By The Hospitable Team
We’ve all read the horror stories about Airbnb parties, disrespectful guests, and trashed properties—so how can you stop your vacation rental from becoming another statistic?
After taking a major hit due to the Covid pandemic, short-term rentals are back on track.
In fact, in December 2021, Global Head of Hosting at Airbnb Catherine Powell said that “there has never been more interest in hosting”, and that 100,000 cities “had at least one Airbnb booking” in 2021, with more expected in 2022.
But with more interest comes more risk. Powell also said that “people are traveling in larger groups with their family” post-Covid, and that more are also traveling with their pets—all of which might set alarm bells ringing about potential damage to your property.
We get it. Opening up your property as a vacation rental takes trust. It can feel like a daunting leap of faith—especially at first—so it makes sense that you’re looking at ways to protect your place from damage as much as possible.
But rest assured, damage to your vacation rental is not inevitable.
Although there will always be some risk, there are manageable steps you can take to prevent it, keep guests happy, build good and trusting relationships, prevent downtime in your rentals, and avoid costly repairs or worse.
That’s why in this post, we’ll explain why taking the time to damage-proof your property is worth it, and share our top 8 tips on how to keep your place as damage-free as possible (and how to get started today).
Why is damage prevention so critical?
It almost goes without saying, but your short-term rental is a business, so protecting your investment is essential.
Less damage also means less downtime and less money spent on repairs, meaning more nights available for guests to book, and more overall revenue for you.
Preventing damage keeps your place looking good, so guests get a great first impression and are more likely to enjoy their stay. This is the first step to fostering strong relationships with guests, as they’ll instantly feel cared for, building trust in you as a host and property owner.
It’s also important to have your own damage prevention policies in place because the $1 million cover provided by Airbnb—and other policies on platforms such as Vrbo—is not always enough to protect your property and contents (not to mention that it requires a very precise reporting process to Airbnb’s customer support team before you have any chance of being paid).
Damage prevention policies can also help you reduce noise and nuisance, and ensure that your House Rules are adhered to. This reduces the risk of destructive parties, nuisance or troublemaking guests, as well as late-night or antisocial noise, meaning you’ll also stay on the right side of your neighbors and local rental regulations.
When a negative report from neighbors, too much downtime, or costly repairs could threaten—or worse, close—your business, it makes sense to prevent damage as much as possible. Here’s how.
8 ways to damage-proof your vacation rental
1. Collect a security deposit
Collecting a security deposit not only protects you if the worst happens, but it also establishes strong communication upfront with guests, and sends a firm-but-friendly message about their responsibilities when renting your place.
It also means that should damage occur, you won’t be out of pocket—or worse, get embroiled in a confrontation with guests over who should pay. It can also ensure guest compliance with House Rules and cover any additional fees incurred by the guest over their stay like late check out and extra cleaning costs. As one host on Reddit put it:
“If you have a security deposit, your guest is agreeing to pay those [additional] charges from the security deposit. It’s their pre-approval. If you do NOT have a security deposit, the guest is agreeing to those rules, but not to being charged, so it would not be legal for Airbnb to charge them any extra fees without their permission. Just make sure you put the exact amount of the charge in your description (a lot of people miss this).”
Responsible guests will be only too happy to pay a security deposit if it’s well-explained to them, handled fairly, and they understand and accept your house rules.
Tools such as artificial intelligence platform Autohost.ai—which integrates with Hospitable.com—also help you collect security deposits and set out rental agreements, to ensure compliance and build trust and respect among your guests.
2. Install occupancy or noise monitors
Occupancy and noise monitors are discreet bits of smart technology that can be set up to alert you if carbon dioxide levels rise too high (suggesting there are too many people in the property) or decibel levels increase for a sustained amount of time (suggesting a party or disturbance).
They do not “listen in”, broadcast, film, or record, and are legal and non-invasive. They send automated friendly-but-firm warning messages to guests (and you as the host) when a certain level of CO2 or noise is breached for a sustained period of time.
This lets you keep track of what’s going on in your property without infringing guests’ privacy or breaking any laws.
Some of the top providers include:
- NoiseAware – A monitor designed by a real-life host who lost 30,000 when guests threw an authorized, damaging party. Described as “a smoke detector for noise”.
