Picture this scenario: guests have just left your property, you’re cleaning and preparing your rental for the next arrivals, and suddenly you realize that a couple of small things have disappeared, such as a spoon or a hand towel. In itself, it’s not too big of a loss, but it does involve replacing whatever has been stolen from you. If this occurs often, the cost of running your vacation rental will gradually increase over time.
Of course, you can always be protected by asking for a security deposit, so you have the funds to replace those stolen items, but it does still mean losing time running to the store between each guest turnover. Also, taking part of the deposit may not result in good reviews. Besides, guests can even deny taking some items from your property. Naturally it’s unfair, they steal from you and you get a negative review, but that’s how it goes sometimes.
So what are the best measures to take to prevent your guests from stealing?
Ways to Prevent Airbnb Guest Theft:
1. GET A HEAD START
Hosts not only have to be wary of scams and protect their rental from damages, but also from guests who tend to help themselves from something that isn’t theirs. Having a head start, and doing your bit before allowing guests to stay in your rental will prevent troublesome guests from potentially stealing.
There are also many ways to screen your guests beforehand, such as speaking to them on Skype prior to their arrival and doing some online research. Are they really who they say they are? Likewise, there are red flags to watch out for, for instance, if they are hesitant in using your preferred payment method or they use email addresses with temporary email services like Mailinator, Yopmai, etc. Be sure to check that the guest’s name and email correspond to one another. If there are any discrepancies here, the guest could be using a fake identity.
2. LEGAL PAPERWORK
It’s recommended to have rental agreement contract which includes the guest’s responsibilities when staying in your rental and the consequences of taking an item from the property.
House rules should also be covered, which explicitly state which items are intended for guests’ use and areas are out of boundaries.
Sometimes guests think that because you put an item at their disposal, it’s automatically theirs. By having these rules stated in a contract and signed by the guests, they’ll acknowledge what is expected of them. So if they do steal, they are fully aware of the legal consequences.
In addition, asking for a security deposit in advance is a precaution in terms of protecting yourself against theft. Not only will it cover the costs if somewhere were to happen, but guests will also feel a greater sense of responsibility for the property.
3. MAKE AN INVENTORY
To keep track of every item and piece of furniture, it’s highly recommended to make an inventory of everything inside the property, no matter how big or small it is. Add photographs to this inventory. Besides helping you to do the recount, it will be the only proof you’ll have that the item was there.
If you have to take part of their deposit and need to explain why, you have the evidence in both the photographs and inventory. Keep receipts for proof of purchase too, so if you need to go through insurance, you have evidence that you bought those items.
Review that everything in the inventory checklist is in the property before returning the deposit to the guests. If something goes missing or wanders off, you’ll notice straight away with this checklist. Lodgify’s vacation rental inventory checklist (available in PDF download), allows the guests to sign and acknowledge the state of each item and furniture.
4. DON’T STORE VALUABLES
Certainly, do not leave any valuables or anything sentimental in your vacation rental property. Anything that is irreplaceable or worth high value shouldn’t be there in the first place. Even if you have trust in your guests, and have taken all the necessary precautions, it’s not worth the risk.
5. PROVIDE GIFT ITEMS
Sometimes guests take something from a rental home simply because they want a souvenir of their holiday. To avoid this you must understand why they do it and fulfill that need before they decide to satisfy themselves.
Providing guests with a mug, postcard or a key ring about the area will act as a souvenir. A welcome pack can also give guests something they are looking for. Travelers will be less likely to steal if you’ve provided gifts for them as they may feel guilty.
6. INSTALL A HOME SECURITY SYSTEM
Implementing a home security system will also protect your rental when it’s vacant.
Install security cameras surrounding your property and outside each exit door. That way, if your guests decide to steal your flat-screen TV or even all your furniture, you’ll have the whole thing caught on camera.
Furthermore, if guests have invited additional travelers to the rental, you’ll notice straight away. Make sure these cameras are secure and that they can’t be easily tampered with. Always remember to disclose that cameras are installed in your rental.
7. MAINTAIN A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR GURSTS
Having a good relationship and communicating with your guests before, during and after their stay will build trust and is more likely to prevent theft. Guests are less likely to steal from someone they know and trust.
If you’ve always been there for your guests and they still stole from you, there are reasons behind it. Perhaps the guest was angry with their stay? Something didn’t go as planned, they were unhappy that some items weren’t provided such as toilet paper or dish soap. Always check in on your guests during their stay and make sure they are satisfied.
If you’re present when they check-out, as well as going through the inventory checklist, ask them the following questions:
- How was your stay? Did you enjoy your stay?
- Did you find everything you were looking for? Was anything missing?
- How could your stay have been different? How could it have been improved?
- Will you visit the area in the future? Would you like to stay here again?
This will also prevent a negative review, as you have already evaluated their stay with the guests themselves.
8. ADD YOUR LOGO ON ITEMS PRONE TO THEFT
Many people are less likely to take a towel with an engraved brand logo. If you offer home comforts to your guests so that they feel at home, such as a bathrobe or eye mask, mark your territory by putting your logo everywhere. That way, if they take them away, at least they’ll be advertising the business to you.
If you don’t have a vacation rental brand name yet or are in the process of coming up with one, check out these tips on choosing a vacation rental brand name.
If your guests are still stealing, despite having added all the security measures, then you must foresee these small losses as an extra expense, just like cleaning or advertising, and add it to your overall vacation rental business budget. Be that as it may, it’s always good to have a couple of spare items to replace as quickly as possible, in case you receive last-minute bookings too.
Remember there is so much you can do. The guest also has to do their part of not stealing after all.
These measures will help you avoid guest theft, whether it’s the small items or the big ones. Put these simple tips into practice and always protect yourself and your rental.