Holiday homes are more accessible than ever thanks to sites such as Airbnb, Bookabach and Holiday Houses. But even the best-laid plans can go awry. So what are at your rental rights?

Holidaymakers

What happens if I need to cancel my stay?
Cancellation policies vary depending on the rental site and owner. These policies are essential reading before you book. If you cancel, you may be charged a percentage of your deposit or rent.

What happens if the owner cancels my booking?
You’re entitled to a full refund. Some sites give you the option of transferring your payment to another property – but you don’t have to accept this offer if a suitable alternative isn’t available.

What should I do if the property isn’t up to scratch?
Get in touch with the owner in the first instance. The owner may be able to fix the issue without inconveniencing you too much.

No dice? You can try the site for assistance. Some, such as Airbnb, have resolution services and/or guarantees to manage disputes.

If all else fails, you can head to the Disputes Tribunal to seek compensation — provided the owner or website is operating in New Zealand.

Can I claim compensation if the property is double-booked?
Yes. But first you’ll have to identify which party is to blame for the booking error: the holiday rental site or the owner.

You’re protected by consumer law if a site operating in New Zealand leaves you stranded on the doorstep. You’re entitled to a refund of the rental fee as well as consequential losses, such as the petrol you burned on your way to the rental property.

If the owner is at fault, you may discover the site has a guarantee you can fall back on. But note: it may not cover you for losses beyond the cost of your reservation.

Again, head to the Disputes Tribunal if a site or owner operating here is responsible for a booking snag — and won’t help.

Property owners

What protection do I have if I’m renting my property?
Your main protection is your rental agreement, which should set out the ground rules for payments (deposits, bonds and refunds), liability and other expectations. Sites, such as Bookabach and Holiday Houses, offer templates for setting up rental agreements, but don’t assume they’ll suit your situation.

Depending on which site you pick, you may or may not be offered cover for your property and liability. Regardless, you should tell your usual insurer you’re letting your property for short-term stays. You may have to pay a higher premium or arrange additional insurance.

What are my obligations?
Your rental property is considered a business if you regularly rent it out (and earn an income from it). So as well as the obligations in the site’s terms and conditions, you may have obligations under consumer law.

The Fair Trading Act prohibits you from making misleading claims about your property. For instance, you can’t advertise a deck if there isn’t one. It also prevents unfair terms in “standard form” (non-negotiable) contracts. An unfair term is one that unfairly privileges you over the holidaymaker, such as an excessive charge if the property isn’t left spotless.

Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, accommodation must be provided using reasonable care and skill, and fit for purpose. In practice, this means the property must be accessible to your guests over the pre-arranged period, reasonably clean and so on. If your guests discover a genuine fault, you must act promptly to fix it. If the fault is serious and can’t be fixed, you may have to refund your guests and compensate them for any consequential losses.