Enjoy Travel

Summer Rentals During Coronavirus: Everything You Need To Know About Cost And Safety

Hayden Field  |  June 25, 2020

Yes, it’s summer, and we all want to get away, but is renting a home right now actually safe? And how much is it really going to cost? 

Just as April showers bring May flowers, a months-long quarantine can make anyone a little stir-crazy. If you’re longing for a change of scenery and a new venue in which to “stay at home,” you’re not alone — but it’s important to make the switch safely. 

Road trips are slated to explode in popularity this year. Over the next six months, 67 percent of travelers are likely to travel via personal car — more than double those planning to fly during the same timeframe, according to a recent survey by MMGY Travel Intelligence. And upon arrival, it makes sense that many would rather stay on a private property with minimal outside contact rather than in a private room with shared spaces. But no matter how you plan, there’s still risk involved. 

STAY IN TOUCH! Our free weekly newsletter delivers the latest money saving, money making tips. Sign up today!

“The most important consideration when thinking about any of these trips: The highest risk for picking up the virus is being around other people who are not wearing masks and not being able to practice social distancing,” says Dr. Andrew Janowski, an instructor of pediatric infectious diseases at Washington University School of Medicine. “When leaving your own isolation bubble, how will you come into contact with others, and what ways can you protect yourself? It also leads into: What would increase your risk of coming in contact with the virus?”

If you’re thinking about renting a house for the summer to wait out part of the pandemic (or looking to save money by booking in the shoulder season), here’s what you need to know. 

Search multiple platforms for the best long-term rental deals. 

Airbnb offers a separate search tool for guests looking for longer-term stays (between two weeks and six months). In a search for a month-long stay in Atlanta beginning July 11, prices for an entire house started around $2,000 after taxes and fees; for the same dates in Portland, prices were comparable, starting around $2,500. 

If you’re looking on VRBO, you’ll use the main search tool, but you can adjust filters to highlight flexible cancellation policies. (Note: In July, the company is merging with a competitor, HomeAway, to combine listings under the VRBO name.) 

Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are options, though you lose some of the guidelines and oversight associated with a dedicated, rental-only platform. If you reach out about a listing on these platforms, be ready to ask about cleaning protocol and come prepared with your own sublease agreement (here’s one free template you can download). 

If you’re searching on sites like Zillow and Apartments.com, keep in mind that these listings tend towards a traditional rental agreement rather than a sublet structure. When reaching out about a listing, be clear about what you’re looking for: a month-long (or more) furnished rental with a definite end date. 

Check potential travel restrictions. 

Some state or local governments have implemented travel restrictions, including mandated two-week quarantine upon arrival from certain states. Twenty-one states reportedly have placed restrictions on out-of-state visitors since the onset of COVID-19, although some have since been rescinded. 

Travel restrictions for states like Florida and Arizona are still in effect — for the former, people flying in from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut must quarantine for two weeks upon arrival; for the latter, all travelers flying in from an area with substantial community spread must also self-isolate for 14 days. Kayak has a detailed list of state-by-state restrictions. 

Some rental platforms will also alert you if you’re looking in an area with mandates. On VRBO, for instance, “a banner will pop up on the site if you’re searching for vacation rentals in an area with travel or lodging restrictions,” according to spokesperson Melanie Fish. 

Think carefully about who you’re isolating with. 

Expanding your “bubble” — the people you’re coming into close contact with during the pandemic — in any way comes with risk. Even if you’ve all recently tested negative for COVID-19, it’s not a guarantee; according to Janowski, despite the different tests available, none are 100 percent perfect in telling whether someone is or is not currently infected. 

That being said, there may come a point when you feel comfortable enough with someone’s isolation habits to take the chance — although if you’re a high-risk individual, you might want to rethink adding anyone to your pod. Remember that we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic, and it’s important to take care of not only yourself but also others at risk. 

Study the property’s cleaning protocol. 

To get an idea of the rental’s risk level, check the booking guidelines or ask the host: “How much time will pass between the last person stepping foot in the house (whether it’s the previous guest or a cleaning service) and my arrival?” 

If the property has been completely empty for the past few days, the risk is “virtually zero” that any residual virus could make you sick, says Janowski. He acknowledges that material type (e.g., plastic, wood, cardboard or metal) affects how long the virus can persist on a surface, but he says that according to experiments in a tightly-controlled lab setting, the virus could persist for up to 72 hours in a “worst-case scenario.” 

If you can, opt for rentals that aren’t on shared property and that offer contact-free check-in. As far as sanitizing, Janowski says if it’s been a few days, you likely don’t need to do any additional cleaning, but if it’s been 24 hours or less, you’ll likely want to wipe down high-touch surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, counters, handles and more). The EPA has a list of cleaning agents that kill COVID-19. 

Pay attention to the cancellation policy. 

During a months-long stretch when “uncertain times” has become a cliche, it’s always good to have an escape hatch from future plans. In this case, that means giving the rental’s cancellation policy a careful read. If there’s a COVID-19 flare-up in the area, new travel restrictions are implemented, your financial situation changes or you have to care for a loved one, you’ll likely want your money back. 

Take note of the date by which you can cancel penalty-free, and mark it in your calendar. According to VRBO, half a million managers and owners have made their cancellation options more flexible during this time. And Airbnb introduced an “extenuating circumstances policy” for refunds, but if the space was booked after March 14, 2020, the policy will only apply if the future guest or host has contracted COVID-19. (If you’re not covered under that policy, you can request a larger refund through Airbnb’s Resolution Center, but the decision is ultimately up to the host.) 

MORE ON HERMONEY: 

STAY IN TOUCH! Our free weekly newsletter delivers the latest money saving, money making tips. Sign up today!


Next Article: