Airbnb squatters are among the things that hosts dread. As more and more people are becoming digital nomads, the fear of getting an Airbnb squatter is also increasing. Though you rarely end up with a guest who would just not leave, you must be prepared!
Educating yourself about squatters and how to evict an Airbnb squatter is important to ensure you do not lose money.
Who is an Airbnb squatter?
Traditional squatters have often used ‘adverse possession’ to work in their favor when claiming ownership of abandoned homes or properties. Adverse possession is a legal principle wherein people can acquire legal ownership of someone else’s property. According to the jurisdiction, they would either acquire possession or reside on the property for a certain period of time. In the rental industry, squatters are those who stay in the property for an extended period after the period they had agreed upon expires.
You know you have an Airbnb squatter when someone:
- has occupied or settled in your property or a vacant property without any legal claim to the property
- willingly or intentionally overstays past their rental agreement dates
- is essentially a trespasser legally
How to identify an Airbnb Squatter?
While ending up with an Airbnb squatter is rare, prevention is always better than cure. You must be able to identify a potential Airbnb squatter at the early stages itself. Only then would you be able to take appropriate action.
1. Check their Airbnb profile
If someone is trying to book a property with you, Check if their profile is properly filled in. It should have important information that can help you verify their rating and past experiences to avoid an Airbnb squatter.
a. Incomplete profile created just to book the stay
A guest might have a random picture, their name, and nothing else filled out in their profile. If it looks like they are doing the bare minimum just to book a stay, they might be a fake id trying not to provide much information. They might be a squatter, a party organizer, or something worse. It is better to go for guests who have their details filled in and can confidently present themselves to their potential hosts.
b. Email id that looks system generated
There are many softwares available online that can generate a throw-away temporary email id. People might use this to escape the marketing emails that most websites make mandatory. A squatter might also use these system-generated email ids to book a stay with you. You do not have their original email address, which might pose a problem when trying to evict them from your property. They can easily claim that they did not receive any communication. Make sure to check what email id a person is booking a stay from.
c. Blurry or unclear images
Blurry images do not give you the full picture of the person. You would not be able to attest to the person’s physical appearance and existence. Verifying their authenticity becomes that much more difficult. You will not be able to judge if they are genuinely trying to book a property or just trying to take advantage of a roof.
2. Examine the guests’ reservation
Sometimes, people’s bookings might help you identify a potential Airbnb squatter. Does a couple really need a 3-bedroom apartment? They may not if they are not bringing a horde of people you are unaware of. They might be getting ready to throw a party without your knowledge or are trying to sneak in more stuff for a longer stay.
Before you confirm a reservation, carefully read through the guests’ reservation requests. Look carefully at the kind of booking they are making and try to understand if they would need this booking.
Also, remember, there’s a first time for everything. It might genuinely be somebody’s first Airbnb booking. Their profile might not have a lot going on. This might not necessarily be a red flag. You can gauge this by just talking to them. Some might not have verified their profiles just because they might not know the importance of a verified profile.
At the same time, keep a track of what’s going on in your locality. If there is a major event, you might receive many requests for a 1 night’s stay. You should up your prices and maintain an appropriate Airbnb pricing strategy to ensure you can maximize your bookings during this surge in demand. You can use PriceLabs Dynamic solution to ensure that you automatically adapt your pricing to the demand in your locality.
3. Talk to the Guest
Talk to them and ask them a couple of questions to understand further about their vacation or stay and avoid a potential Airbnb squatter.
- Why are you traveling?
- Do you have an itinerary?
- Do you have any questions for me?
- Do you want to know anything about the locality?
This will help you identify green flag guests and also help you in crafting a personalized guideline and manual for them. Not only can you make your life easier but also improve their guest experience.
4. Check their online presence
Once you have their name, you should be able to check them online if they would potentially be an Airbnb squatter. Do a quick search and check if they have any apparent red flags that you do not want to entertain. You can also go a step ahead and check their ID as well online. This might make you feel weird, but it might be the last resort to confirm the guests’ legitimacy. You can ask them to send you any form of identification – driver’s license, passport, or any local identification cards.
