Palm Beach Area Seeing Rise In Vacation Rental Scams


Of those who are expecting to vacation in the next 12 months, 52% of respondents to a worldwide survey said they were expecting to stay at the beach. However, for those renting out their vacation houses to these traveling beachgoers — a popular investment considering 1,000 people move to Florida every day — it may be a good idea to double check your received payments before letting anyone into your property.

Thierry Chevrier, a homeowner in Boynton Beach, had recently rented his mansion through a popular travel website. The renters of his $1 million Intracoastal Waterway vacation home were believed to be a family of five vacationing in the Palm Beach area.

Only when it was too late did Chevrier come to realize the reservation of the property had been made using a stolen credit card. On June 9, Chevrier’s 7,000-square-foot home had been used to host one of Palm Beach’s infamous house parties, or mansion parties.

Mansion parties are large, extravagant events often hosted in vacation homes by underground organizers as a means of making fast cash. In Chevrier’s case, not only did that fast cash come from the use of his property, but also the theft of it. Several items had been stolen during the party including a surfboard, Nespresso coffee machine, a 48-inch flat screen TV, and a telescope worth $1,700.

According myPalmBeachPost, roughly $8,000 worth of property had been stolen from Chevrier’s vacation home with an additional $9,000 worth of property damage.

“There really are lot of scams out there,” said Rick Rose, president of Palm Beach Vacation Rentals, to myPalmBeachPost. “It is a real problem in the vacation rental industry.” The vacation rental industry has been seeing more scams what with the increasing popularity of websites such as Airbnb and HomeAway, which allow homeowners to rent out their mansions, cottages, or rooms to vacationers or travelers looking for alternatives to hotels.

However, while it may be tempting to rent out one’s vacation home as a means of making some extra money, it’s essential for homeowners to be insured and licensed before they let strangers onto their properties. Rose said of Chevrier’s scam incident,

“An incident like that really goes to show you that you really want to be in a house that is locally managed, and you want to be properly licensed and insured. In the state of Florida we have very lax laws. The owners can put it on a rental site and try to wing it on their own, and have a housekeeper to clean it for them with no local management they are just totally exposing themselves to something like that.”

While certain travel websites aim to protect homeowners from such circumstances as Chevrier’s, the insurance that the websites provide can only cover so much and only in cases of accidental damage. Theft and criminal behavior is not covered, said Jordan Hoefar, the spokesman for HomeAway, the booking website Chevrier had used to rent out his vacation home. Additionally, the insurance protection renters are required to purchase was not put into effect because it had been purchased with a stolen credit card.

“Hopefully,” Hoefar said, “Mr. Chevrier will be covered by his homeowner’s insurance. Our team has reached out to reimburse him for $1,000 — the equivalent of his damage deposit.”

As for any reimbursement regarding the credit card fraud, Hoefar says the company will be unable to provide any information regarding possible refunds as the company itself uses an outside vendor.

In any case, Chevrier’s tale is a cautionary one for all vacation home owners. Rick Rose recommends contacting the local management company when making reservations for potential renters.

“There are all kinds of potential threats,” he said. “One thing to avoid all of that is to purchase the vacation rental directly through the management company. You are reducing your risk that you are going to get scammed.”

Yet the risk of scam still exists. Therefore, it’s important before any property owner chooses to rent out their home that they are certain they are insured and they have local management nearby to check routinely on the property to ensure it’s safe from any potential partygoers.

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