- Roomonitor – A customizable monitor designed to protect your neighbors and community from excessive noise within your vacation rental property.
- Minut – A wireless home sensor that also monitors temperature and motion.
- Alertify – Uses AI to detect high, sustained noise levels. Also detects if guests are smoking or vaping, or changing the temperature outside of your presets.
- Party Squasher – A discreet occupancy counter designed to detect large gatherings in detached properties by counting the number of phones in the area.
3. Be diligent about guest screening
They say that prevention is better than the cure, and that’s definitely true of guests. Screening guests before they even book ensures that only respectful, well-reviewed, verified visitors can book your place, vastly reducing the risk of problems down the line.
Platforms such as Airbnb allow you to check potential guests’ previous reviews before you accept their booking, and you can also disable the “Instant Book” feature to allow you to message and evaluate a guest before you accept their booking.
And it doesn’t have to be a time-consuming, manual process; guest communication platforms such as Hospitable.com integrate with tools such as Autohost.ai, which specialize in helping you screen guests, perform background checks, and avoid fraud.
Autohost.ai uses artificial intelligence (AI) to verify that your guest is exactly who they say they are, reducing the risk of disruptive parties, complaints, or even criminal activity. Its algorithm also helps you comply with local regulations, and avoid fraud and credit card chargebacks.
Using automated, specially-designed tools will also enable you to scale your security process even when your business and bookings increase and grow, as the process is automatic rather than manual.
4. Build strong guest relationships with honest, open communication
Showing your guests that you are a real human and that you care about your property, can go a long way to encourage them to treat your place with respect.
This begins before they book, by showing your love for the property in your listing description; and after they confirm, in the quality of your guest communication.
Prompt and professional messages, easy-to-understand policies and check-in instructions, and clear-but-friendly House Rules, with extra emphasis on how much you enjoy hosting (and/or why your property is special), means guests will be less likely to see your place as a faceless rental, and more like someone’s home.
Platforms such as Hospitable.com can automate personalized messages that sound like a real person, and respond to guests’ common questions instantly.
Have conversations with your guests even when you sleep.
This establishes great communication right from the start and builds rapport, to greatly improve chances that guests will treat your place like their own.
5. Be upfront about the consequences of damage
If you request a security deposit—and even if you choose not to—being upfront and clear about the consequences of damage to your rental will go a long way to preventing problems.
You can state these in your listing and House Rules, and you can even send a friendly reminder on check-in and check-out. Make the consequences of damage very clear, so there is less room for manoeuver and miscommunication in the event that something happens.
It’s possible to be clear and firm without coming off as too heavy-handed, and having a policy in place makes it simple to rectify issues if an issue occurs.
6. Find a good insurance provider
Airbnb offers its Airbnb Host Guarantee, which is “host damage protection with $1 million in coverage”. Yet, it is also clear (in the small print) that it “isn’t an insurance policy.
There is also a very specific process that hosts and guests must adhere to in order to unlock the money (in some cases within 24 hours, if you have a quick turnaround), and some hosts have reported that it can be very difficult to access the money in practice.
As a result, savvy hosts know that getting an Airbnb insurance policy designed for short-term rentals is a must.
Look for a policy that includes public liability coverage and covers loss of income; includes property and contents replacement for theft, fire, and damage; waives the requirement to prove forced entry; and is location-specific (such as covering flood damage near a river).
The best insurer for you will depend on your location, property type, and needs, but good options may include:
- SUPERHOG – Combines guest screening with insurance to give vacation rental hosts increased protection and confidence.
- Safely – Safely provides short-term rental protection that helps hosts grow revenue by screening guests and offering comprehensive, purpose-built rental insurance.
- Proper Insurance – A US-based firm offering insurance policies specially designed for Airbnbs, Vrbo, and HomeAway properties.
- Allstate – Its HostAdvantage policy picks up where Airbnb’s Host Guarantee leaves off. Also offers Landlord insurance, for extra liability and income loss protection.
- Pikl – A UK-based company specializing in super-flexible policies for vacation rental hosts, including liability and legal cover, and both accidental and malicious damage.
7. Don’t allow pets in your rentals (or if you do, do it properly)
For hosts looking to avoid the maximum possible damage, not allowing pets is a no-brainer. Even well-behaved animals often like to have a chew on new things and might struggle with potty training in a new place.
