Considerations on Vacation Rentals

Vacation rentals can be a hot-button topic for many who stand on opposing sides of a slew of legal issues arising from the premise of public sharing space in such a manner.  Tenants and landlords disagree as to who owns the rights to use the property to rent on websites like Airbnb causing expensive lawsuits, evictions, and complications to already tight housing markets in larger cities nationwide.(1)

Whether you’re considering renting out your home or using the service to find affordable accommodations while vacationing, there are many important legal matters to consider before making the move to renting a vacation home.

If you want to rent out your home…

You don’t have to rent out your entire home on Airbnb, and many people have found success in making ends meet by renting out rooms in their spaces, but there are more potential ramifications than just the total money coming in from the rentals.

  • Did you check your lease?

If you own your home, there is no need to worry about this, but it is important to review your current lease agreement with your landlord first (1).  Clauses about roommates are not uncommon(2), and now that home-sharing has become so popular, many leases also include conditions prohibiting such actions specifically.  Consider reading your lease, and communicating with your landlord about your intentions before you put your pad online (2).  Better yet, reach out to your Legal Resources Plan Attorney for a fully-covered lease review to get a professional’s opinion before you do anything.

  • What does your local municipal code say about vacation rentals?

Homeowner or renter, you are under all restrictions imposed by municipal codes or zoning.  One goal of these regulations is to prevent landlords from taking rental properties off the market for conversion into hotel units (a growing problem in larger, tourist-centered cities). (1)

  • What protections did you include in your rental agreement?

There are horror stories from hotels and vacation-home rentals alike about horrible or destructive guests.  Nightmares of people refusing to vacate a premise after their stay is up have happened (3).  Use your Legal Resources benefit to have an attorney involved in drafting the agreement and ask questions to educate yourself on local laws and codes that may give a guest more access to your home than you would like.

  • Know your liability

When you rent your home or space to someone, there is a risk of liability, called “premises liability”.  This falls upon the owner of the property, so be sure to know your rights and check with your attorney and insurance provider. (4)

If you want to rent someone else’s home while on vacation…

The easiest way for a vacation to sour is poor lodging.  If you were expecting a beach-side villa only to discover you’re in the basement of a home several miles from the beach, you’re going to be disappointed in not getting the vacation you’d hoped for.  Take some time to protect yourself and your vacation investment.

  • Have you read the agreement?

The homeowner is going to create the agreement to protect his or her home and investment, but in so doing will not be looking out for you and your vacation.  Look at the time you spend reading the terms and conditions before you book as a way of protecting an investment.  What is their cancellation policy?  What recourse do you have if things aren’t up to standard?  Know this before you sign up. (4)

  • Did you research the rental?

A growing scam is fake vacation rentals.  Protect yourself by looking carefully at your rental.  Don’t trust prices that are too good to be true (because they probably are), never give the owner your credit card information directly (payments should go through your booking site), and run a google search of the address (you should see an image that matches the listing).  If you have any doubt, you probably shouldn’t book, and just move on to the next option. (5)

  • Don’t be afraid to communicate with your host and booking site if anything is amiss
  1. Your host should be available and willing to speak with you before your stay (just like a hotel).  If something seems off, or you have any concerns,  you can always report them to your booking website. (6)

Vacations are an important part of life – you need time away, and when you travel from home they can be expensive, so using website to vacation home share is a great way to travel inexpensively, even with a family, or to make some extra income by putting your space online for guests.  But, before you venture into either option, be sure to protect yourself legally.  A Legal Resources attorney is always happy to help ensure your home or vacation is secure.


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