I have been renting out DVC points for a couple years now and thus far have not bought into the need for having a formal rental agreement/contract between myself and the people renting the points. To me, these transactions have an inherent level of risk (particularly for the renter) and require a certain level of trust. Part of the appeal of working directly with a DVC member (as opposed to a rental site) is the personal attention/interaction that you get. Typically I speak to the people on the phone, become Facebook friends, etc. to make them feel comfortable and that they can trust me during our transaction. I don’t want to turn it into a cold, formal process full of distrust, which is the vibe a rental agreement gives me. The main protection offered to the person renting the points, is the ability to seek references across social media and potentially post a “bad review” of a person with whom they have a bad experience. The public shame of a bad review in a DVC rental group would basically make it next to impossible to continue renting points going forward, so that hopefully weeds out any potential fraudsters (there’s my CPA lingo coming back to show off my coolness).
That being said, I am starting to get a bit frustrated with some people this year unfortunately. This year has been full of the most extenuating circumstances that any year could ever throw at the travel industry, so I absolutely support the concept of being flexible and working with people to reschedule trips. I am appalled at the idea of DVC members screwing over people who rented points for trips and need/want to cancel due to health/safety concerns or because of quarantine requirements, or whatever their reasons may be not to travel this year. As long as your points aren’t imminently expiring, which should hopefully be the case for anyone dealing with a COVID related cancellation (ie if someone cancelled a trip in July, the earliest those points could realistically be expiring is 11/30, based on DVC’s extension of point expirations this year), you should be able to rerent the points to the best of your ability and recoup as much of the money as possible. In that situation, maybe the renter would be stuck paying the difference in the price they were paying you, vs what you were able to get in the new lower price market currently out there for those 11/30 expiring points, but you should still be able to offer a significant refund. One renter I was working with had to reschedule her quick getaway 4 times and ultimately cancelled because her entire family contracted Covid this summer. That really sucks. I have no interest in making their lives any more unpleasant than they already are. She was a lovely person to work with and helped me find a person to rerent the reservation to. Easy peasy, no problem, glad to work with a person like that! However, what is absolute BS to me, is renters trying to cancel reservations BECAUSE there are cheaper points out there currently, thinking they can cancel the rooms they’ve already booked at the previously normal price per point, and rebook with someone else at the new cheaper price per point. This is not how life typically works. Prices fluctuate all the time on travel related expenses, and you often feel like you just missed a deal, or just bought your plane tickets too early, etc. I’ve had two people cancel trips with little notice at this point, not because they are uncomfortable traveling due to COVID, but because they think they can find better prices out there now. First of all, good luck finding a DVC member as accommodating as I am with changing dates and resorts all the time, utilizing wait lists, etc. Second of all, good luck getting these rooms booked again this close to your travel dates after I cancel your reservation… and third of all…. cmon, why did you wait until so late in the game to screw me over like this? Now I’m stuck trying to rent points in a crazy panicked rental market where no one knows whether they want to travel in the upcoming year and members are panicking and unloading points at foolishly low prices (if you are renting – you should totally jump on those prices before a lot of points expire on 11/30). So now my awesome points that I could previously easily rent within a day for $19 per point are sitting around idle with no one interested because there are lots of points available right now for $10-$14 per point, which I’m not willing to rent mine for, since they are not “distressed.” You don’t want to be stuck in a situation where these people are expecting an immediate refund of the money they’ve previously paid, when you don’t have the ability to get that money back from another renter any time soon.
So anyway, I don’t mind cancelling these reservations and rerenting the points, since I have the patience to wait for another good rental situation to come along at the right price, but these cancellations got me thinking about what things should always be communicated to renters up front, even without a formal written contract.
These are the things that I always make sure I say to people renting my DVC points (in writing – even if just in a text message/email/Facebook message) at the beginning of the transaction.
- Price per point – this is a no brainer, and everyone’s first discussion point, besides dates/resort
- Payment terms – the norm seems to be to pay in full, up front these days, but people do occasionally ask for other payment arrangements, such as 50% up front, and 50% a couple months prior to travel, which I find understandable. It is important to get it documented somewhere in writing so you can go back to it and reference it in case you or they forget later on. Just for reference, in situations where payment is required in full “up front”…. I book the reservation in the renter’s name, send them a screenshot with all of the information including the reservation number, allowing them to link it to Mydisneyexperience.com, and then they send me the full payment. That way they see that it is a real reservation and there is minimal risk of me screwing them over at that point, so they are comfortable sending payment.
