by Ami Noss
At $200-500 or more, typical vacation home security deposits don’t run cheap---and for good reason: when you rent someone’s home, you’re being entrusted with the care of a major asset, often one that has emotional, as well as financial, significance for its owners. At the same time, it can be nerve-wracking to have a large amount of cash on the line while you’re letting loose and enjoying some downtime. To maintain your peace of mind regarding your security deposit, try following these suggestions:
1. Understand your rental’s required deposits and fees
The first step in avoiding the unpleasant surprise of paying more than you expected to for your vacation rental is to understand your rental’s deposit and fee structure. Some vacation rental contracts include non-refundable cleaning fees and/or pet fees. Best to know this ahead of time.
2. Know your rights
Read up on local laws regarding rental security deposits. Property owners are generally required to return deposits within a given length of time, (typically 14-30 days), and to provide a detailed list of any damages they intend to withhold money to repair. In the US, some states require property owners to provide actual receipts for expenditures they use the security deposit to cover. Also keep in mind that property owners can’t legally charge you for pre-existing damage, normal wear and tear, or for their general inconvenience.
3. Do a walk-through when you arrive
Before you unpack your suitcases upon arrival, tour the house and grounds. Note any issues in writing, and take photos as necessary. Contact the property manager or owner to report any damage that you don’t want to be held accountable for, preferably via email so that you have a dated, written record of the communication.
4. Put away the breakables
While most vacation rental owners are reasonably savvy when it comes to making rental-appropriate décor choices, you may want to stow any delicate or potentially breakable items, especially if you’re vacationing with children. Ditto anything that might invite destructive behavior, such as the decorative bowl of polished stones that your little ones might find perfect for tossing around.
5. Follow the policies outlined in the contract
Many vacation rental contracts allow property owners to keep your security deposit if you violate the house policies outlined in the agreement, regardless of whether or not the violation actually causes damage. Making sure to honor the rules regarding pets and the number of guests who can occupy the vacation rental at any given time is especially important.
6. If you break something, fess up
If you do accidentally damage something, call the property manager or owner as soon as possible. Be willing to replace small, easily replaceable items, or to call in repairmen as necessary. Promptly dealing with any issues will go a long way toward getting you your deposit back.
7. Clean up before you check out
The housekeeper is likely to be the first person to inspect the property after you leave. If you follow the checkout procedures properly, and tidy the home thoroughly, he or she will be much less likely to look for reasons to withhold your deposit---and you’ll avoid “excessive cleaning” fees.
8. Consider purchasing security deposit insurance
If you’re paying an especially large security deposit, you may want to consider buying a travel policy that includes Security Deposit Protection Insurance or Accidental Rental Damage Insurance. Purchasing this type of policy allows you to pay a small, fixed fee for the insurance instead of leaving yourself open for a potentially large rental repair bill if something goes wrong.
Ami Noss works for All Property Management, an Internet marketing service for property management companies. She loves the beach and frequently rents vacation houses on the Oregon Coast.