Small Business

#

Intellectual Property

*Supplements for specific legal matters can be added at any time when you choose the monthly subscription option only. Supplements are not available on the annual subscription option at this time.

Monthly and annual membership fees paid for the current membership period are non-refundable and the contract remains active until the end of the Eligibility Period.

Affordable Legal Help For Everyday Issues

M
LPUS21;LGLPLUS;LPSP21;LSNESP
LPD2C22
 September 04, 2017

5 Ways to Avoid an Airbnb Rental Nightmare

Row of 3-story brick homes and Airbnb rentals

Short-Term Rental Guest Who Refuses to Leave

Imagine you rent out your house on Airbnb to a guest for a short-term rental. After part of the stay, the occupant stops paying the rent. And you can’t get him to leave. What would you do? Try to change the locks? Cut off the electricity? Call the police?

Unfortunately, this is exactly the dilemma a California host found herself in recently after renting out her Palm Springs condo on Airbnb. It was a 44-day rental. The guest paid in advance for the first 30 days, but never paid for the remaining time. And, at the end of the 44 days, the guest refused to leave.

To top it all off, he is threatening to counter-sue the owner on a variety of dubious grounds. And here’s the kicker, because the guest has occupied the unit for more than 30 days and has apparently met certain other conditions under California law, he has now acquired the legal rights of a tenant. This means that in order to evict him, the landlord must go through the courts to secure the eviction, a process that will potentially take months and cost thousands in legal fees.

California isn’t the only place where a guest can acquire the rights of a tenant after a certain period of occupancy (some articles about the Airbnb situation have referred to this situation as “squatter’s rights,” but legally speaking that term refers to a different concept called adverse possession). In New York City, somebody who has lawfully occupied a dwelling for 30 consecutive days gains tenant status and cannot be evicted except through the courts.

A New York City landlord who resorts to self help—for example, trying to lock out a tenant—faces penalties for the tenant’s expenses while he or she is locked out, as well as penalties up to three times the amount of the tenant’s expenses. On the other hand, if the occupant is present for less than 30 days (or whatever the applicable time period is where you live), their rights are more like those of a hotel guest than a tenant. This typically means that the owner need not file an eviction lawsuit to evict and has greater freedom to legally do things like change the locks or cut off the power.

What You Can Do

If you’re a host, there are steps you can take to reduce the chances of something like this happening to you.

  1. Do your homework. Before you rent to someone, try to validate their trustworthiness. In the Palm Springs case, the owner acknowledged that she knew almost nothing about the guest before renting to him—he had no previous reviews online. Employers use Facebook and other social media all the time to check applicants out before hiring them—there’s no reason you shouldn’t do the same with someone you’re inviting to stay in your home.
  2. Know the law. Familiarize yourself with your local landlord/tenant laws and understand how long a guest can stay before they attain the status of a tenant. But keep in mind that trying to get around the law by, for example, having your guest check out and check back in every 30 days, is not a good idea. At a minimum, it violates the spirit of the law, and in fact, it is illegal in some places and may result in a fine.
  3. Sign a contract with your guest. In it, clearly layout the check-in and check-out dates and times, the rules of conduct that you expect the guest to follow along with any special instructions, payment terms, and the fact that the guest will be liable for any damages resulting from their stay or refusal to vacate. The contract will not only give you a strong leg to stand on if you end up having to go to court, but it will also give you and the guest the opportunity to clarify expectations so that there are no misunderstandings, to begin with.
  4. Don’t assume you’re protected. If you host on Airbnb, don’t assume that the Host Guarantee will protect you. The Host Guarantee is designed to cover guest damages, theft, or vandalism, but not a refusal to vacate. In any case, read the fine print—there are a variety of requirements that you must meet to qualify for compensation under the Host Guarantee.
  5. Get a deposit. An upfront deposit helps ensure that if something does go wrong, you’ll have a financial buffer. (From a legal standpoint, it’s usually easier to keep money than it is to try to collect it.) If you do get a deposit, just be sure that you have a written contract (see #3) which makes it very clear under what conditions the deposit will or will not be returned.

Also check your local laws for possible limits on how much you can ask for as a deposit. Airbnb and other short-term rental sites are an important source of supplemental income for a lot of people, and fortunately, horror stories like this one are rare. By taking some sensible precautions you can help ensure that your guests don’t overstay their welcome.

LegalShield provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to LegalShield Members through member-based participation. Neither LegalShield nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation or advice. See a plan contract at legalshield.com for specific state of residence for complete terms, coverage, amounts, and conditions. This is not intended to be legal or medical advice. Please contact a medical professional for medical advice or assistance and an attorney for legal advice or assistance.

 

Related Content

Two people on couch holding a gay pride rainbow flag

LGBTQ: What to Do if You’re Denied Housing

Home. It isn’t just a roof over your head—it provides you with a place to center yourself and leave each morning and return to each evening. If it’s a happy one, it’s filled with memories and items that bring you joy. If it’s a safe one, it brings you belonging,...

4 roommates discussing their lease

9 Tips for Landlords Leasing to Multiple Tenants

Renting a single-family home to multiple tenants has become increasingly popular, especially in college towns and neighborhoods with a high cost of living. The tenants save money, and the landlords can walk away with considerably more income than they would from a...

3 roommates reviewing their rental lease on smartphone

Who Needs to Sign a Lease?

As real estate prices continue to soar, more and more Americans are forced to rent. This means, of course, signing a lease. This is not as simple as it sounds, especially when there are multiple occupants in a single property. So, for the protection of landlords and...