Running an Airbnb takes a lot of work. Doing your due diligence on guests who book your vacation rental is just as important as keeping it clean or optimizing your listing on the channels you use. The damage caused by just one bad guest can set your entire business back, leaving you with a massive bill for loss and/or damage, and impacting your ability to grow revenue at least in the short term. The increasing reliance on automated check-ins via smart locks has only made it even more important to verify guests are who they claim to be.
Like all things in life, guests range across a spectrum, varying from absolutely amazing to absolutely horrid. And while the number of bad guests as a percentage of the whole may not be huge, the damage they cause can be. There are many reasons why you should screen your guests. These include:
Bad guests could just be annoying, violating your neighborhood’s zoning laws by parking on the street but even that could result in you losing out on your vacation rental permit depending on HOA, city, and state laws relevant to you. (Check out our blogs on Airbnb laws and taxes in Florida, Utah, Colorado, Hollywood, and Ontario.) Really bad guests could steal your belongings or damage your property to such an extent that it takes you a long time to bring your property back to a state it can receive guests again. Others could hold parties that lead to noise and safety violations and see the police called in. There is also the possibility of bad guests engaging in criminal activity whilst in your premises. While more often than not you won’t be held criminally responsible, you will incur expenses on legal representation and lost revenue.
When you screen bookings for bad guests, you ensure it is only a stream of agreeable guests that book your vacation rental. And unlike bad guests who tend to avoid repercussions of their behavior by leaving bad reviews, good guests will give you a good review as long as you provide them with an experience that meets their expectations for your property. A history of good guests and good reviews will lead to more high-quality guests. This will also impact the types of users the Airbnb algorithm will show your listing to.
The combination of continuous good reviews and high Airbnb star ratings together with the algorithm sending more higher-quality guests your way, you are bound to increase occupancy and revenue, and even ask for a higher nightly rate. This will also give you an edge over the competition during the off-seasons.
When you know you have done all that you can to screen for bad guests to your vacation rental, you experience little or no anxiety about hosting. You can enjoy a good night’s sleep free of nightmares about horrible guests.
Many OTAs do conduct guest verification however the extent of their screening process is limited.
Hosts on Airbnb can require their guests to complete Airbnb’s Verified ID process which will require them to provide Airbnb (and not the host) a photo of a government ID. In some instances, Airbnb may opt to verify using a third-party database. However, guests can overcome this by getting someone else to make the booking for them.
Guests on VRBO can choose to confirm their identity with the platform but hosts cannot require them to do so. Hosts can choose to only choose guests who are verified but this can impact occupancy.
Unlike Airbnb and VRBO however, Booking.com does not guarantee credit card validity. Whereas both Airbnb and VRBO will require a payment on a booking, Booking.com does not, unless the host chooses pre-authorization to ensure the card is valid.
Don’t rely on your OTA to take responsibility for keeping bad guests from booking your vacation rental.
There are a number of things that you can do as a host to try to screen guests on your own. These include:
Unfortunately, choosing to manually screen individual guests is just not scalable. It takes too much effort, too much time, and more often it is unlikely that you will have access to enough information to root out all the bad guests. Guests who have made a business of causing havoc in the properties they book are also aware of these tactics and know how to evade them.
The most efficient and effective way to screen for bad guests for your vacation rental is to use third-party guest screening software.
Employing several verification factors and with access to massive information databases, the best guest screening software will establish the legitimacy of your guest and booking, confirm meeting minimum age requirements, and flag suspicious behavior. They also need to be fast so you have enough time to cancel the booking of a flagged guest without incurring penalties. (For example, Airbnb hosts have 24 hours to accept or decline a reservation.)
Autohost claims to improve rental revenue by 15% and guest accountability by 100%.
Works for guests booking through Airbnb, VRBO, Booking.com, and direct booking websites.
Works for guests booking through Airbnb and Booking.com.
Works for guests booking through Airbnb, VRBO, Booking.com, and Expedia UK.
And because Hostaway seamlessly integrates with all three guest screening software, you don’t have to worry about technical integration. A preferred partner of Airbnb and VRBO, Hostaway is the highest-rated property management system and includes a proprietary channel manager, comprehensive communication tools, marketing tools, analytics and reporting, automation, and the largest integrated marketplace for vacation rental tools and software.
There are a few more things you can do to add an additional layer of protection from bad guests.
A short-term rental agreement is a legally binding document that outlines the responsibilities of the host and guests. It ensures you cover all the bases and protect yourself and your property from damage and liability to the fullest extent that the law allows. It can also serve as a filter for bad guests, as they are less likely to choose a vacation rental that asks them to sign a legally binding agreement that can hold them responsible for bad behavior.
Both Airbnb and VRBO offer hosts protections for damage and liability but can have glaring gaps that leave your vacation rental unprotected from bad guests. A good vacation rental insurance policy meanwhile will cover property damage, liability, and loss of income, protecting your property, business, and yourself. Check out our Guide to Vacation Rental Insurance.
On VRBO hosts can require guests to place a card on file in case they file a claim, pay a refundable damage deposit or pay for property damage protection. On Airbnb hosts can require a security deposit, setting an amount between $100 and $5,000. While damage deposits can go some way towards alleviating damage and loss to property and business caused by bad guests, they work better as a deterrent to bad guests who are liable to lose out on the deposit. (Learn everything you need to know about Airbnb damage deposits.)
Installing noise monitoring technology inside your vacation rental will keep away guests who are looking to throw parties or ignore house rules playing music too loud. Make sure you mention it in your listing. We recommend NoiseAware, which alerts property managers when volumes in their rentals exceed reasonable levels, and Minut, which also detects motion, recognizes other alarms, and tracks temperature on top of monitoring noise. (To learn more, check out our guide on Smart Technology Hacks for Vacation Rentals.)