Renting your vacation home? Beware the Dark Side

vacation home
vacation home

Renting out a vacation home is a growing and largely unregulated industry. Pop the place up on Craiglist and a homeowner is in business. The National Association of Realtors reported that the number of second-home owners renting out their properties has increased from 18% in 2006 to 25% last year. And property management companies say that number has risen as the economy has slowed.

I understand why. My husband and I own a second home on Lake Erie and the cost of paying the non-homestead taxes and keeping it heated and cooled has soared in the last couple of years. Finding a tenant willing to pay big bucks (or even little bucks) to use it on the weekends we aren't is appealing.

But renting out a vacation home and keeping fun-seeking tenants pleased is no day at the beach. My husband still complains about the beds in the house we rented near Disney World three years ago so we could gather all 17 of us for a Mouse Ears Christmas.

The bed springs stuck through the tops of the ancient mattresses. You had to position yourself carefully, otherwise, when you rolled over, you'd get a puncture wound.

Then there was the lake-front place we rented near Michigan Speedway that smelled like rotten eggs and Valvoline.

And the house in Atlantic City whose owners boasted that it had a "breathtaking" view of the ocean. Well, you were certainly out of breath by the time you climbed three flights of outdoor stairs to the rooftop porch where if you leaned way over the railing, past the neighboring house, you could catch a glimpse of waves a quarter-mile away.