Although it doesn’t happen often, Airbnb squatters can be a huge inconvenience. More so, they can disrupt business and become costly. Plus, after you have successfully removed Airbnb squatters, you might still need to deal with property damage. Because of this, it’s best to have a plan in place to avoid these situations from happening in the first place.
In short, an Airbnb squatter is a guest who fails to check out after their checkout date. In other words, they do not vacate the property when they’re supposed to. As a matter of fact, many of them are sophisticated scam artists who know how to use the laws to their advantage and knowingly and willingly overstay their welcome without the permission of the host or property owners.
Here are three of the most common signs that could indicate an Airbnb guest has plans to squat at your vacant rental property:
Red flags that you’re dealing with potential squatters include:
Basically, you ideally want to rent out to guests who have completed more than just the required basic information.
Your prior communication with interested guests can give you many clues too. If they are quick to reply to your questions, it is usually a good sign. Red flags include if they refuse to give a host enough information for guest screenings and credit checks (like their ID) or if they object to signing a vacation rental contract.
At the end of the day, you need to listen to your gut. Has the guest said anything (or left something out) that has made you feel uneasy?
Even though it can be appealing to rent out your apartment for extra long periods, the squatters’ rights that a guest has could become much greater and trickier when they stay at your property for more than 30 days and, in some cases, as little as 27 days.
In the United States, most states make a clear distinction between tenants and short-term rental guests. For instance, in California, a guest becomes a tenant if he rents a listing for 30 days or longer. When this happens, the state’s landlord-tenant laws apply and eviction protocol will have to be followed if they refuse to leave.
Firstly, you should only accept bookings from verified guests on Airbnb (in other words, guests who have the verified badge next to their name). Then, you should take the time to read the reviews written by other Airbnb hosts about the guest’s previous stays. Most of the reviews are pretty accurate and can be a valuable resource that you can use in addition to other verification methods.
It can also be a good idea to use screening tools like safely.com that can help you to screen guests. In short, safely.com offers a comprehensive guest screening service that screens for convicted felons. What’s more, they also have a database of guests whose negligence resulted in damage to the property. Every guest will also be screened through this list.
Last, but not least, you should also look for any red flags, as mentioned earlier, on the profiles of prospective guests. You can even extend your search beyond the profile they have created on the vacation rental platform. A quick Google search can reveal a lot, while social media like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter can also be used to verify information that they have provided.
Most hosts can also ask their guests to sign a vacation rental contract. This extra step will give you more power and can be used to support your case in the event that you need to go through the eviction process.
It is key that you highlight the check-in and check-out dates and times in your vacation rental agreement. Without this information, you could have a harder time proving that your guests, in fact, overstayed their welcome and that they were not given permission to stay longer.
Other important information that you can include in your vacation rental contract is house rules and arrangements regarding parties and noise.
Airbnb provides extra verification checks so it is safer to receive bookings via their platform. It also provides extra Airbnb host liability insurance which will only be granted for bookings made through the Airbnb platform. That being said, it is best to restrict your booking to 29 days at most, depending on your city’s restrictions.
To simplify and save time on the bookings process and management of multiple rental properties, hosts can also use vacation rental software like iGMS. iGMS can help you to manage the following routine tasks with the help of automation:
Irrespective of the risk of renting to an Airbnb squatter, all Airbnb hosts are strongly advised to spend a few extra bucks to take out additional vacation rental insurance. The extra money spent will give you the peace of mind that you’re protected against the risk of damage to your business. Considering that mid-term stays are on the increase, it is also a good idea to get a policy that specifically includes squatter insurance coverage.
For example, Proper Insurance has a custom-written policy to help hosts deal with Airbnb squatters. Their coverage includes a loss of business income of up to $10,000. They will also cover actual expenses of up to $5,000 that you had to incur in dealing with an Airbnb squatter. These could include legal fees, court costs, sheriff fees, and property damage.
Another way that you can reduce the chances of sitting with unwanted guests is to charge a security deposit. Most people looking to squat at an Airbnb unit do not want to pay a lot of money for their stay. In fact, they are probably hoping to pay nothing whatsoever. So, if you charge a security deposit (even more effective if the amount is slightly higher than average), you can help to avoid Airbnb squatters.
If you have vacation rental insurance, it is important that you inform your insurance provider immediately. It could be that you might just be protected against this type of situation. In the case that your policy does include coverage, they need to know about these events as soon as possible so that you can be covered for any losses.
As most Airbnb squatters are actually sophisticated scam artists who have planned to occupy your property, it is key that you partner with a lawyer who is experienced at helping with eviction proceedings. There are two types of actions that can be filed: an action for possession or an unlawful detainer.
If a guest claims to be a tenant, these actions will help you to prove that no lease agreement is in place. Therefore, the guest has no right to stay on your property.
Hosts need to know what squatters’ rights apply in their area. While it might sound strange, depending on your location, an Airbnb squatter may have certain tenant rights. For instance, if the property owner does not evict them in time or take the right action, adverse possession laws could mean that they may inhabit or use the property and may have even laid claim to the title after a specific period of time has elapsed. The logic behind this law is to discourage the ownership of unused properties.
As the adverse possession laws differ from one state to the next, it is key that you familiarize yourself with your specific jurisdiction’s laws. Most states in the US, however, allow a guest to claim tenant rights after 30 days of occupation.
Hosts should take action by informing the Airbnb squatter that they do not have permission to be on the property and request that they leave. They need to do this as soon as possible to avoid complications from adverse possession law.
When dealing with an Airbnb squatter, it is crucial that you have as much evidence as possible to help prove your case, especially if the situation makes its way to court. Therefore, it is key that you keep all documentation and communication (messages, pictures, emails, invoices, etc.) as it could be needed as evidence at some point. In short, you want to show that you have tried to rectify the problem legally.
In the unfortunate event that you are dealing with an aggressive squatter, be sure to make a note of this as well. If you are threatened in any way, it can be used as further evidence if you need to settle the matter in court.
While it is unlikely that you will need to deal with an Airbnb squatter, it is still necessary that you have a plan in place. Considering that it can cost a lot to get a guest who refuses to leave removed, it is a smart idea that you are prepared once it does happen.
Squatting rarely happens, but when it does it is a criminal matter that you won’t be able to deal with on your own. At the end of the day, the best strategy is to put measures in place to avoid Airbnb squatters from renting your Airbnb property in the first place.
About the Author
Callan Riddles is the Content and Social Media Specialist at iGMS. Callan has a passion for finding new ways to help vacation rental businesses thrive. In her free time, she loves to travel, read, and experience all the new things that life has to offer.
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