This is not a suggestion for a new demographic to try and market to. It is a legitimate concern for some owners. With the relatively limited amount of personal information that is required to book a property, enterprising criminals are taking advantage of this anonymity. Vacation rentals don’t have doorman or cameras like hotels. They have space and isolation. The qualities that make for a relaxing holiday are also some of the features that make vacation rentals appealing to people conducting illicit activity.
As well as moral objections, property owners could find themselves liable if illegal activity takes place on their property. Police can even have the power to seize property or assets that have been used for crime. Even if you had no knowledge of the activity, your property can be taken by the police. There have even been cases of properties being retained after the crimes of the renters had been dis-proven in court.
And of course, not all of these concerns are about sophisticated crime syndicates but just opportunistic thieves. A host found that renters had booked her apartment with the sole intention of ransacking it. The portal the property was listed on realised that they had no provisions in place for this type of problem. They covered the losses and since then have implemented a $1 million guarantee for crime or damage sustained whilst renting out property.
We look at some of the crimes being committed and ways to protect yourself should your property be involved. It can be that your property has been used for illegal activity without you ever knowing it.
Prostitution, Gambling and Drugs
All illegal activities that require space to operate and a high level of secrecy. A vacation rental in the hills, or a quiet apartment with a buzzer and disinterested neighbours is always going to be more discreet than the bustling lobby of the Altamont. Prostitution, gambling and drugs have all used vacation rental properties to ply their trade.
Another reason for the potential for crime is simple economics. Business minded criminals will use rental properties as opposed to other types of accommodation simply because they are cheaper. A horror story of a New York city apartment being rented then used as a brothel attests to this. What can be done to prevent this, or how would you know? If you ever did find out, apart from simply reporting it, what could you do? Prevention is always better than the cure so we’re looking at few measures that you can take to reduce the risk of your property being used for criminal activity.
Where do you stand with your insurance providers if a guest creates an illegal meth lab in your property and subsequently burns it down? There would certainly be some rather convoluted paperwork to negotiate. Vacation rental owners can take out specialised insurance to protect themselves from the liability of their guests’ actions.
Cross reference your guests’ details with a scan of their government issued ID such as a passport or driving licence. If you can match these details with the details on the credit card then you will have a good record of your guests’ identity. You can also provide this information yourself to assure your guests that your business is legitimate and not part of a vacation rental phishing scam.
The point of this is not to worry needlessly but to be prepared if the worst case scenario does happen. As vacation rental managers will tell you, the majority of their interactions with customers are enjoyable and pleasant. Crime is not a major concern for most but there have been instances where vacation rentals have been targeted and the owners are the ones left to resolve the damage.