Airbnb does automatically do the vetting process for hosts. Even then, it is always advisable to do your research on your guests as well.
How to deal with an Airbnb Squatter?
Evicting an Airbnb squatter might take different measures at different stages. However, there are some ground rules that you can follow to avoid an Airbnb squatter. Ensure you clearly communicate the consequences in the beginning to avoid confusion. Even the best Airbnb hosting tips and tricks may not prepare you for an Airbnb squatter.
You will host a wide variety of guests during your Airbnb hosting journey. There will be good ones, and there will also be bad ones. All you can do is ensure you are equipped to handle any situation. This does not mean that you take the extreme step with every guest. With experience, you can gauge each guest asking for a booking and differentiate the good from the bad. Go with your gut and take extreme steps only when necessary when dealing with an Airbnb squatter.
a. Opt out of Instant Booking
When you are subscribed to Instant Booking, you are not allowed to review the guest before accepting the booking. The booking is confirmed as soon as the guest makes the booking. This does not give you time to review the guests’ profiles and legitimacy before accepting the booking.
If you review after this and find the booking shady, you might have to cancel the booking. This does not show well on your end. You do not know if the process will be smooth as well.
The other side of the coin would be that you potentially lose out on automation. You would have to be more present and put a lot more energy and effort into getting each booking. This would also mean increased wait time for your guests. Consider this carefully before opting out of instant booking to avoid an Airbnb squatter.
2. Always screen the guest and the booking
It can not be stressed enough that screening your guests is the most important step in managing a vacation rental. This can help you avoid all sorts of horror stories – parties, Airbnb squatter, thrashers, illegal renters, etc.
You can choose only to host Verified Airbnb guests. These people have confirmed their identity on the platform by submitting government-issued identification. This will help you get one step of your verification out of the way. You now have a blanket of protection from Airbnb itself as well.
c. Request a security deposit
People wouldn’t pay up unless they were looking to obey the rules. Guests who plan to overstay are looking to stay for as long as possible at no cost. Requesting a security deposit will drive away those unwilling to pay extra for a comfortable stay.
Even if they overstay their welcome, you are protected financially by the security deposit they had paid. It is important, however, to make sure you are asking for a reasonable price that a genuine guest would accept.
Remember that a person booking your property for just a weekend might not be willing to pay the security deposit. This is when you would have to be flexible. A person coming in just for a conference or an event might not necessarily be an Airbnb squatter. It then becomes important gauge your guest before asking for a security deposit. This is where a contract comes in. You can still be protected without a security deposit.
d. Get a Vacation Rental Contract
Each state has a different law regarding tenants and guests. In California, if a guest has stayed for more than 30 days, they would qualify as a tenant. So if a squatter has stayed for 30 days, you would have to take them to the court to evict them.
You must document everything in the vacation rental contract. This way, both you and your guest are aware of everything. You should include your ADR, cancellation policy, check-in and check-out dates, late check-out fee, security deposit details, and any other details you think might be important to add. Remember to sign the contract before they enter your property for the stay if you believe this person might be a potential Airbnb squatter.
e. Maintain a timeline and proof to support it during eviction
The key is documentation when you have an Airbnb squatter at your property. Through the Airbnb app, make sure you document everything. Right from when they check in to when they check out. Have you had any issues during their stay? Document it on the app. This will create a paper trail in your favor. As long as you have proof of everything that has happened, a court of law would be able to help you. If you don’t, it immediately becomes hearsay, and the whole situation becomes tricky.
f. Get Airbnb squatter insurance
Most insurance companies have squatter insurance. Remember to get this included in your vacation rental insurance. Remember that not all real-estate insurance is the same. As a vacation rental owner, you have specific needs that need to be addressed.
It is important to get Airbnb squatter insurance. If you end up hosting a squatter, the insurance will help cover any losses incurred during an eviction.
It is important to act immediately if you are hosting an Airbnb squatter. It is a rare case but important to prepare for. Let’s hope you never have to face an Airbnb squatter. Even if you run a tight vetting ship, there might be a few leaks. You might end up hosting an overnight party that you never wanted or a squatter! If you find yourself in such a situation, don’t panic. Buckle up, and take immediate action.