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Florida Guide > Accommodation

Renting a Vacation Home Explained, To Americans, Part I

I am in a minority, I am an American vacation home owner. Most vacation homes near Disney are owned by British families. This is mostly due to their love of Florida and their established acceptance of what they call “self-catering holidays”. In fact the Orlando Villas site and many others were founded and are run by Brits.

As a fellow American, and an owner of a vacation home on the Orlando Villas site (#118), I would like to explain a few things in simple English….uh, simple American English.

First, this “villa” thing. A villa is a vacation home. It does not mean it is a condo, timeshare or such, it is a vacation home. Most “villas” are stand-alone single family homes in a short-term-rental development. There are some that are condos, but most are not. It takes special zoning to legally rent the houses for one or two week rentals, and it takes a hotel license. Thus most houses are in a development specially developed for this purpose…which is good. There’s often neighborhood facilities paid for by the owners for use by the guests. Things like playgrounds, clubhouses, tennis courts etc.

Next the rental rates. Because of the British influence, you often see rates in British Pounds (the £ sign) before Dollar rates. And Europeans are use to a built-in sales tax called VAT, so they often quote with sales tax included. Sales tax on lodging in Florida is very high (around 13%) so it is significant. You should always make sure that the sales tax is itemized on any rental agreement though, because an owner that evades sales tax will lose his license and you may not have a vacation home to stay in when you get there!

Very importantly, you want to rent from the owner himself, not a rental agency. Why? Well there are honest and dishonest people in all areas, but a rental agency generally does not guarantee a specific house…and you know the pictures they show you are of the best house they have. And an owner just naturally takes more pride in their house…and cares who rents it. All the houses on this site are owned by individuals, although some have more than one house. Rental agencies are forbidden from advertising here.

Finally, let’s talk about self-catering. The house will be cleaned before you arrive, and after you leave. Generally that cleaning cost is included in stays of a week or more, but that can vary. For short stays the cleaning cost is usually itemized, as it would wipe out the owner’s incentive to rent to you if it wasn’t. You can expect a fully equipped kitchen, and just enough toilet paper to give you time to get to the supermarket in the morning. One of the great things about renting a vacation home is that you can eat some meals at home, saving a tremendous amount of money.

I hope this answers some questions that American guests often have, we’ll cover some more soon.

Author: Stuart Schlachter (Villa link: click here)
Other articles by this author: click here

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Page added on: 29 October 2005
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