Sun Sentinel Broward Edition
Use caution with short-term rentals
Boardcertified real estate lawyer Gary M. Singer writes about the housing market at SunSentinel.com/ business/ realestate each Friday. To ask him a question, go to SunSentinel.com/askpro
Q: I booked a weeklong rental of a beachfront condo through a popular travel website. After hearing a horror story from a friend, I’m worried now that I’ll get there and the place won’t be available. How can I protect myself? — Marlene
A: Short-term rentals can be a wonderful alternative to the typical chain hotels. But you are right to be concerned. Even when booking through well-known websites, take steps to protect yourself from fraud.
In several cases, my clients have booked bed-and-breakfasts or private residences, only to find out — too late — that the properties had been foreclosed or had been booked by fraudsters. The owners found out about the scams only after people showed up at their front doors with luggage.
Some travel websites do minimal checking and can be slow to react even when put on notice to a problem like this. And getting your money back is difficult, at best.
I recommend you doublecheck to make sure the people doing the renting are the actual owners — or at least have the right to be booking and that the property is not in foreclosure. You can find this out by doing a simple Web search for the local county property appraiser website. It’s also a good idea to check a few other travel websites to find recent reviews of stays that went well. Because there is no foolproof way to check, prepare a list of local hotels, just in case you need to find another place to stay in a hurry.