Tuesday, January 13, 2015

On the Road: Hotel vs. Private Residence - Part 2

Although the Los Angeles area has thousands of hotel rooms, the city also has thousands of guest houses and private residences for rent. In the last post I gave both sides of the case for staying at a corporate hotel or apartment complex. Now is the case for the private residence option.

The positive side of renting housing from private individuals is that renters do not have to deal with the noise and actions of a variety of hotel guests. A renter's choice includes rooms, houses, apartments and guest houses. Some places require a lease of six months to one year, but others are available for shorter periods of time. This option affords travelers a residence that is closer to what they have at home, but is it the right choice?


A few years ago I had the opportunity to stay in a guest house. The price was much lower than the price I would have paid at a corporate place. I did have the advantage that no one was living above me and the place was quiet. Living in a Burbank neighborhood gave me a sense of security and community that I had not experienced in a hotel setting.

My landlady was a nice person, but as a landlady she left a lot to be desired. The heating never worked right and the temperature was never more than 60 degrees. Since the weatherstripping on the doors was missing, the wind would blow through the gap and crickets would frequently enter the place. I had to wear shoes all the time because I would step on the crickets. The landlady would tell me to try to catch them and release them outside because it was more humane. Then the bees came. I walked into the kitchen and saw several bees. I told the landlady about it and she said they would go away. I finally persuaded her to get an exterminator when I said I would move out if she did not handle the situation immediately. By that time hundreds of bees were swarming outside the window and she admitted she had faced that problem in the past. As stressful as these incidents were, the last straw was an invasion of privacy. I saw her as I was going out shopping and told her I would be back in 4-5 hours. I came back in an hour and found the landlady in my place. She claimed she thought she heard the water running, but I did not believe her. That destroyed any trust I had in that woman and the next year I went back to corporate housing.

That example involves one woman and does not speak for all landlords. I stayed in my daughter's apartment one year and it was a joy. This past year I stayed in another guesthouse and had a great experience. The location was the only problem. If I cannot find a place closer this year, I would consider staying there again. Each situation is different. My advice would be to start the vacation stay in a hotel and look around for a private rental. These are listed on AIRBNB and VRBO and those sites contain reviews. I have looked at properties on AIRBNB and this year I plan to try to rent a place through that site for the first time. Be careful for properties that are mentioned on Craigslist. Some of them are old garages or sheds that are made to look like a guesthouse. Some scammers try to swindle vacationers out of their money by offering a property that is actually owned by someone else. Remember that these rentals are not subject to any inspections or rules. If at all possible, inspect the property or have someone else do it for you.

Keep in mind that these housing options will be taxed in the same way a regular hotel room is taxed in certain communities. In California a room is not taxed if the occupant stays there for over thirty days. Be careful for those landlords who try to get by that rule by claiming the stay is for twenty-eight days per month. They may try to charge tax and just pocket the money. Research is so important when dealing with private rentals. This has been my option for the last few years. Other than my encounter with the cricket lady, I have found the private rental to be a great way to stay in Los Angeles.

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