Not allowing pets is definitely the easiest choice if the only messes you can bear to deal with are of the human variety (and we really hope it means less chance of chew damage).
However, with more people choosing to travel with pets post-pandemic, and pets seen by owners as a real part of the family, pet-friendly vacation rentals are becoming increasingly popular, especially if your rental is in a rural, hiking, or family-friendly area.
Accepting pets could therefore lead to more bookings and better relationships with guests.
The important thing is to make your preference very clear in your listing and House Rules, and explain to guests what you will and will not accept in terms of pets staying, and the consequences of any damage.
If you do choose to allow pets, make sure you’re covered. Airbnb has recently introduced a “pet fee” to help hosts cover the extra risks associated with guests’ furry friends, and you might also check your insurance policy.
If you really want to go all out, you could also provide a basket of pet-friendly toys, treats, bowls, litter tray, crate, poop bags, or beds to keep them entertained and cozy (after all, a happy, relaxed pet is less likely to chew, scratch, or poop indoors).
It’s a good idea to offer separate towels or blankets, and make this clear in your property, to avoid guests using your fluffy Egyptian cotton best on their pooch’s paws.
8. Build on your good relationships, and encourage direct bookings
Great guest communication not only establishes better rapport and less risk of problems during a stay, it also boosts the chances that guests will book again—and directly with you, this time.
Direct bookings both save on OTA fees and give you a chance to impress guests further, such as by offering treats, discounts, or vouchers in exchange for a direct booking.
Setting up direct booking doesn’t have to be complicated; many platforms such as Hospitable.com’s Direct service enable you to set up the nuts and bolts of the system without you needing to become a professional website designer overnight.
Hospitable.com Direct is an agile, all-in-one direct booking system, which provides you with your own website specially designed to take direct bookings. It also integrates with top providers to offer guest screening, insurance, payment processing, and even tax return information.
With Hospitable.com taking care of all that admin, you’ll have tons more time to take care of your guests, and maintain those all-important relationships.
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Protecting your property: Direct bookings are your best bet
When it comes to protecting your property, direct bookings are a sensible option, as you can take total control over your screening policies, which guests you accept and when, and what the rules are in the event of damage.
However, it’s not just a case of throwing up a booking website and hoping for the best. Taking direct bookings safely means having policies in place when it comes to screening guests, checking ID, taking payments, setting up insurance, and even avoiding fraud.
Platforms such as Hospitable.com Direct enable you to do this with minimal fuss. With such a specialized tool, you can take direct bookings easily and safely.
Integration with screening specialist Autohost.ai means you can automatically confirm guests’ ID, and ask for a security deposit, saving you hours compared to checking it all manually. Autohost can also help prevent chargebacks and fraud, so that only respectable, responsible guests can book your place.
Integration with vacation rental insurance specialists Safely and Superhog means you can secure a policy that is tailored to your situation, unlike standard home insurance packages, so that you’re definitely covered if the worst happens.
Working with a tool such as Hospitable.com Direct also makes it easier for you to take payments safely and securely, and integrating with a tool such as Stripe helps you to manage credit card fees, and produce tax documents too.
Setting up specialist tools enables you to reap all the advantages, and pay none of the OTA fees, with no extra risks, safety concerns, or technical complications.
The best way to protect your vacation rentals
Ultimately, protecting your property starts with checking out exactly who your potential guests are, setting up appropriate insurance, protecting yourself financially, and using powerful tools that help with excellent communication and messaging to build great guest relationships via direct booking.
The more guests see you as a real and friendly human, running your place with professionalism and care (rather than just another faceless Airbnb host), the more likely they are to see your place as a real home that deserves respect.
Do guests keep on asking if your vacation rental is pet-friendly? If you’ve ever known a pet owner, you’ll know how difficult it can be to go on holiday without the furriest member of the family. We’ve spoken to experienced pet-friendly hosts to get the inside scoop on whether inviting furry guests is worth the hassle.
Get industry insight from short-term rental hosts in this step-by-step guide for taking direct bookings without the stress.
If you’ve decided to rent out your home on Airbnb, you might be wondering how much insurance coverage you need to protect your assets and if there is Airbnb insurance available for homeowners. Read this article to uncover details on Airbnb insurance.