You want to protect your short-term rental business from the risk posed by destructive or even criminal guests. One best practice is to run background checks on potential bookings, something offered by many online travel agencies (OTAs).
But, unless you’re willing to go deeper, a standard background check from a company like Vrbo can be more security theater than an effective safeguard.
You could try manually screening your guests but that’s time-consuming and imprecise, allowing unconscious biases and gut feelings to inform decision making, without really alleviating risk. This could even cause loss of potential revenue as you reject potentially great guests out of fear.
So, if you can’t rely on Vrbo background checks, what can you do to protect your investments and reputation as a responsible rental operator? This guide explains how Vrbo background checks work and what steps you can take to avoid Vrbo scams.
What do we mean by background checks?
Background checks are used by rental companies—like Vrbo, Airbnb, HomeAway, and Booking.com—to vet guests and hosts to see if they have a criminal record. In order for this sort of limited check to work, the guest has to be providing their legitimate identity. Even then, these sorts of checks are costly to run in most countries and so most OTAs are unable to run them on international guests.
Background checks like this help rental companies to appear responsible to local authorities, who often scrutinize short term rentals, and can help to ease concerns for both hosts and guests who are assured that some level of due diligence has taken place.
But while these background checks can put minds at rest and provide some minimal barrier entry for the most obvious (and lazy) fraudsters and scammers, they’re next to useless when it comes to anticipating which guests might engage in more ‘gray’ behavior, like breaking your house rules to throw a party.
They’re also pretty ineffective at anticipating ‘dark’ behavior, like drug dealing or sex trafficking, as professional criminals are usually sophisticated enough to use false identities that make detecting them more difficult.
Both these types of bad guests, undetectable for most basic background checks, can put your investment at risk and damage your reputation. Plus, doing what you can to prevent this behavior in the local community around your properties is also the right thing to do.
Only by performing more in-depth guest screening can you confidently prevent these guests from taking advantage of your property, but if you put the right measures in place, you’ll be able to accept even last-minute reservations with confidence to maximize your occupancy rates and revenue.
VRBO Verification Process
The verification process on VRBO is a necessary step in ensuring the security of both parties in a rental transaction. It adds an extra layer of confidence when renting your property to guests. However, it’s essential to understand what this process entails to get a clear picture of the extent of its reach and limitations.
The VRBO verification process is primarily about confirming the identity of the guests to ensure that they are who they claim to be. This process involves verifying the guests’ personal information, such as their name, physical address, and birth date, using a government-issued ID.
To acquire a “Verified Identity” badge on their VRBO profile, guests must submit their government ID for verification. This process is optional for short-term bookings unless the host specifically requests it.
In addition to verifying personal identification, VRBO has a system in place to identify and eliminate fraudulent user accounts, which adds another layer of protection. This system scans for suspicious activity and inconsistencies in user information and behavior to flag potential fraudulent accounts.
However, it’s worth noting that while this verification process may provide some reassurance, it does not guarantee the intentions or behavior of the guests. For instance, a guest with a verified identity could still break house rules or cause property damage. Therefore, while the VRBO verification process is a valuable tool in identifying potential risks, it should not be the only security measure hosts rely on.
It’s also important to remember that VRBO doesn’t require in-depth background checks by third-party vendors for bookings. While some hosts may choose to request this extra layer of verification, it’s not a standard procedure for all transactions.
So, what does this mean for you as a host? It’s crucial to understand the limitations of the VRBO verification process and not solely depend on it as a security measure. It would help if you consider implementing additional screening procedures to ensure the safety and security of your property and reputation as a responsible rental operator.
While the VRBO verification process offers some level of protection, it’s essential to be proactive in taking further steps to safeguard your property. This might include using tools like Autohost to examine guests’ digital footprints or installing privacy-safe noise monitoring hardware to mitigate risks.
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Does Vrbo do background checks?
Vrbo does perform basic background checks by verifying identification and checking for fraudulent user accounts. Vrbo takes the following steps to verify guest identification and check that they’ll be low risk for hosts:
Before Guest Stay (Upon Booking Request)
Before a guest makes a booking, they can complete the Vrbo ID Verification process to mark their guest profile with a “Verified Identity” tick. They do this by using government ID to confirm their name, physical address, birth date, and other personal information.
This process is similar to Airbnb background checks, which also use ID Verification. Though in both cases, this step isn’t required for short-term bookings. The host has to choose to request a government ID.
Vrbo allows third-party vendors to verify identity via more detailed background checks but they don’t require this level of verification to confirm a booking.
To make a booking, your guest will also agree to follow your House Rules, such as policies for parking, trash, and noise. Fellow Vrbo owners also complete Guest Reviews, which will mean prospective guests will come with a rating attached, provided they have a history of booking with the platform (which bad actors may not).
During Guest Stay
Vrbo suggests hosts install privacy-safe noise monitoring hardware so you can receive alerts if noise levels reach unacceptable volumes and stop any unauthorized parties before they get out of hand.
You’re also advised to report misconduct to Vrbo or contact authorities in the event of an emergency.
