If you’ve decided to allow guests at your Airbnb or vacation rental, you’re joining the thousands of hosts across the globe who’ve loosened or adapted their policies to accommodate the growing number of guests that bring their animals with them on vacation. But what about everyone’s biggest fear — pet damage?
How to Protect Yourself from Vacation Rental/ Airbnb Pet Damage:
- Have a clear pet policy
- Charge a security deposit
- Screen guests and pets
- Have great vacation rental insurance
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Making a Clear Pet Policy: Dos and Don’ts
Even if you choose not to allow pets in your rental, guests will be allowed to bring service animals as defined in Airbnb’s Nondiscrimination Policy. You cannot prevent* guests from bringing an assistance animal unless there is an immediate threat to health and safety, which could include an allergy or an animal in the space that cannot be around other animals.
*According to Airbnb, you are allowed to ask a guest to remove their service animal if the handler cannot effectively control the animal or the animal isn’t housebroken.
If you have one of these valid health or safety concerns, you should communicate it clearly and respectfully to your guests. It is highly recommended to state these concerns in your listing, as guests are not required to disclose they are bringing a service animal with them prior to arrival.
Next, start by preventing pet damage at the source: the pet owner. If you have a strong, clear policy on what is and isn’t allowed to happen at your Airbnb, you can avoid confusion or miscommunication with guests bringing their animals along.
State your policy clearly in your listing description. Even though many people assume the default is “no pets”, some might not be aware that this is the norm and could show up with one anyways. If you do allow pets, make sure to state any size or other restrictions you want to impose (such as no snakes, reactive dogs, etc.).
You’ll also want to state whether or not you allow animals in certain areas of the house or on the furniture. If the space you’re renting out is shared, make sure to include that the animal cannot be off a leash or unattended in communal areas. It’s also a good idea to mention that the owner shouldn’t leave the animal alone in the rental at any time.
Finally, make sure guests are aware that they are responsible for cleaning up after the animal and rectifying any damage that may occur. In the case of a dog, this will include picking up waste outside. It is usually recommended to collect a security deposit if a guest is bringing a pet.
Charging a Security Deposit: How much?
You need to have insurance for your vacation rental to fully protect yourself from damages, but a security deposit is a simpler and faster way to handle most minor repairs or issues. Again, if you choose to allow pets, I highly recommend charging a security deposit to guests bringing their animals. It’s not that these people are more irresponsible, but accidents can (and will!) happen.
The amount you charge totally depends on your preferences and comfort level. A sky-high deposit will keep you safe and secure, but might deter most guests from staying with you, so it’s kind of a tradeoff.
Conversely, a deposit that is too low means you might find yourself in the awkward situation of having to request money after the fact. These requests are not always fulfilled, leaving you with the choice of making an insurance claim or footing the bill yourself.
A somewhat standard amount is around $250, but I’ve seen some as high as $500 or more! Obviously, it depends on your rental space, the value of its contents, the number of guests staying, and more.
Airbnb doesn’t collect this amount from guests, but places a hold on their credit card which is released as long as you don’t claim any damages against them. A guest still needs to have enough in their account to meet the hold amount, though, so a ridiculous number might result in a cancelled booking.
How to Screen Guests and Pets
The next step to preventing pet damage in your Airbnb is to carefully screen your guests (and their pets). If you choose to allow pets, make sure your Instant Book is turned OFF. This will prevent anyone from slipping through the cracks and give you enough time to conduct a mini-interview with your animal-loving guests.
Ask them to describe the pet(s) they’re bringing, including size, personality, and level of training. Ask if they’ve traveled before and if they are bringing something to confine the animal in such as a kennel. If you don’t want the animal left unattended, ask if they’re prepared to bring it with them wherever they go.
Finally, make sure they’re clear on your security deposit and rules regarding off-limits spaces and furniture (if applicable).
Rental Recon Tip: Don’t bother trying to screen dogs based on breed, it’s very hit or miss and you can’t assume their behavior based on something so variable. Instead, try to get a sense of how committed your guest is to properly handling the dog, why they need to bring the dog with them, and if they understand their liability for potential damage caused by their pet.
The BEST Vacation Rental Insurance
If your rental doesn’t have insurance coverage, get on that ASAP! Not only will your homeowners insurance not cover you in the event of damage from a guest or their pets, but they might also drop you entirely for violating their terms!
I always recommend Proper Insurance. They have great and flexible policies for the needs of just about everyone, and you can get your personal and commercial coverage all in one easy-to-understand policy.
Does Airbnb cover pet damage?
According to Airbnb’s website, their Host Guarantee may protect against damage caused by a guest’s assistance animal. They don’t go into specifics on whether it covers damage caused by pets, so it’s safe to assume they probably don’t.
Instead, you’ll have to use either a security deposit or your rental insurance to help out in case of damage caused by a guest’s personal animal. If you’re shopping for short-term rental insurance, check out my top choices HERE!
The security deposit is stored by Airbnb prior to and during the booking, and the hold placed on the guest’s account expires either 14 days after the booking or before the start of the next booking, whichever is sooner.
Can an Airbnb host charge extra for damages?
If the amount of damage done by a guest exceeds the security deposit (or there was no security deposit), the guest can still be charged for it. The process is a little more complicated, and you’ll have to go through Airbnb’s Resolution Center to resolve the issue.
Make sure you have proof of damage (ideally pictures or videos), and proof of the cost of replacing or repairing it as well. Airbnb is able to collect money from the guest even if they refuse the request to pay, but it can take a while and is not a guaranteed outcome.