Renting vacation property from owner can be a risky

Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. – Ibn Battuta

Travel Time with Kathy Pickerell

Travel Time with Kathy Pickerell

Vacation planning often begins with excitement and optimism. After all, who doesn’t love the idea of a vacation? You get to look through glossy brochures full of beautiful scenery, lovely pictures of resorts, and pretty people looking like they’re having the time of their lives. You have a host of options, too, with your vacation planning. But one thing is for certain…you will need a place to stay.
Never before have there been more options for vacation rentals. You are no longer limited to just hotels; with today’s thriving tourism market there are condos, cabins, private homes and apartments. And for the person looking to stay in the extremely unique accommodation, I’ve seen converted airplanes, tree houses, tiny houses and houseboats.
Growing up pre-internet, when my family took the proverbial road trip, my dad’s idea of finding accommodations would be to pull up to a hotel or motel after a long day’s drive and go inside and see if there was availability. As an adult and as a savvy traveler, that thought horrifies me. Stay in a hotel without a reservation? Without reading reviews? Without looking at the pictures online first? Not me! I want to make sure that I’m not staying at the Bates Motel!
A more recent trend for accommodations are VRBO’s and Airbnb’s. These are private rentals by owners who advertise their property online. There are literally tens of thousands of listings all over the world. In fact, I’m pretty sure I could find a rental in Tasmania. While these vacation rentals are often great deals and offer more space than a conventional hotel room, which is great when you are trying to accommodate a large family, there are some extreme risks to consider.
There is no government or trade agency regulating the advertising and sales of private rentals. There have been numerous cases where the property has been misrepresented, is uninhabitable, is occupied by someone else, or simply doesn’t exist. That home could be “steps from the beach,” as listed in the description, or it could actually be a half a mile away. I once had a client who rented a private home, and when she arrived, she found that although the property existed, the owners were shocked to see her at their doorstep with her bags because they never rented their home. Of course she never found the culprit that took her money, and she was left without a place to stay on a holiday weekend.
While there are people who have had positive experiences renting from VRBO or Airbnb, there are also the multitudes of horror stories. Photoshop isn’t a new thing, and it’s easy to make a dog-eared motel look like the Taj Mahal. If you’re relying on reviews, those are easy to fake as well. There have also been instances of homeowners not vacating the property once guests arrive, and things have been weird and awkward for the guests.
Private rentals require that you pay in advance. This can be particularly tricky if you’re renting from a foreign owner or agency because there is essentially no legal recourse and no consumer protection. Renting from VRBO or Airbnb is like shooting dice…you never know what you’re going to get, plain and simple.
Hotels and resorts, or rentals offered by management companies or agencies, have quality control, are regulated, and have strict guidelines and governing agencies. If something goes wrong, there’s someone you can call 24/7. If you don’t have towels, hot water, or you’re A/C is broken, getting a resolution is easier. If you’ve used an experienced travel professional, then that person will be your best advocate for helping.
If you’re thinking of renting privately, do your homework. Use judgment and caution. There are a number of things that you can do to minimize the risk that can be found online. Finally, follow the old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Kathy Rainey Pickerell is the owner of World Travels, 225-279-0135, has been a travel consultant for 21 years, and is a native of Denham Springs. Besides being an avid traveler who has been to 6 continents, 46 states and 59 countries, she’s a mother and grandmother, a voracious reader, scuba diver, gardener, cook, and she keeps a bucket list for the places she has yet to see.


Comments are closed.