Accepting bookings from unverified guests is risky. While most travellers are well-meaning customers who intend to use your rental legitimately, there are some bad actors. That’s why all property managers need to make sure that the properties of the owners they work with are protected.

Vacation rental guest screening should be an integral part of the booking process. However, it’s an issue that not all property managers have been able to solve. 

Now that most reservations are made online, and property managers automate their check-ins with smart locks, there’s no way to make sure that guests are who they say they are. By having deliberate guest screening/ID verification protocols in place, property managers can eliminate this obstacle. 

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about guest verification: why it’s important, what the OTAs are doing, and what software solutions are out there that you can use to guarantee safety for yourself, your guests, and your owners.

Vacation rental guest screening: Why is it important to screen guests?

There are plenty of reasons why you should screen guests staying in your rental. Here are the three most important ones:

Prevent parties

Parties getting out of hand are obviously a major concern. Who hasn’t heard a horror story about guests throwing a party and completely destroying a rental?

Making sure such parties never happen is vital to:

  • Protect your property from costly damages and
  • Maintain good relationships with your neighbours. 

Vacation rental guest screening helps you prevent parties by identifying guests who likely intend to use your rental for a party. Such red flags include guests of a specific age group (below 25 years old) who live in the same area as your rental, book an entire home for a one-night stay, and have no positive reviews. 

As a response to this problem, Airbnb has introduced a protocol in the US to identify and ban these types of guests (due to the pandemic Airbnb has also put in place a global party ban). 

Avoid fraudulent bookings and credit card fraud

In a world where the vast majority of vacation rental bookings are made online, fraud is becoming more and more common. It’s not unheard of for bad actors to steal someone’s ID or credit card and try to impersonate them when they make a reservation. 

Thorough guests screening and asking your guests to verify their identity can help root out fraudsters and help you only accept legitimate bookings. 

Prevent criminal activity in your rental

Running background checks on your guests also helps to prevent criminal behaviour on the premises of your property. 

While the vast majority of guests are well-intentioned, there have been reported cases of drug abuse and other illegal activity in short-term rentals. 

By making sure your guests are who they say they are and screening their rental history, you can make sure that you’re not accepting bookings for anyone who intends to use your rental for illegal purposes.

Do OTAs require guests to verify their identity?

You may be wondering why you should worry about screening guests. Don’t OTAs do it for you?

While OTAs do have some guest verification processes in place, they are limited. Let’s see how some of the most popular booking sites screen their guests.

Airbnb

Airbnb may ask guests to verify their identity to check that they are who they say they are. However, ID verification is not a part of the Airbnb signup process, meaning not all guests on Airbnb are verified. 

As a property manager, you can choose only to accept guests who are verified on Airbnb. In this case, Airbnb will ask the guest to confirm their identity by either entering their legal name and address or uploading a photo of a government ID. This information, of course, is not shared with property managers. You simply see that the guest is verified. 

As for background checks, Airbnb currently only performs them in the US. It uses the information provided by a verified ID to cross-reference it with public records for criminal convictions and sex offender registrations.

Booking.com

Similarly, on Booking.com you can make it a booking requirement for guests to provide a verified phone number or address in addition to a valid email address, credit card info, and maintaining a good track record for their stays.  

Vrbo

Likewise, Vrbo doesn’t require guests to confirm their identity to book a property. However, it does inform guests that obtaining the “Verified Identity” badge helps build trust with hosts and makes their booking requests more likely to be accepted. 

Once a guest submits a booking request, Vrbo may ask them to provide information such as their first and last name, email address, mobile phone number, physical address and birth date. Vrbo then checks to see if the information is accurate. However, at the moment, there is no way for property managers to require guests to confirm their identity before sending a booking request. 

3 ways to carry out vacation rental guest screening

Since the screening processes that OTAs use are limited, it’s advisable for property managers to set up their own processes. So what can you do?

Screening your guests manually

Doing manual guests screenings is an option. However, it’s not scalable. You would have to call or message all your guests and screen their social media profiles. It would take lots of time – depending on how many rentals you have, and you might even have to hire someone just to do guest screenings. Automating the process is far more efficient. 

Vacation rental guest screening via PMS

Some property management systems have built-in guest verification solutions. 

