Archives July 2019

Three common short-term rental scams

As a short-term rental host, you’ve got a fine line to walk.

On the one hand, you want to do your best to give your guests a good experience – which may sometimes include compensating them when you or your cleaner legitimately messes up.

On the other hand, you are running a business and can’t be expected to give away all of your profits.

As Airbnb and other sites like it have gotten more legitimate and established, so have the scammers. People who aren’t looking to pay honestly for a stay, but want to get a free ride any way they can.

So how can you tell the difference?

Here are 3 common scams I’ve seen – and what to do about them.

Cashier’s check

This is one of the most common short-term rental scams going around right now. If you see someone ask to pay with a cashier’s check instead of through the booking site, for any reason, IT’S A SCAM. Do NOT accept them. Period, full stop.

It’s very easy to forge a cashier’s check, but it often takes weeks to bounce back from the bank, which means by the time you realize it was a fake and the banks takes that money back, your scamming guests will be long gone with a free stay under their belt.

Unclean listing

These short-term rental scams can take a myriad of forms. A guest might say they saw a roach, mold, unwashed towels, socks in the bedding, etc. Sometimes they’re telling the truth. But often they are not, or they’re nit-picking and looking for tiny little issues in order to get a free night.

If this happens, simply ask as professionally as you can for a picture of their claim. You can blame it on your cleaner if you want – “I just need to have a picture to show my cleaner when I talk to her to address the issues you brought up with this cleaning.”

If they can’t produce a picture, it’s a scam. If they wait until the last day of their stay to complain, it’s probably also a scam. You might want to include a caveat in your listing that refunds due to cleanliness issues are only given if reported within 24 hours of checking in.

Urgent cancellation

People come up with all sorts of reasons they might need to cancel. They booked the wrong location by mistake. Their flight was delayed. Death in the family. Someone else in their party had already booked a space for them. The list is seemingly endless.

You’ll get asked all the time to be flexible on your cancellation policy because of these extenuating or unforeseen circumstances. The most pragmatic thing to do would be to take the stance that lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part. This means that you stick to your cancellation policy – always. If they cancel 12 hours before check-in they won’t get a full refund, regardless of their story.

However, I also know that some people are very uncomfortable taking this hard line, especially when the guests are claiming something like a death in the family happened. If you’re open to giving a partial refund because of something like that, definitely ask for some sort of proof before you hand over the money! Scammers know that pulling on people’s heartstrings is the easiest way to get what they want.

Although those are some of the most common scams you’ll see, it is by no means an exhaustive list. Be sure to approach all guest requests for refunds with a fair amount of skepticism. Sometimes a refund is totally warranted – I myself just refunded a guest nearly $200 only a couple days ago. But often it’s just someone trying to pull one over on you. Make sure to ask lots of questions and require evidence of some sort to back up their claims before you go along with their request.

What are some other scams you’ve seen? Let me know in the comments!

Your first job as a host

I’m a member of a lot of groups for hosts on Facebook. Many of them are very helpful, offering lots of great tips and strategies for more successful hosting. However, there’s also a common thread among them that is not as helpful: complaining.

Oh my word. Some of these hosts complain like you wouldn’t believe.

Their guests had the nerve to use the provided kitchen. Guests didn’t strip the beds. Brought a friend over without telling them. Had kids who scribbled in the guest book.

Seriously, some of these complaints are so trivial.

When I see hosts talking like this I want to shake them and ask them why they got into this business in the first place.

This is first a foremost a hospitality industry. Your job is to make your guests happy.

This means that your job is also to be understanding of guests’ needs and mentality while on vacation.

People on vacation aren’t going to want to strip the beds. That’s why they pay a cleaning fee. Many people book short-term rentals instead of hotels specifically for the express purpose of having a kitchen available to save on food costs…how can you expect them to not use it? And anyone who’s ever been around kids knows that even the best-behaved of them will get into the crayon box and write on something they shouldn’t at some point in their lives.

Webster’s defines hospitality as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”

Working in the hospitality industry, while perhaps slightly different because there is still an end goal of profit, should have more or less the same vision.

That means no charging people for extra electricity usage or other stupid charges like that.

It means graciously providing if someone wants extra towels.

Writing off small damages such as stained face towels as a cost of doing business.

Being proactive about inquiring towards and providing for the guests’ needs.

Tools like TurnoverBNB, Your Porter, August Locks, Wheelhouse, and more are all geared towards making managing short-term rentals easier and more streamlined. These sorts of apps have made a business out of making hosts’ lives easier.

