Most homeowners were thrilled last May and June when they learned of the increase in demand for longer-term bookings. What a gift, right? Well, yes and no.
Why multiple-week stays seemed so attractive
By early June, homeowners were just barely emerging from the very real concern that they might not even be able rent out their homes at all this season! They soon became aware that they’d have to go to extraordinary lengths to clean/disinfect their homes, launder their bedspreads and comforters, require cleaning and guest logs, and provide adequate airing and time between guests.
Bottom line: Owners were ecstatic to get inquiries for long-term rentals! What a great way to avoid multiple turnovers! They were happy to provide long-term guests with discounts and perhaps make other concessions (such as increasing their Internet capability, change bed configurations, etc.) in order to seal the long-term deal.
Important issues to consider
Here are some things to be aware of when renting long-term:
- Greater risks for homeowners: If any problems arise between you and your longer-term guest, there’s more at stake for both of you, financially and logistically.
- If they demand money back, it could be devastating to you if it becomes necessary to do so.
- If they cancel close to the time of their arrival, and you feel obligated to refund them even in part, you’re left scrambling to fill multiple weeks.
- You might risk losing some valued repeat guests.
- You lose the ability to access your home regularly in case there any maintenance issues or problems of any kind.
- Cleaning: Unless you insisted that your house cleaner continue to provide weekly cleaning during the longer stay, it was nearly impossible to adequately clean the house within the few hours of a normal turnover. A deeper, more time-consuming cleaning was necessary, negating any savings on cleaning costs.
- Increased use of your home, especially your kitchen and stove: Because so many events and activities were cancelled due to the pandemic, vacationers spent significantly more time IN your home than usual. Spending more time in and around the home translates to more wear and tear in general. Instead of eating out, they cooked at home on your stove and grilled more than ever, requiring more deep cleaning.
- More first-time renters: Several homeowners have told us that they saw an increase in first-time house renters this year. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it’s possible that they are not aware of vacationer protocols such as check-out requirements. Also, their expectations may be different (higher) if, for example, they are used to a hotel/inn experience.
- More trash: This season, the volume of trash at rental homes was significantly higher than normal due to vacationers eating at home so much more often. Many homeowners reported having to increase their number of pick-ups.
- More fastidious: Whereas a weekly guest might roll with an issue they have in your home, someone staying for multiple weeks is much more apt to demand that everything be fixed or provided to their liking.
- Occasionally refuse to leave: We have heard of a few instances in which a long-term renter refuses to leave, claiming they have no place to go. This is more likely to happen during the off season.
- MA Lead Paint law: Owners of a home built before 1978 must comply with the Lead Paint Law if they are renting their home for more than 31 days. This entails a lead paint inspection and letters of compliance.
- MA Security Deposit Law: For tenancies of 90 days or more, the landlord is required to hold in escrow the tenant’s security deposit in a separate, interest-bearing bank account in MA.
Steps you can take to avoid problems
Greater scrutiny of prospective guests: Increase your screening process to find out more about your guests and to ensure that they are a really good fit in your home. Research them online through Google and social media. Absolutely be sure to have a phone or video conversation with them prior to committing.
Research the reason for the long-term rental request: If a long-term renter refuses to leave at the end of their lease, a judge might be more compassionate if it is determined that the long-term tenant is using the residence as a primary home and “needs time” to find a new place to live. An eviction process could take months.
Meet with the prospective guests prior to booking: If at all possible, have them meet you at the home before you and they commit to the tenancy. Or meet virtually by Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime. This is the best way to avoid expectations that are not met.
Allow more time between guests for both cleaning and maintenance: In addition to the virus-caused need for extra cleaning, disinfecting, and airing, you (or your property manager) will undoubtedly need more time to check the home thoroughly and make any needed repairs or new provisioning.
Require regular cleanings: Insist that your longer-term guests allow, if not pay for, your cleaners to enter the home and keep it adequately cleaned and maintained.
Charge a higher security deposit: Due to your greater risks, you might increase your security deposit.
Consider tightening your lease: It might be worth having a lawyer take a look at your lease to ensure that you have adequate protection.