When you open your door to strangers, especially in the short-term rental industry, you never know who you’re going to get. While you can hope for quiet, respectful guests who make the hosting experience run smoothly, every once in a while you’ll get hit with problematic ones—guests who make too much noise, disrupt your neighbors and trash your property.
But how do you identify these guests before it’s too late? Let us tell you—it’s not easy. Troublesome guests slip through the cracks all the time. That’s why we’ve come up with the following tips on how to spot unwanted guests during the booking process.
Examine the guest’s reservation
Before you confirm a reservation, carefully read over the details of the guest’s booking. The warning signs that identify an unwanted guest are usually subtle, but they are present. You just have to know what to look for.
Watch out for guests who are booking properties larger than they need. For instance, one couple does not need to rent a three-bedroom property. They’re better off in a one-bedroom. It’s cheaper and it should meet their needs. If a guest is booking an unnecessarily big property, they could be planning to sneak in unregistered guests or throw a party. Make it clear to the guest that anyone entering the property must be registered with you.
Next, beware of guests who book for one night on a weekend. While this isn’t an immediate red flag, it is worth looking into. Single night bookings on a weekend are prime times for predrinks and parties. To clarify their intentions, follow up with the guest and ask about their travel plans. If a guest gives vague answers or can’t get their information straight, cancel the booking.
Finally, keep track of what’s going on in your city. When there’s a major event happening, like a film festival or a parade, demand for rentals skyrockets. Though great for revenue, it also means you’re dealing with guests who are in town to celebrate. Up your prices and monitor your bookings during these events to catch guests who are just looking to party.
Research the guest online
Channel your inner sleuth and look into the guest’s online presence. Search for reviews of the guest written by other hosts. This will reveal whether the guest was respectful of the host’s property and rules.
Next, check out their social media accounts. Scroll through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to verify the guest’s identity. If you can’t find them on social media, try googling their name and phone number. Not being able to track down an online presence doesn’t mean you should automatically cancel the reservation, but you do want to be wary of identity fraud. Follow up with the guest to gather more information.
Check the guest’s ID
It may make you feel like a bouncer outside of a nightclub but this is the best way to confirm whether the guest is legitimate or not. Have the guest email you a copy of their driver’s license or passport to keep on file.
Once you receive the document, ensure that it belongs to the person who made the reservation. It’s also a good idea to cross-reference the ID with the provided credit card. Unless it’s an HR booking for an employee, the guest who’s staying at your property should be the one making the reservation. If the two names don’t match, it’s possible you’re dealing with either a fraudulent ID or a stolen credit card.
In case it is a fraudulent ID, examine the guest’s photo and personal information closely. Compare it to your own ID. If the head looks like it’s floating or the information doesn’t make sense, it’s likely a photoshopped image.
Finally, If you’re really concerned, you can check the guest’s name against criminal databases, like the FBI’s most-wanted list. This will reveal whether the guest is involved in any criminal activities.
Communicate with the guest
It may seem archaic, but getting on the phone with the guest and asking them questions is the best way to ascertain their intentions. With thoughtful conversation, you can confirm whether or not you’d like to move ahead with the reservation.
It’s a warning sign if the guest is dodging your calls and won’t speak to you. Insist on speaking over the phone rather than letting them hide behind emails and texts.
Once you have the guest on the phone, don’t be too aggressive—this isn’t an interrogation; it’s your chance to get to know them. Enquire about their reason for traveling, where they’re coming from, who they’re arriving with, and what their trip itinerary looks like. Be wary of guests who are vague about their travel plans. It’s likely they’re hiding something.
Give your guest the opportunity to ask you questions. Tell them about the property, where it’s located, and what your house rules are. It’s important to set expectations with the guest so they know you won’t tolerate any misconduct.
Inspecting the details of every reservation, however, is a huge time commitment. That’s why software like Autohost exists, to streamline the screening process.
About the Author
This post was written by Autohost, a guest-screening system for hospitality providers. The intelligent software verifies guests to protect properties, owners and communities in the short-term rental space.