Renting 101 - Creating Your Beginners Guide

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I've had a couple of emails from potential cottage renters in the past few days that reminded me how many first-time renters there are each year and how important it is to provide basic information for them

It's hard sometimes not to become irritated by seemingly ‘dumb' questions which are in fact perfectly relevant if the person enquiring has never been to a cottage, or rented a vacation home before.

For example, should we expect the average condo dweller to understand that maximum cottage occupancy is normally based on the capacity of the septic system, not on the number of beds or space that is advertised? Similarly, why should I shake my head in wonderment when asked how difficult it is to get water from the well?

When we are very familiar with something it's difficult to imagine how another person sees it when it is totally new to them. I appreciated this recently when skiing for the first time and going along with an experienced friend. Everything was new, from putting on ski boots, getting on a chair lift and getting off at the top which was an ungainly and painful experience, and then facing that ‘vertical' slope. Well, not quite but that's what it looked like from my perspective. My experienced companion was taken aback by the amount I didn't know, not thinking for a moment that I would need so much initial support.

First time renters face quite a culture shock too unless they have been told what to expect, and have been given clear and unambiguous instructions and information on those aspects of cottage living that may be alien to them. Here's some examples from owners:

We've had cottage guests comment on how dark and quiet it is at night and some of them found that quite unnerving, particularly since we don't have window coverings. We've now put up blinds.

Our guests called us because of the ‘machinery' noise that started up when a toilet was flushed or a tap run. We hadn't explained about the water pump because to us it was so obvious.

We forgot to tell our guests that the toilet tank wouldn't fill up during a power outage. They called at six in the morning to tell us and ask what they should do. They didn't think to get a bucket of water from the lake and pour it in the bowl.

So, what is the solution? Well, we've tried including a section in our cottage guide titled “Never Rented Before……?; sending out our Complete Cottage Rental for Beginners document before their vacation begins, and including a Frequently Asked Question section on the web site. Unfortunately, not everyone likes to read instructions so there will always be the rental guest who calls you before looking at any written material.

I'd love to hear your stories. How do you manage rental beginners?