Renting Out Your Home To Strangers? Prepare For The Worst & Hope For The Best

You’ve opened up your home to perfect strangers, not out of the mere goodness of your heart, surely, but because it’s a way to make some cash through Airbnb, Home Away From Home or other rental sites while you’re not using your dwelling. But what if those guests turn out to be worse than the monsters in the closet — what if they bash holes in your walls or turn your domicile into a brothel?.

FindLaw.com points out a few of the most nightmarish scenarios that have been reported, as sort of a list of things you could possibly face in your darkest nightmares. To be sure, these are extreme examples, but serve as a caveat to prepare yourself before handing over the keys:

Renters-turned-pillagers: One woman in San Francisco had locked her closet door to keep her valuables safe. Renters made short work of that paltry defense, however, stealing her passport, cash, credit card and grandmother’s jewelry that she had hidden inside. Her birth certificate and social security card were photocopied, and her stash of electronics including a camera and laptop were pilfered.

A secure lockbox is a good bet here, if you don’t want your identity stolen. Airbnb does offer a $50,000 guarantee that covers loss of property or damage to a home, but you should also insure any individual, irreplaceable valuables yourself. Check with your insurance provider as well, to see what (if anything) is covered under home or renter’s insurance should something like this happen.

Home sweet brothel: Two women in Stockholm came home and found that their place had been used as a temporary brothel. Police left a polite note saying the dwelling had been raided, catching “two call girls in flagrante delicto with clients.” At least the homeowners/renters weren’t held accountable in this situation. We have no tips to ward against home brothelization, besides crossing you fingers super tight and vetting potential renters as thoroughly as is humanly possible.

The owner should know he or she is renting the place: A San Jose man rented an apartment in Berlin, and reportedly got a knock on the door from the real owner who, it turned out, wasn’t renting the apartment. Some clouds do have a silver lining, however, as the owner let him stay without having to pay.

And of course there was the recent story of a man who was found to be in violation of New York City’s law against turning residential buildings into hotels. Airbnb came to his defense, but he was still fined $2,400.

It isn’t just the homeowners suffering at the hands of strangers — renters have come across some bad experiences as well. Those things have happened, to be sure, and we want to hear about them.

Send us your own horror stories to tips@consumerist.com with the subject line: HOME SWEET HOME. And hey, we’re equal opportunity people over here at Consumerist — if you’ve had a particularly outstanding, glorious and wonderful experience being the renter/rentee, or even some handy tips that have enabled you to rent out your home with success, let us know about those too.