Dreams of summer vacation are on the rise as COVID-19 vaccinations increase and people are motivated to travel safely and enjoy vacations they’ve been putting off for over a year. If you own a second home or a vacation property, you may be considering renting it out to generate extra income. Here’s what you need to know about renting to vacationers mid-pandemic, whether you are just starting out or have been in the short-term rental business for years.
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Where should I list my vacation rental?
Before you list your vacation rental, consider where renters are finding properties to rent in your region and how much to charge. Do your research and make sure that it’s legal to rent out your property and understand what steps and payments are required. Check with your city and county for regulations that might apply to you and your property, including any COVID-19 restrictions. Condominiums and HOAs may limit vacation rentals as well.
It’s important to know how involved you want to be in coordinating with your renters. You can consider listing your property on multiple marketplace platforms or just stick to one. Some second home owners choose to delegate the renting process to a third party property manager. The property manager takes a portion of your income in exchange for finding renters and making sure the home is cleaned and maintained after each use. If you don’t hire a property manager, you’ll have to get the keys to and from renters. Consider adding a key code combination lock to your door, which will make things much easier for everyone.
Do I need short-term vacation property insurance?
Even if you choose to use a third-party marketplace like Airbnb or VRBO, you could still be liable for any injuries or damage to your second home caused by a visitor or renter, and your standard homeowners’ insurance may not apply. You will want to make sure your current insurance covers rental properties. The policies are often available from most insurance carriers and can be purchased as add-on policies. There are also insurers that specialize in vacation rental properties. Check with local property managers and realtors for insurance recommendations.
What safety features should be included in a vacation rental?
If you have short-term vacation property insurance, you might consider contacting your insurer for a list of safety features and devices that you should install and include in your rental. Some of the most common safety features include:
- smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and alarms
- fire extinguishers
- first aid kit
- comprehensive outdoor lighting
- secure door, sliding door, and window locks
- enhanced cleaning procedures in line with COVID-19 guidelines
- enhanced cleaning supplies for guest use, such as hand sanitizer and extra unused and disposable face masks
While laws and regulations often require smoke alarms, an alarm system will notify the fire department and police while you are gone. You may also get a discount on your insurance for having these systems in place.
If you have a pool, spa, jacuzzi, or any other water-based feature on your property, make sure that it is secured by either a fence or a safety cover. Small children and animals can quickly drown, and renters may not be aware of the dangers. Before renting out your property, make sure all hazards are mitigated or at least marked. For example, you may want to make sure that any household cleaners or chemicals are stored in a safe location, away from tiny hands.
A good tip is to be overly communicative with signage or written instructions about how to operate machines like washers and dryers, dishwashers, jacuzzis, or fireplaces.
Even the most conscientious renter has been known to accidentally damage property. While it is important that your rental property not be bare and empty, too much clutter can be distracting, prone to loss, and hard to clean.
What are some tips for cleaning vacation rentals during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cleaning is essential in keeping renters and guests safe. It is important to follow guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as any state and local government guidelines. For instance, it is important to not only thoroughly clean before a renter or guest stays at your property, but to also disinfect all high touch surfaces. Cleaning gets rid of surface dirt and debris, but disinfection uses chemicals like bleach to actually kill germs that can be harmful to guests.
If you are renting out your property to multiple guests, back-to-back, consider allowing 24-72 hours between reservations for proper cleaning and disinfecting. If you have a property manager, now is the time to get on the same page about summer plans, increased cleaning protocols, extra time between reservations, self or remote check-in procedures, and other COVID-related issues that are specific to the state and local regulations that apply to your vacation rental property.
Are there ways I can minimize tax liability from rental income?
You will not need to report rental income if you rent out your home for 14 or fewer days during the year. If you rent for more than 14 days, you must report all of your rental income, but you can deduct many of your expenses. To deduct your rental property expenses, you must determine which expenses were personal and which expenses are related to the rental property.
Consider contacting an insurance broker and a tax advisor to understand how the rental property will impact your taxes and overall liability. Rental property owners are essentially running a business, and so it may also benefit you to consider incorporating your rental property business for tax and liability purposes.
Rent Confidently with Rocket Lawyer
Rocket Lawyer has you covered with customizable rental documents for your every property management need. Lease documents can be signed digitally, making remote agreements affordable and easy to manage. If you need to consult with an attorney, that’s easy too. Reach out to a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney for answers to your questions and advice tailored to your specific needs.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.