Vacation Rentals and Homeowners Insurance

Back in the old days before the ubiquitous internet, travelers had few choices as to lodgings. There were hotels, motels, B&Bs, short term vacation rental cottages, and the ever popular time shares and that was about it. Over the last decade, though, many more options have been added. To just mention two of the largest contemporary options, Couchsurfing offers you the chance to stay with like-minded people all over the world while Airbnb gives everyone the opportunity to run their own part time bed and breakfast. And then there is a growing number of home swap services, where you literally exchange homes with another family for a week or even more. These nontraditional vacation options are growing by leaps and bounds and you may even be considering joining one or another.
Couchsurfing works more like a social network than a rental. Couchsurfers pay no money when they vacation but are expected to host in their turn. Airbnb, on the other hand, is much more traditional: the host rents out a portion or all of their home, ranging from a guest bedroom to a fully equipped apartment or house, for a short period of time. Both services rely on detailed profiles filled out by both hosts and guests, listing everything from music preferences to pet issues to information about the hosts’ city. Both hosts and guests are free to accept or decline any offer as they wish and both services recommend reading profiles carefully and speaking with prospective guests in advance of any rental. Home swap services are more like couchsurfing in that they ordinarily do not involve any money but instead are a straightforward trade: you get their house and they get yours.
While there is no shortage of glowing recommendations for all these services to be found online, accidents do happen and issues do arise. Before you decide to hand your home over to strangers you should be sure you’re covered in the eventuality of any problems. The Insurance Information Institute strongly recommends that you speak with your insurance agent before you rent out any portion of your home, noting that traditional homeowners policies may well not cover any damages incurred by paying guests. You may need either an endorsement to your homeowner’s policy or a separate business policy. In either case, make sure you’re covered before you join the rental service so that you can travel with a light heart.