Many cottage rentals owners hate confrontations and dislike the necessity of bickering. It makes the whole negotiation process in renting out your cottage for the week, completely unfavourable. You will often hear of bad landlords and cottage rentals owners…there are many websites on the internet to display who they are. You will often see remarks posted on sites like kijiji.ca/com. But rarely do you see or hear about the “bad guest”. You know exactly who I’m talking about. I’m referring to those people who take advantage of everything and use your cottage rental like a dumping ground. Realistically, you can plan and take a lot of precautions, and I am going to make some really good suggestions in this article. But in the end, even the best laid plans are not perfect. In those instances, remember one thing: DAMAGE DEPOSITS!
- ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, have a rental user agreement. It should have your terms and conditions not just for the dwelling, but also for the property. Cottage rental guests MUST respect those rules or they will lose out. It should be signed at the time of booking, preferably in person, and essentially by the person who is going to take responsibility for the week.
- STAY AWAY, FAR AWAY From the party folk. This does not imply age groups. More specifically we are referring to stags, bachelor parties, and grads, large groups of party types that are looking to get wasted and trash a place. Ask the questions during the rental booking process and be direct about this. I would even recommend putting in your agreement IN WRITING.
- Charge a damage deposit. This should be a minimum of $500.00 to $1000.00. If you feel it is necessary, charge more depending upon what you offer, i.e. hot tub, or pool table. Some damages far exceed the amount of the damage deposit.
- To clean or not to clean. I expect the rental guests to do some basic cleaning upon their departure. For example, remove their trash and take it with them, clean off the counters and stove top, wipe up spills in the fridge, dishes washed and put away, sweep and a quick mop. It shouldn’t take more than 30-45 minutes. It’s up to a cottage owner how they wish to approach this. I usually write it into my agreement and charge an hourly rate if it’s not done. In a couple of instances the cottage was so bad, garbage everywhere because they left it out overnight, their food boiled over on the stove top and they never cleaned and the stove was filthy, the inside of the fridge looked like a food bomb went off inside, popcorn and chips were all over the living room, every piece of furniture had been moved around, there was garbage being hidden and stashed in various cupboards and closets in the dwelling. I cashed the damage deposit and kept the funds to pay for the time it took to do all the cleaning.
- Establish arrival and departure dates and times in writing, in advance. I had one guy pressure me to get in day early, not allowing me enough time to do a proper inspection of the previous guests who had left earlier than planned due to work obligations. This created a problem because the oven and the BBQ were not functioning properly. The complaints that poured out were limitless. I kicked myself afterwards for not having the conviction to insist that he wait until the proper arrival date and time.
- Provide the cleaning products, garbage and recycling bags. I always do. I provide Eco-friendly products, and ask my rental guests to bring their own paper towels. This takes away any excuses people have. Plus I have stuff in place to use myself, as I always clean anyways, no matter what the guests have or have not done. There are just some extra measures I take as I prefer a fresh and clean smelling cottage.
- Stay on top of the little things when you can. Cleaning fans and curtains, windows and ledges, under the couch cleaning, really thorough cleaning makes all the difference in the world.
- Empty the fridge every time. Some cottage owners like to leave some basics in the fridge for the guests, such as coffee cream, condiments, butter, ice in the freezer, bottled water and some cans of pop. I think that’s a lovely gesture for your guests. However, get rid of the leftovers from the previous rental guests. Their leftovers should be taken out and disposed of to keep the fridge clean and looking like it was meant for the next family.
- Make big bulk linens extra cost. It is a nice gesture to offer to provide linens and bed pillows, however, most owners find that departure day ends up being about doing laundry and not making the right time to clean up. Keep the departure list short and sweet. Most people who use their own linens will not wash them upon leaving, especially the comforters, which take up a lot of hydro to dry. Offer some basic linen and encourage your guests to bring their own linens. It always makes one feel more at home having their own pillows and blankets.
10. Remember to check the oven. A dirty oven often attracts the kind of guests you really do not want: rodents. And the dirtier it becomes the more the cottage and dwelling will smell like old meat. And that’s not fresh. I try to clean it about twice a month to keep up with the usage. It does make it easier. And the stove top gets cleaned and fresh tin replaced every week.
11. Offer some extras to help with departure, like aluminum foil, plastic wrap, Ziplocs… I even save some of my dairy containers, clean them and leave them in my plastic drawer for my guests to use if they have leftovers they would like to bring home. It helps save on food waste.
12. What to do with compost? This is a tough one. I don’t encourage it unless you live close enough to maintain it, with all the local wildlife it could get messy. I will give my guests the option to burn it in the campfire, take it home as compost and dispose of it in the same manner at home, or remove as trash. In cottage country there is no garbage removal service, in most instances (some places i.e. resorts, have services). And most dump sites have very strict guidelines and shorter hours when they are open for service. Have a plan and stick to it, and most importantly, communicate it.
13. Don’t be rushed or pushed by exiting guests during your inspection time. If people are that much in a hurry, they need to let you know in advance so you can arrive earlier to do what needs to be done. Do not feel pressured to let someone go without doing your part to establish if all the check points upon departure have been met. This is in some instances a pressure tactic that something is not right. Remember, YOU are in control and YOU lay down the ground rules in your agreement. Once they sign they must adhere to it, and part of that should be an inspection of both property and dwelling.
Remember something: you are offering a cottage rentals on a short term basis. You are not offering a complete list of hotel and resort like services, housekeeping and sanitation disposal services. And the confusion in such a situation needs to be eliminated upon the booking process. You need to be clear. Sloppy Joes, I’ve had my own experiences with, and I’ve learned from those times. The clearer I am at the time of the booking the fewer headaches I have upon departure.