For example, Guesty allows you to automatically send guests a check-in form and ask them to upload a photo ID. You can also send Rental Agreements to your guests and collect their legally binding e-signatures, which reduces your vulnerability to fraud, damage and unwanted guest behaviour.

However, since property management systems do not specialise in vacation rental guest screening, their solutions aren’t always up-to-scratch. 

Vacation rental guest screening via third-party ID verification software

Your best bet is to leave guest verification to the experts and use third-party ID verification software. 

Third-party guest screening solutions help you:

  • Verify that your guest is a legitimate customer and their booking is genuine.
  • Confirm that your guest meets the minimum age requirement to rent your property.
  • Flags suspicious behaviour and prevents bad actors from booking your rental.

Of course, the screening software you choose should integrate with your vacation rental software (your PMS or channel manager). And, the screening process should be quick and easy for your guests to complete so that they can enjoy a seamless experience.

SUPERHOG: A risk management platform to handle your vacation rental guest screening and ID verification

We are proud to announce that Rentals United has partnered with GUARDHOG Technologies to provide our clients with a risk management platform that makes renting 100% safe for both guests and hosts.

The platform, called SUPERHOG, offers top-of-the-range ID verification backed by a £1 million guarantee. It also has comprehensive search functionality that property managers can use to find information about guests and their short-term rental history.

How does it work?

“As a SUPERHOG member, we’ll contact the guest on your behalf explaining who we are and that we’re working on your behalf to protect you both,” says Kamila Miller, Head of Marketing at GUARDHOG Technologies. 

“We will then provide your guest with their unique ID verification link for the stay and ask them to verify themselves. Once they’re verified, you’re all set! Our £1 million guarantee and our security deposit will be put in place to protect that booking,” she adds.

SUPERHOG collects the guest’s details such as name, phone number and email address. The guest also has to provide a valid government ID (passport, driving licence, etc). SUPERHOG also asks the guest for a selfie that it cross-checks against the ID to make sure the guest is who they say they are.

“If a guest refuses to complete our verification process, we advise hosts not to accept the booking. The reasons for not completing the verification are often a major red flag. Hosts can of course still take the booking if they choose to, but they will not be protected by our guarantee or our security deposit,” says Kamila.

This solution has a myriad of benefits for property managers. SUPERHOG allows you to:

  • Verify and authenticate guests across all booking platforms.
  • Increase conversions by removing the security deposit.  
  • Protect your business in case of damages and liabilities (up to £1 million).
  • Develop trust between your business and your guests.
  • Create growth opportunities through confidence in your business’s ability to manage risk.

Extra peace of mind

All in all, SUPERHOG gives property managers an extra peace of mind that their guests are trustworthy and their properties are safe – which OTAs don’t provide.

“It’s great that OTAs are trying to combat the problem of ID verification, but the fact is that they can’t do it alone,” says Kamila. “That’s where a collective solution like SUPERHOG steps in.”

Another reason why OTA verification processes aren’t currently enough is that OTAs do not share their data about bad hosts/guests, so they can move freely between platforms and cause damage or fraud elsewhere. 

“SUPERHOG protects property managers and guests from fraud and bad guests by providing a collective mapping of the short-term rental industry, where hosts and guests can find a centralised source of information,” Kamila says. “Our independence from any single platform is key.”

In addition to the ID verification process, SUPERHOG is able to provide qualitative insights on hosts, guests and properties through its multi-layered screening processes.

“These processes are dynamic in such a way that we will reach a conclusion on an A+ guest with almost no friction, whereas a first-time guest may undergo additional screening steps… All designed to provide increased booking confidence across OTAs, direct bookings and all forms of short-term rental,” Kamila says.

The SUPERHOG integration is now available from the Rentals United dashboard. What’s more, SUPERHOG is offering a free 60-day membership for those who sign up before March 31st 2021!

The terms of the free 60-day trial are:

  • Unlimited number of properties.
  • Up to 3,000 free guest ID verifications with any additional ones costing £6 (standard rate) per verification.
  • Only bookings starting within the first 60 days will be protected for free.
  • Any new bookings received 60 or more days after sign-up will be charged at the standard rate.

Find out more about the Rentals United-SUPERHOG integration.