After Guest Stay
Vrbo offers liability insurance and property damage protection, though this limited coverage leaves property managers in limbo hoping insurance will cover any damage after the fact. And even if the damage is covered in full, you’ll likely experience downtime during repairs.
So, as with most things, prevention is the best cure—which means thorough guest screening in advance of booking confirmation.
What are the limitations of Vrbo’s background checking process?
As may be clear from what’s been written above, Vrbo’s background checks and guest verification policies are far from comprehensive and have some glaring limitations. Here’s a summary of some of the biggest:
ID verification isn’t enough
Great, Vrbo has verified your guest’s identity as authentic and accurate. Yet, this fact doesn’t mean the guest on the ID will walk through your door. The guest can use an altered, stolen, or forged ID with a fake user profile purchased from the darknet.
One homeowner we spoke to gave an ‘ID-verified’ guest access to their vacation rental only for the guest to steal everything from the home immediately after check-in. With incidents like this in mind, you can see how ID verification is not enough to protect your hospitality business.
IDs don’t explain guest intentions
Guests don’t have ‘felon’ or ‘rule-breaker’ stamped on their IDs. Vrbo background checks won’t reveal most of the dark, let alone gray, problems you could face.
At Autohost, we’ve discovered 90% of our hosts’ previous issues come from the gray category, which may seem minor but add up to major problems. Once backed by our guest screenings, property managers can catch this kind of issue before accepting a risky booking. No property manager should experience the death of their business by a thousand cuts.
Consider the following scenario. A couple with verified identities rents a Vrbo vacation home with two bedrooms. Because the home has an extra bedroom, they decide to invite over a friend who lives in the area. When the friend asks if she can bring her boyfriend, a person the couple hasn’t met, they give a tentative ‘yes’.
When the second couple arrives, they park on the street in violation of the Homeowners’ Association (HOA) agreement. The unknown boyfriend smokes cigarettes inside the home all night.
Not only does he inflict smoke damage to the property, but he burns holes in the couch’s cushions. The cleaning service fee costs more than usual to remove the smoke smell. This fee, plus furniture replacement, exceeds the property damage protection from Vrbo.
Late at night, the small group listens to loud music, and the neighbor complains to the HOA. Finally, the group has extra trash because of the get-together. They place a full trash bag on top of the trash can. At a later date, the HOA fines the property manager for the parking, noise, and trash violations.
This one night displays many gray-category issues brought upon by difficult guests. The guests’ small decisions led to large problems for the homeowner’s reputation as a neighbor.
The host had to spend extra time and money cleaning and fixing the damage. And let’s not forget the HOA fines. The property ended up with downtime waiting on the new couch, an item on backorder due to the pandemic.
Nothing in the above scenario could be predicted by a Vrbo background check. The homeowner could have avoided all these problems by screening their guests with a more intelligent automated tool based on more data points.
At Authohost, we check each guest’s digital footprint (email address, phone number, IP address, social media presence, etc.). This information sheds light on both the dark and gray unknowns. This way, you experience peace of mind through screening your guests for a better idea of their intentions.
Vrbo Party Policy
As earlier explained, one recurrent issue that’s often a gray area for many is unauthorized parties. Given the increase in “party houses” or unauthorized events in rental properties, it’s crucial to understand Vrbo’s stance on this and how hosts can protect themselves.
Vrbo’s Stance on Parties
Vrbo has a clear policy against parties and events in their listed properties unless explicitly allowed by the host. Any guests who throw unauthorized parties are violating Vrbo’s terms and conditions. This can result in penalties ranging from loss of the security deposit to eviction and even banning from the platform.
Why Are Unauthorized Parties a Concern?
Such events can be destructive for properties, causing damages that far exceed security deposits. There’s also the risk of noise complaints from neighbors, potential violations of local laws, and even the possibility of personal liabilities if anything were to go wrong, such as injuries.
Steps for Hosts
Clear House Rules: Ensure your listing explicitly states your policy on parties and events. This way, guests are aware from the outset what is and isn’t allowed.
Communication: A direct line of communication with your guests can be invaluable. Sometimes guests might not understand the implications or may mistakenly think a “small get-together” doesn’t count as a party.
Security Measures: Consider implementing security measures like noise monitors, which can alert you if the noise levels in your property exceed a certain threshold. Some hosts also invest in exterior security cameras (always respect privacy laws) to monitor the comings and goings without intruding on guests’ privacy.
Local Partnerships: Building relationships with your neighbors can be a boon. They can alert you if they notice unusually large gatherings or disturbances.
Deposit and Fees: Ensure you have a substantial security deposit in place, and clarify the conditions under which part or all of it might be withheld. Some hosts also implement an additional fee structure for authorized parties to cover the extra wear and tear on the property.
