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Security Deposits

This is a step by step explanation of the way that we handle deposits here at the Captain Morse House.

  • First off, we charge a lot for security. This is meant to get the attention of our guests as well as try to cover the possible damages that a large house filled with antiques could have.
  • We go to extra effort to make sure that the guest that puts down the deposit knows that they are in charge of conveying information to the people they invite to the house. We recommend that several people take the responsibility to rein in energetic children and that Bad Uncle that almost all families seem to have.
  • We have extensively documented all of the systems, rules and suggestions within our House Manual. Guests are requested to read this and be familiar with it.
  • Guests are requested to inspect the house at the start of their stay at the house. This paragraph from the welcome page gets sent to each guest prior to entering the property.

    The Day of arrival and arriving at the houseCall the caretaker around noon to confirm your arrival time at the house so that you can be met. The caretaker will then be able give you a tour of the house and a “statement of condition”. Anything that is amiss or broken should be brought to the immediate attention of the caretaker. If you notice anything other damage to the premises it must be reported to the caretaker via email with pictures within 6 hours of the start of your lease. Be thorough because if there is damage or missing items at the end of your stay we can only assume that you are responsible. An email with pictures is the only way to properly notify us. Send any comments to caretaker@captainmorsehouse.com

  • After a rental: Our cleaner and caretaker both inspect the property and file reports. Once these are received I then report any damage to the departed guest (if any) and ask for feedback on the damage. Once the feedback is received and the deposit return address confirmed I then process the return of the security deposit.
  • We offer priority deposit handling for those guests that choose voluntarily to leave reviews. Reviews are (unfortunately) the life blood of the vacation rental business. If our guests go out of their way to leave reviews we go out of our way to expedite the return of the security deposit.
  • Deposits for reviewers where no damage is found are returned within a few days of the reviews being posted. We quote 60 days as the absolute outside that deposits will be returned. The vineyard is a very difficult place to get any work done much less estimates and repairs. 60 days seems like a lot but it is simply because of the business environment here on the island.
  • Some guests say that we need to return within 30 days. The answer is that rentals of less than 100 days are not constrained by Mass. laws that apply to longer term rentals. The laws regarding security deposit returns are at the bottom of this page c. 186, 15B (9) (The provisions of this section shall not apply to any lease, rental, occupancy or tenancy of one hundred days or less in duration which lease or rental is for a vacation or recreational purpose). See also the End Notes from Mass Legal Help in Chapter 3 page 53 of this pamphlet
  • We miss more than we catch. Each fall I come to the island to work on the house. We always find damages that were missed by our incoming guests, caretaker and cleaner.
  • OVERRIDING PHILOSOPHY – We just want to get the house back to where it was when you entered it for the start of your vacation. We don’t care about minor wear and tear and we often forgive minor damage but if there is damage we want to fix it for the next guest and to keep the property up. We think that our guests should participate in that effort.
Here is some history on my return of deposits just to give you an idea of how I have handled it in the past.

In 2016 I returned deposits to tenants who had no damages in as little as 3 days. A lot has to do with getting reports from my manager and cleaner. They are not always as fast as we want but they are under a lot of stress and demands in the summer. I try to return deposits back in 30 days but allow 60 days in the lease. For guests that have no damage (13 of 16 rentals in 2016), they got their full deposit back in an average of 10 days.

Where there was damage it often takes time to complete the repairs and get the bills from the repair men. In those cases I communicated to the guest exactly what the damages were and included photographs, I give the guest a chance to respond, and then returned the agreed upon balance within 25 and 55 days. I did 16 rentals in 2016 and 3 of them had deductions for damages. Seeing as we handle wedding parties and large families with kids I thought that was pretty good.

I am happy to provide references. I also think that our reviews speak for themselves.
Reviews and Comments

If you enjoy reading about this subject ( I don’t) here are the source I used.

https://www.mass.gov/courts/case-legal-res/law-lib/laws-by-subj/about/securitydeposits.html

https://www.attorneyross.com/landlord.pdf Page 32
The security deposit and last month’s rent law does not apply to any rental for a vacation or recreational purpose of 100 days or less in duration.

Page 36
If you are the owner-occupant of a two-family or three-family house and own no other
rental property, you are not considered to be engaged in a trade or business and are not subject
to this law.

Security Deposit Insurance

Recently I had a potential guest ask me about our security deposit. They wanted to have me lower it or they wanted me to accept the Homeaway / VRBO Security Deposit Insurance in lieu of the deposit.

There are plenty of bad reviews of the Vacation Rental Company siding with the guest even when there was damage caused by the guest. They very very rarely take the side of the landlord. If you what examples of this you can google them yourselves. So for now we are going to stick to our policy of collecting a security deposit by check or wire transfer.

You are, of course, free to purchase additional insurance to insure your deposit’s return.

I did research on a $49 security deposit insurance option. Basically this is a policy that will protect you against inadvertent damage. If you actually cause malicious damage or do something not allowed in the lease then the policy does not work. I have listed the exceptions found in one of the policies below. With that said you can still purchase this type of insurance to protect your deposit and maybe also protect the expense of the trip (trip cancellation insurance.)

From my point of view I like to have the guest be responsible for their guests and watchful over the property as if it were their own. The only way to do that is with your deposit being held by me. If you have insurance instead of your own money at risk then there is the moral hazard that you might not be as careful with the house. If I am going to entrust this historic house full of antiques to you then I must have a deposit of some significance. $3,000 may seem like a lot but it is just 0.0005 of the value of the home.

Here are some links

Two examples of websites providing insurance

VACATION RENTAL DAMAGE COVERAGE – INSURANCE EXCLUSIONS

(I thought you might like to see the typical exclusions written into the insurance.)
If you occupy an Accommodation and you damage the real or personal property assigned to that Accommodation during the Trip, we will reimburse you the lesser of the cost of repairs or the cost to replace the property, up to the amount shown in the Schedule.
Coverage is provided to you and all travelers under the Accommodation reservation during the Trip provided you are listed on the lease agreement. Coverage is not provided for loss due to:
a. inclement weather or natural disaster;
b. your intentional acts or gross negligence;
c. normal wear and tear of the real or personal property assigned to the Accommodation;
d. any damage that occurs if you are in violation of the lease agreement;
e. loss, theft or damage to any personal effects owned by you or brought on the covered Trip by you;
f. loss, theft or damage caused by any person other than you or your traveling companions with whom you share the Accommodation reservation unless substantiated by a police report.

CONCLUSION

We have been renting since 2008. Each year we do about 20 rentals. Early on we charged $1,000 but were advised to increase that to $10,000 but I thought that a bit much. We settled on $3,000 in 2011 where we have been ever since.

In that time we have only had one group complain about it but I won them over. Generally people realize that it is worth it and that I treat them fairly. My only desire is to make sure the house can be put back into the same condition it was before the rental started, wear and tear accepted.

Let us know if you have any other questions about our security deposit policies.