It seems like such a good idea – design a travel website that brings property owners and would-be renters or vacationers together. There are a few websites like this out there already, but the most popular of the sites incorporates a review system where guests can review properties and property owners can leave feedback on guests.
In theory the system should work well. The more you use the system, the more property owners can know and trust you when you stay in their homes or rentals. Since many of the vacation properties are a bit unconventional, the reviews from others who have stayed helps sort out any questions prospective renters might have.
But like every good idea, sometimes there are a few bugs to be worked out.
The Issue of Trust
There is a lot of trust involved in allowing someone to stay in a property that you own. Not only is there a great deal of paperwork, but you have to trust the visitor to not damage or destroy the things you own and value. The reviews about previous visits help with this, but what if a guest has never stayed in a property from the site before? What if he has no reviews?
An apartment or property management company does extensive background checks before they allow a new resident. It would make sense to allow property owners on a vacation rental site at least some comfort in a background check. Even some basics would be fine – what does the vacationer plan to do while in the area? Even simple questions like this may not be answered because the property owners are asked to truth the residents, but the website does not trust the property managers.
When the property owners try to do some research or even look at a LinkedIn or other social media profile for a would-be renter, the website blocks them. Even the renter’s real email address is blocked. The owner can know nothing at all about the brand new renter it seems. It must trust them implicitly through a system that doesn’t allow property owners any consideration at all.
Cancellation without Representation
Because property owners are going through a website for rentals, they have to abide by strict rules – even some which supersede their own. The most salient of these is the cancellation policy. According to the website, certain things like a death in the family, jury duty or even civic unrest can guarantee you a refund if you have to cancel your trip.
Unlike other travel websites, there is no insurance required for this feature. All the visitor has to do is claim a problem and the deposit he paid is returned. Meanwhile the property owner is left without any revenue or warning. Worse, he is not able to argue against the claim the errant visitor is making.
In one instance a renter showed up hours earlier to check-in to a property. There were currently other guests in the home, so the early renter left in a huff and never returned. The property owner claims the renter was a no-show. He left. He never came back at the right check-in time.
The huffy renter, however, claimed that the home wasn’t “clean” and so it was unsuitable. Guess who got the refund and who got left in the cold? The poor owner didn’t even have a chance to start preparing for her next visitor before he complained, got a refund and she got shafted.
This simply isn’t the way the rental business is supposed to work.