- Payment method – I personally am comfortable with Venmo, Paypal, Zelle, etc, but you should spell out your preferred method and timing (ie do you expect payment before or after you send a screenshot of the reservation information), as well as any necessary contact information. If using Paypal, remember to specify whether you prefer to use Friends and Family or Goods and Services (fee).
- Refund terms – This is where I historically have said something along the lines of “If you need to cancel for any reason, as long as you let me know more than 30 days prior to your trip (that’s when things get messy with DVC putting my points into a holding account), I should be able to refund you fully, just as soon as I rerent the points to someone else, which usually only takes a day or two, and I’ve never had a problem.” I’ve never been more glad to have included this little disclaimer than this year, since I could have never expected Coronavirus to make re-renting actually slightly challenging. You could even go so far as to clarify that you need to be able to re-rent the points at the same rate, or if you re-rent them at a lower rate, the original renter will be responsible for the difference. There are all sorts of things to consider here. It is a matter of judgment, but should definitely be spelled out up front and in writing. I’ve never gotten too technical with it because I’ve had such an easy time rerenting points if someone cancels, so I’ve never been concerned about the canceller needing to pay the difference in price. Now that I’ve seen how the market can swing, it is definitely something to consider.
- This is where my one renter had an issue on one of my cancellations recently. When she asked to cancel (without reaching out, by the way…she only cancelled when I reached out to confirm everything was still on track and check in about why she hadn’t sent in one of her payments), I said ok I’ll refund you your initial deposit, but I just have to rerent the points first. She responded saying she was surprised I needed to rerent the points before refunding her. So I sent her a screenshot of where I had said that originally, and that cleared that up. So even just mentioning things like this informally in a message at the outset of the transaction helps later on down the road if complications arise.
- Extent to which you are willing to change dates/resorts – This has come up a lot recently too. People are asking me to move dates around and switch resorts at the last minute, and seem completely unfamiliar with how limited DVC availability is. I am happy to check availability for people, but I just want to make sure people have realistic expectations up front. Also, people need to understand that I try to rent or use every available point each use year, so if you wait until a month prior to your travel date to ask me to change dates, and your new dates require additional points, I probably won’t have the additional points to cover the difference. If that results in you needing to cancel and book with someone else, that is kind of unfair/crappy to me. So it is important to lay out those expectations up front. (Although don’t panic – worst case scenario – you could pay for one time use points through DVC and charge the renter for them)
- Any other DVC nuances – You should probably always make sure that renters know little DVC nuances like that housekeeping isn’t daily for DVC rooms, how to set up the Magical Express, how to book Dining plans (through the DVC member), etc, just so a disgruntled renter doesn’t come back unhappy saying they were duped and expected something besides what they ended up experiencing (although I haven’t encountered anyone unhappy with the DVC experience, but there is a first time for everything). This would be where you should also mention who is responsible should the person staying in the room cause any damage or anything like that as well.
Based on all of these things that should always be communicated upfront, I am starting to understand the appeal of formal written rental agreements for these transactions. You can just pop the specifics of your transaction into a template and bada bing, bada boom, everything has been communicated, and you’ve covered your butt. I’ve included some sample templates I’ve found on social media over the past year and tweaked a bit to make the most sense to me (please note I’m not taking credit for these). That’s the beauty of this DVC rental community, everyone wants to help each other. I’m no lawyer, so I don’t know how legally binding these documents are, but they certainly make you feel a lot safer on both sides of the agreement. As the Member renting points, having a contract removes any sense of guilt if someone comes requesting things that the contract explicitly outlined wouldn’t be able to be accommodated (I am a person who feels obligated to help people out in any way that they ask, even if it really goes beyond what should reasonably be expected in these transactions). I also have a tendency to assume that everyone in this community understands the nuances of DVC points and will realize when certain requests are outrageous (like asking to switch to a different resort a few weeks prior to travel), when in reality, first time renters might have no idea how challenging the availability is at these resorts, so spelling out what is feasible up front creates a fairer (more fair?) arrangement for all parties, where expectations can be managed. As the person renting points, it is a way to read through all of the information and feel a sense of security that you know exactly what you are getting yourself into, and you are working with someone legitimate. While it might feel like overkill, it really does seem like a win-win at this point.
Sample Rental Agreement Templates (Tweaked from templates I found on Social Media – not originally written by me, nor do I know how legally binding they are). Some awesome people posted these publicly on the rental groups on Facebook. I tried to give credit within the documents, but if I missed anyone, please don’t hesitate to reach out. If anyone else has an awesome template, please feel free to send it my way!
In particular, I lean towards the first two. The first one is a little more condensed than the second, and still touches on everything I consider essential, but the second one is truly comprehensive, as the name says. They are all worth perusing.