Vrbo offers two distinct insurance policies aimed at safeguarding hosts against potential losses: the Vrbo Property Damage Protection and the Vrbo Liability Insurance. The Property Damage Protection is designed to cover accidental damages by guests to the rented property, be it broken furniture or stained carpets. Depending on the plan chosen by the host, this can offer coverage from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
On the other hand, the Vrbo Liability Insurance provides hosts with protection in case a guest files a claim for injuries sustained during their stay. While these insurance options can give hosts an added peace of mind, it’s crucial to delve into the specifics of each policy to understand the coverage extent and any limitations. Leveraging Vrbo’s insurance alongside other proactive measures can help hosts create a comprehensive risk management strategy for their rental business.
Is VRBO Better Than Airbnb For Hosts?
Deciding between VRBO and Airbnb can feel like a toss-up. Both platforms offer incredible opportunities to monetize your property, and they’re both popular among travelers. However, depending on your priorities as a host, you might find one better suited to your needs than the other.
VRBO tends to attract a more mature audience, typically families or older couples who often book longer stays. This can translate to steadier income and less turnover, which could be beneficial for hosts who prefer less frequent changeovers. Furthermore, VRBO operates on an annual subscription model for hosts, which means there are no booking commissions deducted from your earnings. This contrasts with Airbnb, which charges a percentage per booking. If you’re a high-volume host, this could mean more money in your pocket.
On the flip side, Airbnb boasts a larger user base, which could lead to increased visibility for your listing. Airbnb’s review system, which allows both hosts and guests to leave reviews, also fosters a sense of community and trust. However, Airbnb’s fee structure can take a larger chunk out of your profits compared to VRBO, as they charge hosts a service fee for each booking.
That being said, it’s not a case of one platform being universally better than the other. It largely depends on your individual hosting style, property type, location, and personal preference. It might be worth listing on both platforms to maximize your property’s exposure and compare your experiences with each. Then, you can make an informed decision about which platform aligns best with your hosting needs and goals.
In conclusion, while VRBO might provide better value in terms of fee structures and attract guests looking for longer stays, Airbnb can offer increased visibility and community engagement. As a host, consider what matters most to you, and make your decision accordingly. Regardless, diversifying your online presence across platforms might be the most effective way to ensure your property’s success in the booming short-term rental market.
How to combat the limitations of Vrbo background checks
We recommend property managers use guest screening services rather than simple background checks. Autohost offers automated, comprehensive guest screenings. We fill in the gaps of Vrbo’s background checks. Optimize profitable transactions and remove the risk of harmful bookings. To know your customer (KYC), apply the Autohost difference.
What is guest screening? We examine each reservation’s risk level through unbiased data points. For example, we confirm guests’ IDs and note credit card chargebacks. We also screen social media content to look for warning signs of fraud.
Next, we contact the guests to confirm their information and intent. This step is similar to the way an Airbnb host asks guests questions. You can require the guests to sign a legally-binding rental agreement and pay a security deposit.
The couple in the above scenario would have thought twice about inviting people over. These guests would’ve also agreed not to allow smoking in the rental, so they’d be more careful to avoid serious consequences for violating their rental agreement.
Finally, the security deposit offers coverage for fees incurred by difficult guests. In fact, you can determine the amount for the security deposit based on a transaction’s risk level.
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Limit liability and accept bookings with confidence
Vrbo’s shallow background checks can lead to problems for property owners. Without data-driven guest screenings, you won’t know which risky bookings to turn down. For example, party-related damages can cost more than a guest’s deposit. Or neighbors can submit noise complaints caused by guests’ unidentified friends.
Worse, a felon could steal a minor’s ID and use the identity to create a booking. These disruptions influence your reputation and profit. Not to mention, these issues waste your valuable time. Autohost’s automatic services reduce these disruptions and allow you to accept even last-minute bookings with confidence so you can maximize the potential of your properties.
Frequently asked questions about Vrbo background checks
How does vrbo work for check-in?
VRBO offers a flexible check-in process, which can vary based on the host’s preference. Some hosts provide a key or a key code for a lockbox, allowing for self check-in. Others may arrange to meet guests in person. Details for check-in, including the time and process, will be clearly communicated to guests in their booking confirmation or through direct communication with the host. Always refer to your booking details or contact the host directly for specific check-in instructions.
How strict is Vrbo?
Vrbo isn’t very strict in terms of enforcing ID verification checks for its guests. They don’t complete background checks outside the personal information a guest provides. A host can request a government ID to stay at their vacation rental site but this is completely optional.
Does Vrbo check credit?
Vrbo doesn’t check a guest’s credit or history of credit card chargebacks. So, if a property owner doesn’t screen a guest for credit card history, they can lose money to fraudulent credit cards.
Does Vrbo check age?
Vrbo checks age by verifying the birthday provided on a guest’s ID. However, ID verification is not required to submit a booking request and it’s far from foolproof even when a guest does provide ID because most sophisticated criminals will use false or stolen ID to avoid detection.
Does Vrbo require an ID?
Vrbo doesn’t require an ID for booking, except in Spain. The website only encourages a traveler to confirm their identity to build trust with a host. When a guest opts into the ID verification process, Vrbo verifies their identity for accuracy and authenticity, though this doesn’t do anything to protect against people who would use a fake or stolen ID.
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