The owner with the ski-in/ski-out condo or beach-front cottage is bound to be popular. But what do you do when people you know and like come looking for a discounted or free vacation?

View from above of wooden utensil drawer above wooden floor in kitchen with white cabinets
Photo by Jarosław Ceborski / Unsplash

Being able to share your vacation rental with people you have a relationship with is one of the benefits of having a vacation home. However, doing so without carefully-considered ground rules that you’re both comfortable with lead to awkward situations, and even leave you feeling bitter or taken advantage of.

Defining Your Ground Rules

Ultimately, what you charge (if anything) and how you handle requests to use your vacation rental will be determined almost entirely by the relationship you have with the person asking.

However, the first rule of doing business with people you know is to make sure everybody agrees to the same framework; this initial step will help protect both your business and your relationships.

Don’t waive your contract

Getting people to sign a contract doesn’t really say “I love you”, but it’s a critical way to help safeguard your relationships.

Your contract sets out any fees and regulations for both you and the person you’re renting to. It means that if something goes awry, you both have an official document to refer back to and you both have the same initial information and understanding.

Be aware of the risk of cancellations

Even the most excited traveler can have something come up at the last minute, leaving your home completely empty.

As with typical rentals, you can always charge a cancellation fee and then apply it to the rental rate. The real question is: Would you be comfortable holding onto that money?

Have an open conversation with your guest about the risk of cancellation — including the impact it would have on you —  and define a mutually agreeable back-up plan. Ensure any alternative arrangements are reflected in your contract.

Ensure the property is ready for your next paying guests

Agreeing to let your friends clean up sounds like a great idea, until they forget to do it or you find out — from the disappointed guest who stays afterwards — that their standards are not what you aspire to.

The most straightforward solution is to follow your usual routine and ask them to cover your normal cleaning fees. At least arrange to have a property manager check on the property before the next guest shows up.

Protect your property from damage

It’s unlikely people you know will set out to damage your property. However, accidents do happen. Like the cancellation fee, the ideal is to follow your normal process for a damage deposit or insurance — but would you be comfortable collecting it?

Discuss it ahead of time with the person you’re renting to and find a solution you’re both comfortable with.

As much as you want to share your property with friends and family, your vacation rental is still an investment that needs to be protected; how much you want to protect it is up to you, but you need to be clear about what you can afford to lose before deciding the best approach for you to take.

photo credit: Aoife Maguire