Summer Rental Do’s & Don’ts

Simple tips to make the most of your vacation. (You can thank us later.)

Illustration by Norman Bendell

Are you renting down the Shore this summer? Even if you haven’t yet staked out your week or month, real estate agents say it’s not too late to book. “We always have inventory up until really the week or two before. We can always find something,” says Jeffrey Childers of Childers Sotheby’s International Realty, which has offices from Point Pleasant Beach to Toms River. Whether you’ve already got a rental, or are still looking for the right place and time, we’ve got some helpful do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.

Do: Use a trusted source to find your rental. And we don’t mean Craigslist. Rental agents provide personal service. If you prefer the web, try HomeAway, an established family of brands that includes and Airbnb is also a reliable source, with more than 2 million listings worldwide.

Don’t: Ignore reviews by previous renters. HomeAway and Airbnb allow comments on their listings. If the review says, “Warning: cockroach infestation,” you probably want to stay away.

Do: Negotiate price. Research comparable rentals, then put on your bargaining britches. It never hurts to ask—especially for last-minute rentals, when owners may rather discount a place than see it go empty.

Don’t: Pay with cash or money order. Avoid scams by paying with a check or credit card. Such payments are easier to trace and can be stopped if necessary.

Do: Find out in advance what’s included. Most rentals are stocked with the basics: linens, towels and kitchen necessities. Solo cups are generally BYO.

Don’t: Be caught off guard by extra charges. Like your bar tab at the end of a long night, the final bill for your summer rental may come as a shock. Ask the owner or agency about any additional fees you might incur, such as the infuriating “convenience fee,” a sky-high cleaning service or a per-person charge for additional share partners.

Do: Document existing damages. Beach selfies are fun, but first photograph all existing dents, dings and damage at your rental. Share the images with the landlord before you take occupancy. While you’re at it, make sure all the sinks, showers and toilets work before you move in. Check under sinks for leaks. (Probably not a good selfie.)

Don’t: Put your security deposit in jeopardy. Serving red wine in long-stemmed glasses over a white rug is asking for trouble. Beer pong in the living room? Bonfire in the backyard? You’ve got to be kidding.

Do: Have a move-in meeting with your rental partners. Make sure everyone knows the terms of the agreement. If it says “no pets,” that means no pets. Set the ground rules for guests and overnighters. Divide up tasks like shopping, cooking and cleanup. Decide in advance who gets the choice bedrooms—and whether they should pay more.

Don’t: Ignore local ordinances. You should know where you can and can’t park, how often the garbage is collected and if there is a curfew. Make sure the town is right for your group. Families might want to rent in an early-bird town. For singles, that may spell social suicide.

Do: Leave a review for future renters. If you had an unforgettable experience—good or bad—let fellow HomeAway and Airbnb users know. It could help future renters make better decisions. Pay it forward, people.

Don’t: Forget to lock up. In the relaxed atmosphere of the Shore, it’s tempting to leave doors and windows ajar. Doing so can lead to rain-damaged floors and furniture and—moreover—theft, no matter how nice the neighborhood. Remember: Most of the stuff in the house does not belong to you. So lock up everytime you leave the premises.

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