Cottage rentals and partying
Some guests and owners may recall an article or news broadcast from western Canada recently. It tells the story of a young couple that had rented out their home through a website to a group of people that had a party turn into a disaster very quickly. Fortunately for this couple, they are protected and are being covered off by the agency’s insurance policy. People partying in someone else’s home is not a good idea at any point in time. Hotels and resorts minimise their own exposure to such liability.
As owners in the rental business, we are often left on our own volition and knowledge to work out arrangements with cottage rental guests. There has been a lot written on the subject of agreements and damage deposits. In this couple’s instance, $5,000 would not have even put a dent in the amount of damages that occurred in their home, their permanent residence. They are living elsewhere while it is being restored. With cottage rentals, and being on your own, you would need to revert to your own insurance, which does lend itself to a question: do you have rental insurance, and what does it cover?
Before you get into any type of agreement with your guests, you should explore that avenue first and foremost, and cover your assets. In a situation like “partying” guests, alcohol, sometimes drugs, they reduce, often eliminate inhibitions and without the sense of right and wrong, there is no way in predicting what could happen. Is allowing a party a good idea? I would think, probably not.
I have been and will continue to be approached by 2 or 3 “couples” looking to “relax” and unwind up at the cottage. How can I be certain my “NO PARTY” policy will be adhered to and obeyed? Reality is there are no guarantees in this situations, there are however, helpful steps as an owner you can take to avoid these types of arrangements.
1. Make every effort to meet your guests in person. Obtain photo ID and check to ensure it is in fact accurate. Take a few minutes to get to know them, and anything you do in person, you ensure a written agreement outlining CONFIRMED occupancy for the duration of their stay. Occupancy is a sure fire give away – if they indicate 3 couples – then 6 people is all they are permitted to allow entry to the property AND dwelling – no more.
2. Ask questions about their kind of experience they are wishing to enjoy, while staying at your cottage rental. Be specific to ensure it is a good fit for both. If they are musicians looking to jam – that might send alarm bells in your direction. Redirect the ones your instincts are telling you are looking for crazy times to a camp site or resort.
3. Try and market to families. It’s been my experience that people with kids are generally not going to have a crazy party. Grandparents have a calming influence, and babies generally wake up with noise. Chances are if you are working with families on a consistent basis – your cottage rental will host quieter guests.
4. Age can discriminate – however if you are answering Ads for “after prom” chances are you are connecting with high school aged teens – and that is a whole box of problems you don’t want to open. Let those opportunities go to a hotel or cottage rental where the owner/s are on site to act as chaperones.
5. Less is more with beds. If you want to keep your numbers low, don’t allow tents on the property and keep the amount of beds available to an occupancy that is reflected in your allowable numbers. Things can turn, even in situations where you are saying yes to a tent. Again, firm numbers up front. And anyone who enters the property, whether they are “technical” sleeping over or not, will have access to the dwelling, hydro, plumbing and furnishings.
6. Reward the ones worth rewarding. Find a way to treat a good guest really well and encourage a repeat visit. We have large families that stay all the time, and they are amazingly clean, quiet and respectful. Never party and always leave the cottage cleaner than when we welcome them on arrival day. They get good prices and freebies from us every year.
7. If your gut tells you something – listen to it! Chances are your instincts are spot on. Don’t be pressured to make a decision about someone if you don’t feel good about them. People who bully you into a decision might be rushing to close a deal because they are having trouble finding a place to host their party/cottage weekend.
Partying and lakefront are not a good combination when you have campfires, booze, and water combined. Be safe, be insured and be smart. Better to walk away from some quick cash, than spends thousands on restoration.
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