But have we as hosts forgotten that our jobs are essentially to make our guests’ lives easier?

Don’t forget that. It’s the heart of this business. And without it, you’re going to get frustrated and burned out in a hurry.

A cleaning headache you shouldn’t ever have to deal with

Is your STR cleaning closet giving you headaches? Maybe you’re doing it wrong.

I had a meeting with a potential new client the other day. It was a very eye-opening conversation.

He was an experienced host himself, having managed his own home for years; but a change in life circumstances had made him unable to continue managing the space, and he’d decided to look for a manager.

We were sitting there at the cleaning closet, discussing restocking needs and such, when he made a comment that took me by surprise.

“The closet needs to be locked,” he said, “so you’ll have to come by for every turnover to let the cleaner in.”


No wonder he had started to get fed up with hosting.

Right now I’ve got a dozen listings, some of them over an hour from my home. There’s no way in hell I’d even consider going to every property after a guest checks out just to let the cleaner into the cleaning closet.

I just don’t understand why some hosts do that to themselves.

If you’re going to hire someone to clean your property, you need to have enough faith in them to trust that they’ll do right by you. And I understand that this is going to rule some potential cleaners out; but that’s ok.

Do the work on the front end to vett your cleaners so that you can relax and trust them to do their job after you’ve hired them.

And you should never ever have the only key to a cleaning closet. I just don’t understand why anyone would ever think that is a good idea.

Put a lockbox with a key in it on the property and give your cleaner the code. If you’re worried about her losing the key, get a hasp lock with a combination padlock. If you don’t want guests to see it, hide it somewhere they wouldn’t look.

Remember, if you’re trusting your cleaner enough to be alone in your home, you should trust them enough to have access to the keys.

There certainly are tedious parts to this business. But coming over in between every cleaning shouldn’t be one of them. Do yourself a favor and make your STR cleaning closet a simple solution.

3 things I learned from the World Domination Summit

Last week I went to a conference in Portland.

This was not just any conference. This was the World Domination Summit.

What is WDS, you ask?

The World Domination Summit was started 9 years ago by a man named Chris Guillebeau, author of the book “The Art of Nonconformity.” The purpose of WDS is to “help people live remarkable lives in a conventional world.”

As you might expect, this was not a normal conference. There were explosions, magicians, breakdancers, an “Alice in Wonderland” themed picnic, and even a guy in a ridiculous dinosaur suit. I went into WDS not having any clue of what to expect, and that’s probably a good thing. Any expectations I had would not have lived up to reality.

But aside from the fun atmosphere and literal smoke and mirrors, WDS also had a lot of real meaty wisdom and lessons to impart. Some of them were very specific; some more general life lessons. I won’t bore you with the specifics, but I think the more general wisdom might be very helpful.

So here are 3 life lessons I learned this year from the World Domination Summit:

1. Fear can be very useful.

One of the most consistent character traits across all of humanity is a desire to avoid fear. Sometimes we go so very far out of our way, just to avoid any sort of situation that makes us afraid. This is why people don’t travel, don’t learn new hobbies, don’t take risks at work. We’re afraid of failing, afraid of looking stupid, afraid of people thinking we don’t belong there.

But we forget how very closely linked fear and excitement are. A goal that doesn’t scare you also won’t excite you. And if you’re not excited about a goal, how will you get others excited about it?

Instead of running away from scary things, run towards them. Fear usually means you’re on the right track.

2. Our problems aren’t our fault, but they are our responsibility.

This one hit me right between the eyes.

I’ve been hit with more crap over the last 5 years than you could ever imagine. Seriously, my life would make a really good soap opera. I can’t make this stuff up!

And if I’m honest, some of it has really gotten to me. I’ve had whole days – sometimes whole weeks or even months – when I’ve wanted to wallow in my self-pity. When I’ve been angry at the world because of what was happening to me and refused to go out into it because I felt too sorry for myself.

And it’s true that most of my current problems are definitely not my fault. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do something about it. All of us have the responsibility to make the most of the cards we’ve been given.

Or, to put it more succinctly: Shit happens. Suffering is a choice.

3. When we embrace our flaws, scars, and awkwardness, they become our superpowers.

The things that made you weird in high school make you awesome now.

Isn’t this so true?!? When I was in high school I was a shy bookworm who loved reading and learning. These things were the cause of a lot of teasing back then. As an adult, however, it’s those very same traits that have helped me build a successful business and a life that I love.

Don’t avoid your weirdness. Don’t try to hide your flaws. Embrace them. Relish them. They make you who you are. And who you are is pretty awesome.