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Vacation Rental 101

Everything you've always wanted to know about Vacation Rentals

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Vacation rentals have been around for years and are gaining popularity among vacationers. It’s no wonder, because whether you rent a cottage, condo or home, renting a vacation property provides all the comforts of home along with great value.

If you think that renting a vacation home is reserved for the rich, think again. The price is often comparable – or even less – than a hotel room. That is particularly the case for large families who are left with few options in a hotel. They must either cram a cot into a regular room and share a very crowded bathroom or break the budget by booking two rooms. Plus, families can save additional money when they rent a vacation home by eating some meals in.

The benefits don’t end there. Rent a vacation home and everyone has their own bedroom… and often their own bathroom too! Pools are an added plus in many Florida vacation homes – and they don’t come with screaming kids (unless you add your own). Most vacation homes come fully, and beautifully, furnished. Many include bed linens, towels and fully-equipped kitchens. All you bring is your clothes, personal items and food.

Renting a vacation home has got to be the most relaxing and convenient vacation experiences ever. No traipsing down a hallway for ice, no slamming doors, loud voices or flushing toilets waking you at midnight and no getting up early for a stale continental breakfast. Instead, you can enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee and a bagel by the pool in the morning… in your bathrobe. I bet you’ve never considered doing THAT at a hotel.

Still, renting a vacation property is different than reserving a hotel room. I had a lot of questions about rentals, so I recently posed those questions to Linda Hennis-Saavedra*, VP, Sales and Marketing for AAA SunState Management in Central Florida. She was willing to answer my questions and share her expertise in the industry. Hopefully, this will answer some of your questions as well.

Q: Are there any Florida or local regulations that govern the vacation rental industry?
Yes, the State Department of Business Professional Regulation governs short term rental properties. There are certain requirements that every vacation home must meet to be a short term rental, including being licensed.

The requirements include criteria for occupancy (minimum number of beds, pillow covers and mattress pads, etc), safety (exit/egress plans, fire extinguishers, 9-1-1 instructions, secondary door locks, emergency lighting, etc), and sanitation (State Statue postings about cleanliness and sanitation). We go one step further and provide information books with guest friendly instructions for air conditioning use, storm/hurricane information, local maps and attractions, emergency information, etc.

Violations of DBPR code can result in hefty fines and suspension/cancellation of an owner’s license to operate as a short term rental. The State and County, which regulates the taxing portion of short term rentals, takes a pretty strong position with enforcement.

Q: Is there a local, regional or statewide vacation rental property association?
Yes. I can speak specifically about the Central Florida Property Management Association (of which we are a member). The CFPMA has a code of ethics that all members must follow to maintain good standing.

Q: I see the rates specified are daily, and you mention multi-home rentals, but do you have discounted rates for weekly or monthly rentals?
Weekly rates are typically the same as nightly. Monthly rates are discounted and the rate would be determined by the dates needed. Yes, some dates (peak season/holidays) do have minimums. It isn’t uncommon for some property management companies or vacation homeowners to mandate a 5-7 night minimum year round. In fact, it has become a standard practice. We do not subscribe to that requirement currently and attempt to accommodate all rental requests – whether one day or 111 days.

Q: While hotels usually only require just a credit card authorization or one night’s room charge in advance to reserve a room, I see that a 50% deposit is required at the time of the reservation. Is this an industry standard, or specific to your company?
Although specific to our company, it is also pretty standard in the industry. If you view most Web sites, you’ll find similar terms.

Q: Do you charge a reservation fee? If so, is that a flat fee or a percentage?
No, we do not charge a reservation fee, but some companies do.

Q: What taxes are added?
State and County taxes are applicable.

Q: Is there an exit fee? Is that a flat fee per unit, or does it depend on which unit or the length of stay?
We do not charge an exit fee and I am unfamiliar with the term. There is a cleaning fee if you don’t stay a minimum number of days – five-day rentals are standard. Anything less and the guest/renter pays for the cleaning of the home which is different than the hotel industry.

Can you bring pets or smoke in a rental home? The answers on page 2.

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