Owning an Airbnb is a popular way for people to earn extra money by renting out their space to travelers. As Airbnb hosts, we want our guests to enjoy their stay and leave the rental property when their time is up. However, there are times when things go terribly wrong. Imagine you rented out your space to a guest and when it is time for them to check out, they decide not to leave. What do you do?
Even though it’s not a common phenomenon, it does happen. Having Airbnb squatters is one of the risks of investing in Airbnb that hosts should beware of. For hotels, if a guest refuses to leave, the desk will probably call in security to have him/her thrown out. So, what do you do in such a situation as an Airbnb host with no security? What can you do to protect yourself from Airbnb squatters? The best thing you can do is to take steps to try and prevent it in the first place. Here are 5 ways for real estate investors to avoid dealing with Airbnb squatters that just won’t leave:
1. Know the Rental Laws
Many Airbnb hosts never look into rental laws when renting out their space. The first step on how to avoid Airbnb squatters is to familiarize yourself with your local rental laws. It is the responsibility of Airbnb hosts to know the landlord/tenant laws of their state to avoid finding themselves in a situation where the Airbnb guest refuses to leave. You need to understand how long an Airbnb guest can stay before they obtain tenant rights.
Typically, if a guest lawfully stays on the premises for more than 30 consecutive days, they acquire the legal rights as tenants (depending on the Airbnb regulations of your state). The landlord cannot do things like cutting off the power or changing the locks since it is against the law. This becomes part of the Airbnb guest rights. Evicting a guest at this point can only be done through a formal eviction process via a housing court. This process can take months to complete and costs a lot of money in legal fees. You will need to hire a real estate lawyer to carry out the procedure properly.
2. Don’t Allow Stays of 30 or More Days
As mentioned, in most states, a guest who stays for 30 days or more automatically acquires tenant rights. There are some honest Airbnb guests who will book stays for longer than 30 days and leave when their stay is up. However, to keep a temporary Airbnb guest from attaining tenant rights, ensure you keep the length of the rental under 30 days. If you agree to stays of more than 30 days in your unit, you risk being targeted by Airbnb squatters.
Always communicate to your guests that any arrangement is only for the term of stay that was agreed upon and the guest must vacate the premise when it’s up. In case of any extension, it should only be with a separate written agreement. If they still become Airbnb squatters, you then have the right to lock them out. This is one of your Airbnb landlord rights. It will be a crime for the guest to break in and enter, which can be reported to the police.
If you still desire to offer longer leases for your vacation rental property, ensure that guests cannot do an instant booking for the longer stays.
3. Make All Deals Through the Airbnb Platform
Another way to avoid Airbnb squatters is to always make all deals through the Airbnb platform. Although sometimes it may be tempting to make a few extra bucks by making a deal off of Airbnb, this can be a quick path to getting Airbnb squatters in your unit. Communicating with Airbnb guests outside of the Airbnb platform is risky. Conduct all your transactions on Airbnb so as to get the full support of Airbnb when you come across the nightmare of squatters. If an Airbnb guest tries to pressure you to communicate outside the platform, there is possibly something fishy going on.
Though it may be necessary for guests to have your number in case of emergencies or other critical issues, you should avoid communicating through text or other messaging services. Any communication outside of the platform should be followed up by a message through the Airbnb platform. This is to confirm any conversations you may have had outside the platform with the guest.
4. Sign a Contract with Your Guest
Signing a vacation rental agreement is also another measure that Airbnb investors can use to avoid dealing with Airbnb squatters. The agreement should clearly state all the terms and conditions of the stay. For instance, it should state the dates and times for check-in and check-out, payment terms, the rules of conduct that the guests are expected to follow, liability for any damages, etc. This will make your expectations clear to the guest so that there are no misunderstandings.
In case you end up having to go to court because of a guest refusing to vacate your short-term rental property, the agreement will give you a strong leg to stand on. You should also reiterate the rules in other places like your welcome books, your listing, and the initial check-in messages. You should not assume that you are protected by the Airbnb Host Guarantee since it doesn’t cover incidences of Airbnb squatters. The Host Guarantee only covers guest damages, vandalism, or theft. So be very thorough in outlining the conditions of the contract and communicating them to every guest.
5. Be Picky About the Guests You Approve
Even with a written contract, you may still end up with Airbnb squatters that don’t want to leave. Even though the contract helps to some extent, it does not offer full security when dealing with this type of guest. For this reason, as a vacation rental property owner, you should know how to spot an Airbnb squatter. The secret is doing your homework well before allowing someone to book the rental. Before renting out someone, make sure you first validate their trustworthiness. This is more critical when approving a longer-term stay. There are stories of Airbnb hosts renting out their space to guests they knew nothing about only to regret it later.
Some of the things you should look at when verifying an Airbnb guest include:
- Online Airbnb ratings and reviews
- Social media pages
- Their contact information
- Credit check
- Your general impression of them after discussion
The Bottom Line
Even though short-term rentals can provide real estate investors with a good income, they may face the risk of Airbnb squatters. Fortunately, stories of squatters are quite rare. However, it is important to take some practical precautions to make sure that your Airbnb guests don’t overstay their welcome. By following the above rules, you will be able to avoid Airbnb squatters, spot any potential ones, and protect yourself when you find yourself in such a situation.
Be sure to visit Mashvisor to learn more about Airbnb real estate investing.