Vacation rentals sound so tempting...save a few bucks on your vacation. Live in a nice condo or cottage instead of a hotel. You get more space and more privacy, usually at a price well below hotel rates. Often you are not charged occupancy taxes, which can range as high as 20%.
But before you send in your credit card, ask a few questions about safety. Remember that rental property owners are not regulated the way hotels are. Your vacation can be spoiled and you can end up losing thousands of dollars...far more than you'd spend in a nice hotel.
If you are renting a condo, you need to be aware that you rent through an agency. You are not connected to the condominium. The property owner makes huge profits that are not shared with the condominium association or any of the homeowners. They won't be thrilled to help you and you may want to ask yourself if you want to rent from an industry built on the model of, "Profit by harming your neighbors."
Often the other owners and long-term renters simply resent your presence. After all, vacation rental properties lower their property values. It's exhausting to have a revolving door of people coming and going. And some renters have never stayed in an apartment before. They do not know how to behave.
Nobody in the building knows you are there. And certainly nobody in the building has any responsibility - definitely no desire - to help you in an emergency.
(1) When the fire alarm goes off, will you know where the exits are? If you need help negotiating a stairway, who will help? For that matter, will you have a fire alarm?
(2) Does your vacation rental unit meet fire safety standards? One trade association proudly brags that they prevented at least one state from requiring sprinkler systems in vacation rental homes. Some locations have no regulations at all. Hotels must meet stringent safety standards - for a very good reason.
(3) Who do you call for emergencies? How far are they located from the place where you stay?
If your key doesn't work in the lock, and it's 2 AM, who will you call? How long will you stand on a cold dark sidewalk waiting for help?
If you fall ill, need to change a fuse or need to report a broken appliance or bathroom fixture, what kind of help will you get?
(4) Do you understand how to live in a city apartment? Can you stad up to strangers who try to push past you to get in? Are you prepared to tiptoe around in your socks because a building is not well-constructed? Your neighbors can call the police or a security guard when you make noise that would be normal in a house.