Is it worth taking a damage deposit for my holiday lets?
Sue O’grady, Reservations Director at Prestige Property Services (prestigepropertynetwork.com) replies: The simple answer is yes! In order to give owners some peace of mind it is always advisable to ask guests to pay a damage/ security deposit’ before they arrive at your house. This can be collected along with the final payment of rent from a guest. The deposit should be banked by you or your letting agent.
In the case of companies who request and take payment for bookings, for example, Owners Direct or Trip Advisor, there is an option when setting up your advert to request holding of a damage deposit. You would typically agree to refund this deposit (less any amounts to be retained) within a week of the holiday ending. This allows yourselves or your property managers sufficient time to report anything untoward in the property. Should damage be discovered, photographic evidence should be taken as proof.
Many owners will ‘write off’ small breakages like a couple of glasses or plates as normal wear and tear. However, far more subjective is the cleanliness of the property following guest departure. It should be made clear both in your adverts and housekeeping brochure if you expect the property to be left in ‘a clean and tidy condition’. In this case you should also remind guests pre-arrival, preferably in their signed contract, that failure to comply with this may result in some or all of their damage deposit being withheld by you.
Such deposits can also be used to cover other instances such as: • Soiled carpets/linen. • Guests not adhering to recycling instructions. These should be prominently displayed in the property and also described in the housekeeping brochure. Failure to do this may result in the property managers taking away large amounts of rubbish, recycling and bottles, all of which add to their time cleaning the property and your costs for their service!
The appropriate amount to ask for as a damage deposit will be dependent on the size of the property and its contents. For example, for a small two-bedroom cottage an amount of between £150-£200 may be acceptable. For larger properties with additional facilities/features such as a hot tub or swimming pool, you should think in terms of £300-£500.
Owners are advised to remove any valuable or precious items prior to letting their property. With some contracts, recompense for damage is not limited to the amount of the damage deposit but claiming additional recompense from a departed guest is not something that any owner would choose to get involved with.
Remember, some French guests may still expect to be able to hand over a chèque de caution on arrival at their gîte! This is not recommended because the owner has to confront the guests to receive the cheque and may not be expected to cash the cheque unless it is needed!