A host of reasons housesitting is a two-way street

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HOUSESIT only on two-way streets.

Of course that’s not meant literally, but when you accept a sit it becomes an agreement, and agreements can be made only when there are two or more parties involved. 

In this case it’s you and your host(s), and there is an onus on both sides.

As far as the sitter is concerned, he becomes responsible for a home and one or more animals. Think about that for a minute. A house is usually the biggest financial investment most people make, and many take enormous pride (not to mention more expense) in decorating and furnishing. Then there’s Fluffy and Spot. They often are lavished with more love and attention than the children. In some cases, Fluffy and Spot ARE the children.

So there’s the sitter, entrusted with the upkeep of a huge financial investment, plus the wellbeing of a beloved cat and dog (or fish or guinea pig). It is a heavy responsibility, and as sitters we work hard to maintain the type of reputation that makes people comfortable with placing their trust in us.

But while sitters provide a service — and must be absolutely respectful of homes and caring of pets — we are not servants.

Hosts must be responsible, too. 

Their part of the bargain is to provide a clean, comfortable and safe environment for the sitter, plus adequate information. Cleanliness should be a given. Comfort does not have to mean lavish surrounds, but no one wants to have to wear their down coat around the house or sleep on a fold-out cot in the garage, either. And safety should be basic — from appliances that are not faulty to doors that can be locked securely or alarm systems that actually work.

Basic information should be set out clearly either online or on paper (or both) — contact numbers in an emergency and for Fluffy and Spot’s vet; how to turn off water and power if the need arises; garbage disposal and collection and recycling details; pet feeding routines; wi-fi passwords; the location of the nearest coffee shop; and on it goes.

Hosts also should be firm but polite if certain rooms or household items such as that heirloom grand piano are off-limits to the sitter.

A few brochures on local attractions or events are always welcome and, in certain countries and cities, recommendations for reliable drivers and tour guides can be essential.

As sitters, we feel entitled to at least ask for all of that. Hosts do not have to provide it all, but we don’t have to accept the sit, either.

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