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.
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.
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.
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.