The Ultimate Guide to Guest Screening for Airbnb & Short-Term Rentals

In the short-term rental industry, guest screening is the key to successful and responsible hosting. But to some, guest screening means fewer bookings, lower revenue, wasted time and high overhead costs—an unappealing concoction that causes unnecessary stress. 

In reality, proper guest screening will actually save you time and money, while boosting your revenues. Without a process in place, your company, properties and property owners are left vulnerable to damage, fraud, parties, noise violations and criminal activity. It’s a sure-fire way to wind up with a hefty bill. And even if your property gets off scot-free, noisy or disrespectful guests can destroy your company’s reputation in the community, costing you in the long run.

Guest screening is the best way to protect yourself from incidents occurring in your suites. But not only that, by knowing exactly who’s booking your properties, you can actually increase your company’s revenue and decrease wasted efforts. Guest screening allows you to remove booking restrictions and accept last-minute reservations from high-paying travellers. Not every down-to-the-wire reservation screams disaster—leniency paired with guest screening can open the doors to incredible guests. In turn, you’ll see fuller calendars and higher daily rates.

Most importantly, respectful guests make for better experiences for everyone involved. By hosting responsibly, you’ll be able to maintain relationships with your neighbours and building staff. At the end of the day, a credible property management company (with a good reputation) is more likely to attract new clients.

A good process for guest screening will alleviate you and your employees from the headaches of stressful and potentially damaging situations. You can make late-night noise complaints, parties and trashed suites a thing of the past. Instead, spend more time onboarding new properties, increasing profits and revenues, and building relationships with your guests.

The question is: How do you efficiently screen guests? When most people think of guest screening, they equate it with cumbersome background checks. But screening guests is a simple, non-intrusive, non-discriminatory and legal way to guard your operations. 

Download our guide to guest screening

Here’s how to do it: 

1. Set expectations

The first step in screening is to set expectations for the guest. To make sure the host and the guest are on the same page, find out why the guest is travelling and what their plans are in the city. This helps you get a sense of what type of guest they’ll be.

After you have that information, clarify your house rules and ensure the guest fully understands and agrees to them. It’s also important to confirm that the guest knows exactly what they’ve booked (a rental suite in a residential area, not a hotel). By setting expectations with the guest, you have a much better chance of weeding out those who don’t agree with your booking terms, instead locking down good guests and 5-star reviews.

2. Confirm details

Next, you need to confirm the guest’s reservation details. Verify their story with a little fact-checking. Have them tell you their name, contact information, and exactly how many guests are coming. Look out for any discrepancies or details that don’t add up. Two guests staying in a three-bedroom on a Saturday night during a big event sends an immediate red flag.

Confirm with the guest whether or not there will be additional people staying overnight, and if so, register the extra guests. Make sure to get everyone’s information—names, phone numbers and email addresses. Asking for these details will protect your properties against costly incidents.

3. Research online

Check out the guest’s online presence to learn more about them. Try googling the guest’s name and phone number, track down their social media accounts and carefully examine their booking profiles.

4. Verify IDs

5. Validate payment

Along with their ID, the guest should also provide their credit card information for validation. It’s important to verify that the credit card isn’t fake or flagged as stolen—short-term rentals are prime targets for credit card fraud. To guarantee payment, have guests pay 100% of the booking fee up front, then process the payment immediately.

6. Collect security deposits

Even if the guest’s ID and payment checks out, accidents happen in the short-term rental industry. You can’t be left on the hook for a damaged apartment. Guests need to be held accountable for their actions. That’s why you should always collect a security deposit from the guest. If something is broken, you won’t be held responsible. Collecting security deposits will also deter guests who are booking your property for a party.

Download our guide to guest screening
7. Sign rental agreements

Every guest who books with you should sign a rental agreement, committing to your house rules and standards. This keeps the guest accountable for their actions. 

8. Pay attention to high-risk properties & dates

During the reservation process, identify and monitor higher risk properties. Typically, properties with a high occupancy are targeted for parties. If a guest is trying to book a high occupancy suite, double check their details. Watch for younger groups from nearby communities who book for a single night stay. It is particularly important to be vigilant during any big, city-wide events. People tend to book short-term rentals for parties around holidays like New Year’s Eve, Labour Day weekend and any other special festivities.

9. Monitor the stay

To make sure all of your bases are covered, set up in-suite noise sensors. That way, if noise levels exceed a certain threshold, you can deescalate the situation before it gets out of control. On the other hand, a spike in volume could be as innocent as someone watching TV too loudly—before you call security, get in touch with the guest to reiterate the house rules.

10. Cancel suspicious reservations

If the guest disagrees with your booking terms or doesn’t reply to your messages, you should offer them a cancellation free of charge, including all booking fees. This will ensure that unwanted guests don’t clog your calendar, keeping it open for good guests.

With an effective guest screening process, you should be certain that the guests are who they say they are. Don’t lose sleep worrying about your property. Have confidence in your guest screening, and trust your decisions.

Or try Autohost

Taking these steps will ensure your property doesn’t end up as a highlight on the evening news. But checking all of these details can be time consuming and leaves a margin for error. That’s why you need Autohost. Powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, Autohost uses hundreds of tests and data points to collect and validate guests’ IDs. Before guests are confirmed, Autohost ensures they sign a rental agreement and provide a security deposit.

If any information seems suspicious, Autohost flags the reservation as risky, notifying your team and providing suggested actions. When you’re protected by Autohost, you can drop your booking restrictions and accept last-minute reservations. By trusting in the process, you’ll enjoy the highest average daily rates you’ve ever experienced.With its thorough guest screening, Autohost saves you an unparalleled amount of time. Don’t waste hours searching a guest’s name on social media. Instead, devote more time to expanding your property portfolio and bringing in higher revenues.Guest screening is the best way to protect yourself against liabilities. Even one incident can be detrimental. So, why take the risk? Make sure you know exactly who’s renting your property.

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For more information on Autohost, check out our blog on why we built Autohost.

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