Whether you own a hotel, a vacation rental property or just manage one, chances are that you’ve had a bad guest before. They damage property, disturb other guests, excessively complain in the hopes of getting a free night’s stay, and steal everything that isn’t bolted down. However, there are several ways you can protect yourself and your investment.
Let me start by telling a story. I owned a property management company for several years. Families would allow me to rent out their vacation home on a short term basis while they weren’t there. I would collect the rent from the guest and then forward a certain portion of that rental income to the property owner. Just two months into my new business venture, a young lady walked into our office one day. She had just graduated college and said she wanted to celebrate by renting the most luxurious property we offered. Our largest property at the time was a a very large log home on the top of a mountain and rented for $750 per night. She said “I’ll take it”. Because my business was just getting started, I was ecstatic. However, she could only pay by check, which was against our rental policies. I decided to let my desire to fill the property override my better judgement. You can see where this is going. The day after she checked out, I got a call from my bank. The check had bounced. To this day, I believe that woman knew ahead of time exactly how long it would take for the bank to return a check because she stayed one day less than that.
My reason for telling that story is this: The most powerful tool to help avoid problems like that is good old fashion intuition. Trust your judgement. If something about a guest seems out of the ordinary, you’ll know it. For example, if someone calls to make reservations for someone else, tell them that you need to speak to the person whose name will be on the contract. If spring break is approaching, be wary of college kids who are trying to book a room. Listen to their conversation. The first time you hear them say “dude” or “that’s totally awesome bro”, take that as a hint and send em packing. Unless booze soaked college kids on spring break don’t cause trouble in your part of the world, then by all means…
Also, write a strong, well thought out rental policy. There are several places online where you can get a basic rental policy but you may have more success if you right your own. If your hotel has a swimming pool, write your rules about that swimming pool in your policies. If your cabins are not pet friendly, write that too. A guest can’t be expected to play by the rules if they don’t know what those rules are.
The best way to ensure your guests are well behaved and enjoy their stay is to take a security deposit. A guest is less likely to leave with all the towels if there is a $500 refundable security deposit at risk.
Lastly, consider joining a web based service that allows hotels and rental agencies to report a guests’ behavior so that other hotels and rental agencies can be warned of known trouble makers. These are commonly called guest blacklist sharing services. Similar to a “No-Fly” list for airlines. At the moment there are three major reporting agencies:
1) “GuestScan” covers guests within the United Kingdom.
2)” GuestBehavingBadly” covers Australia and the south pacific.
3) “GuestChecker” covers north America. They are pay services but the first time you have a bounced check or a guest steals the TV, you’ll wish you had joined.
By the way, the girl who bounced the check for almost $7k? Yeah, she’s on the blacklist.