other words, they do not leave the property when they’re supposed to. Many of them are sophisticated scam artists who know very well how to use the existing rental laws to their advantage. They knowingly and willingly overstay their booking without any permission of the host or property owners.
How to Spot Squatters?
Squatters can be extremely difficult to evict, so it’s better to avoid them and keep them out of your property. So how to spot an Airbnb squatter before they make a reservation? Some warning signs could indicate a potential guest may have plans to squat at your vacant rental property.
They have a suspicious guest profile with only basic information. The red flags you shouldn’t ignore include:
- Missing fields in their bio
- Missing, fake, or blurred Airbnb profile photos
- A profile was created shortly before they made the booking
- Bad reviews written by other Airbnb hosts
Pay attention to your messaging with guests because it can give you many clues too. You can always politely ask potential guests to provide more information to give you peace of mind about their intentions. If they refuse to do it, it’s best to turn down the reservation. And it’s a good sign if they quickly reply and give you enough information for guest screening.
Keep in mind that your potential guests may also have many questions about your rental, so you should be ready to provide them with clear answers as quickly as possible. Luckily, you can automate the process with Hospitable.com. Our system uses AI to detect questions on 20+ common topics and can send automated replies almost instantly.
Have conversations with your guests even when you sleep.
You should also be vigilant if travelers want to book your property for more than 30 days, even though renting out your house for extra long periods can be appealing. When guests stay at your property for more than 30 days, the squatters’ rights could become much more significant and trickier.
What Are Squatters’ Rights on Airbnb
Regarding squatters’ rights on Airbnb, the most critical factor is the duration of a guest’s stay. In most states in the US, guests who stay in a home or apartment for one month or longer may establish rights as a tenant. Note that the exact number of days depends on the jurisdiction. Generally, this means that local tenancy laws could protect your guests, and you may not be able to remove them from your property without proceeding through the required eviction processes in court.
Fortunately, adverse possession doesn’t come into play in the Airbnb-type rental situation. But squatters may seek to take advantage of local laws to stay on your rental property without paying until the lengthy eviction process is completed.
So before accepting long-term guests, you should review local rental laws and regulations that may differ from state to state. Check the local tenancy laws in the area where you live to see what duration of residency is needed to establish tenant rights. Then, you’ll be able to set your Airbnb bookings to ensure your guests can’t come close to this number.
If you still like to host long-term guests, make sure no one can make an instant booking for long stays. You should allow yourself to get to know these people.
How to Prevent Squatters
By now, it’s probably clear that the best way to protect yourself from problems with squatters is to keep your property booked only by vetted guests and take preventative measures. So how to prevent squatters from occupying your vacation rental? Here is what you can do.
Screen and verify your Airbnb guests
You should only accept bookings from verified guests on Airbnb (those with the verified badge beside their name). Besides, you should do your homework before allowing someone to book your rental. Check out the reviews written by other Airbnb hosts about the guest’s previous stays. We also recommend searching for additional information about potential guests online and looking through their social media accounts on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. That will help you verify the information they provided in their Airbnb profiles.
Ask your guests to sign a rental agreement
Signing a rental agreement that clearly states all the terms and conditions of the stay is another measure you can use to avoid dealing with Airbnb squatters. If you decide to do so, you should clarify these requirements in your house rules before finalizing a booking. This extra step can help you support your case if you need to go through the eviction process.
You must highlight the check-in and check-out dates and times in your vacation rental contract. You’ll need them to prove that your guests overstayed their welcome and that they were not given permission to stay longer.
Encourage bookings through Airbnb
Receiving bookings via Airbnb is always safer because the platform provides extra verification checks. It also provides extra Airbnb host liability insurance, which is only granted for bookings made through the Airbnb platform. By staying on the platform and conducting all your transactions there, you’ll have the full support of Airbnb if you come across annoying squatters.
Hosting multiple properties, you can simplify the booking process, communication with your guests, and many other operations using vacation rental software like Hospitable.com. Our tool can help you automate almost all routine tasks and save a lot of time.
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Request a security deposit
Charging a security deposit can reduce the chances of dealing with unwanted guests, especially if the amount is slightly higher than average. Most people looking to squat at an Airbnb don’t want to pay a lot of money for their stay because they know they won’t get that money back.
How to Deal with Squatters
The situations when guests refuse to leave are scarce, but they happen, so how to deal with squatters on Airbnb? If your guests refuse to leave, you need to contact them on private and recorded Airbnb channels and tell them that they are no longer legally entitled to remain on your property. You need to formally request them to leave.
Airbnb can also help you resolve the problem with your guest, so you should contact the Airbnb support team as soon as possible and complain. And if the dispute is not solved, you need to contact your local police and partner with a lawyer who is experienced in helping with eviction proceedings.
If Airbnb guests obtained tenant rights, you should never attempt to remove them from your home forcibly. You can’t do things like cutting off the power or changing the locks since it is against the law. At this point, evicting a guest can only be done through a formal eviction process in court. It can take months to complete and costs a lot of money in legal fees. You will need to hire a real estate lawyer to carry out the procedure properly.
Fortunately, stories of Airbnb squatters are quite rare, but it’s important to take some practical measures to make sure that your Airbnb guests don’t overstay their welcome. It can cost a lot of money to evict a guest who refuses to leave, so the best strategy is to take steps to prevent squatters from renting your property.
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