Get free holiday accommodation by house sitting

Beach, NiceThe idea of getting free accommodation, both at home and abroad, seems too good to be true, but with house sitting this is exactly what's on offer.

How do you feel about spending two weeks in a flat in Cannes or three weeks in New Zealand in a house near the beach with no accommodation costs to pay?
This is the world of the house sitter and to me it's a win-win situation. One of the leading sites, Trusted Housesitters, calls it a "recession-proof holiday" because you get free accommodation, pretty much anywhere in the world, and in return all you have to do is look after another person's house and feed and care for their pets (if they have any).

Along with saving on accommodation costs, there are also other benefits such as saving on the cost of eating out, local knowledge, and perhaps even the use of sporting or other equipment while you're there.

Where can I go?
The options are endless when it comes to picking a destination. There are lots of locations across the UK for people who want a staycation and for those looking further afield there are opportunities across the globe.

For example, right now on Trusted Housesitters there is a house in Canada which needs looking after for five weeks, a home in Brighton with two cats which needs a house sitter for two weeks and a seaside house in Guernsey with a poodle to be walked for two weeks.

How does it work?
There are lots of house sitting agencies, which list potential houses and match them up with sitters. The house sitter needs to become a member of the agency, which costs an average of £40 a year, and can then search for houses to sit.

The requirements of the house sitter will be listed in the advert and these normally include: watering plants, feeding or walking pets and generally keeping the house clean and tidy during your stay.

How to get started
House sitting is open to anyone but as most of the assignments are an average of two to three weeks, it's not ideal for someone with a full-time job in a fixed location.

Before you start sitting, you'll need to undergo certain checks such as providing references, usually from a past employer, and you'll also need to get a criminal records check, which you can apply for at your local police station.

The more detail about yourself you give on a website profile, the better your chances of finding a placement and photos and video introductions are standard.

Some websites, such as Home Sitters, may also require a face-to-face interview, and full details of exactly what's required should be outlined on the website before you register.

What are the risks?
There are lots of websites in this field, so make sure you use a recognised one such as Trusted Housesitters or Home Sitters. Going through an agency also gives you the security of having someone to speak to if things do go wrong, as if you arrange the whole thing on your own through a free website it'll be much harder to sort out.

When it comes to insurance, agencies like Home Sitters will make sure each party is insured, and this is covered by the membership costs both the home owner and sitter pay. However, most companies won't provide this level of cover, which means there is still a risk if the house is damaged or the house sitter injured during the house sit.

Some home insurers will automatically cover both the house and sitter, especially if the sitter is unpaid, so this needs to be checked before the assignment takes place and if not the home owner can always take out landlord's insurance.

If you're not covered, although there isn't as much protection in place, there will still be an agreement form on most websites, which is signed by both parties. Although this isn't legally binding, it will outline an understanding between both parties of what is expected from the assignment.

Can I make money from it?
Some websites will pay a small amount of money to house sitters. Don't get too excited though, these costs are usually minimal and come in at an average of £20 a day. The idea is the money will cover the basics such as travel (in the UK) and daily living costs.

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Get free holiday accommodation by house sitting

If you are a victim of a strike, or any other event beyond the airline's control (including ash clouds!), they must offer you a refund (in which case it's up to you to find a way home) or an alternative flight. While you are waiting for the flight you have the right to food and refreshment and accommodation.

If you are on a package holiday, your tour operator is entirely responsible for looking after you until you get back to the UK.

This is more likely to happen due to the financial crisis, but in some situations you are covered. 

If you pay by credit card and it's over £100, you'll get a refund from the card company. 

Your travel insurance may well cover you too, but check before you go.  

Talk to the airline, and if it is temporarily misplaced they should arrange for it to be sent to your accommodation, and you should be either given cash to cover the essentials in the interim.

If it's completely lost you must wait 21 days and then make a claim for compensation. If you are travelling as part of a package you can claim costs from your operator.

If you are travelling within the EU you need an EHIC card, which gives you access to public healthcare. However, this won't necessarily be free, and if you need extra services such as accommodation for a carer, a helicopter home or a delayed flight, you could end up seriously out of pocket.

The only protection that will guarantee you will be looked after without running up a horrendous debt is by having travel insurance - which often covers up to £10 million of costs.

The most common form of theft is pick-pocketing, followed by theft from a car and bag snatching. Meanwhile, 752,000 of those surveyed had items stolen from their hotel room or villa.

If you have anything stolen, your only protection is insurance. You need to tell the local police immediately and get a crime reference for your travel insurer.


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