Vacationers Urged to Use Caution When House Swapping

House swapping is increasing in popularity among vacationers throughout Utah and the world yet homeowners are being urged to use caution before listing their home on a home exchange website.

Pros and cons of a hotel stay

Photo by: Hamzu Butt

Part of a good vacation is staying someplace in an upscale part of town that is clean and preferably inexpensive. When it comes to hotels, the clean and centrally located ones are usually priced accordingly and the cheaper rooms can often be filthy or in a questionable neighborhood. Those who are wanting a vacation away from home have another option to look forward to known as house swapping.

House swapping

Photo by: Mary Greathead

House swapping takes place when a person or family temporarily trades homes with another through one of the various online companies such as Airbnb, HomeExchange, and LoveHomeSwap. House swapping can occur with primary homes and apartments as well as second homes or cabins. The individual lists their home with pictures, location, price, and availability while also browsing homes in their chosen vacation destination. Once they have found temporary “renters” as well as a place to stay on their vacation, the swap is complete and the escape from ordinary life begins.

Not as glamorous as it seems

While movies in Hollywood have portrayed house swapping as a magical experience that may even end in unexpected romance, real-life house swapping doesn’t always have a happy ending. Some horror stories from house swapping including problems with the vacation home, such as:

Photo by: Abril Rubio

• Booking a dump. A picture says a thousand words but can also leave out a lot of detail if things are staged just right. Many house swappers arrive to find their temporary abode not up to par. Incidents have occurred that include leaking roofs, missing furniture, bug infestations, and even utilities being shut off. Most of the complaints however include dissatisfaction on the cleanliness of the swapped house. This is common as most families do not have a personal maid to ensure the home is hotel clean.

• Pets. House swapping really means life swapping. This includes beds, toys, food, vehicles, and even the family dog.

Photo by: Tristan Ferne

It is encouraged to research a vacation home fully and be informed on whether or not there are pets in the home and what type of care they need. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if Fido needs to be walked daily and loves snuggling any human in existence.

• Change of plans. Unfortunately, sometimes plans change suddenly which can include not having the vacation home available during the scheduled dates. While this doesn’t occur on a regular basis, it is something that should be planned for just in case.

Trouble at home

Other problems that can arise with house swapping take place on the home front. Issues that have been reported include:

Photo by: Antti T. Nissinen

• Vandalism. Not all house swappers take care of their vacation home. Some swappers may leave things messy while others may leave items broken and needing repair. There is always a risk of a bad renter, which is why it is important to get to know the other house swapper in advance and read their prior reviews carefully.

• Insurance coverage. Before making the swap, ensure that you and your guests are covered. This includes vehicle coverage as well as home owners or rental insurance. House swapping may not be covered so it is vital to find out for sure before making the trade.

Photo by: Quinn Dombrowski

Prostitution. What does a pimp love more than a cheap hotel to work his girls out of? A cheaper home that isn’t monitored by hotel employees or authorities. This may seem like a rarity but in fact it has been reported several times nationwide. Someone in the sexual solicitation business poses as a prospective house swapper and with a little bit of acting, sells a family on letting the “nice couple” rent the house for a week or more. For the entirety of the swap, the family home has a revolving door to the coming and goings of random “Johns”, and the family is left feeling violated and uncomfortable returning to their own home.

Not for everyone

House swapping is not for everyone but for those who wish to give it a try, there are always risks involved. Home exchange companies encourage clients to get to know the other families and do plenty of research prior to a swap. If criminal activity such as prostitution or drugs takes place in a home while the owners are vacationing elsewhere, it is wise for them to inquire with an attorney upon their return about any possible legal backlash of the house swapping gone wrong.

Licensing Required for “Almost Massage” Businesses in Utah

Alternative healing is growing in popularity and businesses that offer their customers any services that could be seen as “almost massage” are required to have proper licensing.

“Almost Massage”

Almost Massage

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With consumers seeking natural methods of healing, many businesses offering alternative medicine are popping up with techniques that are could be seen as “almost massage”. One of these  techniques is known as Reiki which originated in Japan and is an alternative medicine used to balance the flow of a person’s life energy. During a Reiki session, the person administering it hovers their hands above the other person’s body or lightly touches the body, waiting a few seconds per possession to allow the energy to flow. The claim is the flow of energy is what heals and relaxes.

Prostitution stings

Utah has been inundated lately with illegal activities taking place at local massage parlors.  Massage parlors aren’t the only businesses where sexual solicitation is taking place. Unfortunately, there are some businesses who have used natural healing such as a Reiki as a façade for illegal prostitution activities. In an attempt to rid Utah of prostitution hiding behind massage businesses, the law regarding massage licensing has been changes to include all types of massage. Although Reiki and other “almost massage” businesses do not involve soft-tissue massage or sometimes even direct touch, they are now required to be licensed according to Utah law.

Utah law revised

The Massage Therapy Practice Act of Utah was revised in 2012 with HB114. Now, according to Utah Code 58-47B-102, any person or businesses that practices any form of massage must be licensed. This includes those who manipulate soft-tissue and others who are “providing, offering, or advertising a paid service using the term massage or a derivative of the word massage, regardless of whether the service includes physical contact.” Although this revised law has been in place for over five years, it continues to catch individuals and businesses by surprise. The charge for someone practicing any form of massage without a license is a class A misdemeanor; this charge carries worse penalties than the class B misdemeanor a person can receive for prostitution.  For anyone who is facing criminal charges for prostitution or practicing “almost massage” without a license, contact a criminal defense attorney today.

Utah Man Soliciting Sex Entrapped in Felony Charges for Conspiracy to Commit Child Rape

A southern Utah man who was soliciting sex online was instead entrapped in felony charges for conspiracy to commit child rape.

Married man looking for fun

Entrapped by Police

Photo by: Jakub Hlavaty

22 year old Taylor John Hummel of St. George Utah was arrested after he posted an ad on a website known for sexual solicitation and stated he was married and looking for “discreet fun”. Law enforcement officers who were screening the website saw the ad and responded to Hummel. The undercover officer told Hummel that she would trade sex for money and then offered her fictional teenager daughter for an addition cost. Although hesitant, Hummel discussed the details then agreed to the arrangements and set up a time to meet.

Not what he wanted

Once Hummel arrived at the meeting place, he handed the undercover officer enough money for sexual favors from her but he did not exchange money for her daughter. Hummel was apparently uncomfortable with the idea of having sexual relations with the teenager. Hummel was then arrested for a class B misdemeanor sexual solicitation for paying the undercover agent for sex. Surprisingly, he was also charged with first-degree felony conspiracy to commit child rape for briefly agreeing to the undercover agent’s offer of sexual favors from the teen.

Entrapped in felony charges

Photo by: Anna Nowak

Although Hummel admitted to soliciting sex online, he did not state in his ad nor ask the undercover agent to have sexual relations with a minor. The undercover officer was the one who offered the fictional teen to Hummel, who otherwise may have never considered his ad would reach a juvenile. For this reason, it appears Hummel may have been entrapped by officers who were looking for a bigger fish to fry and instead made something more out of a guy looking for a hookup.

Entrapment

Claiming entrapment can be tricky. Utah Code 76-2-303 states “Entrapment occurs when a peace officer or a person directed by or acting in cooperation with the officer induces the commission of an offense in order to obtain evidence of the commission for prosecution by methods creating a substantial risk that the offense would be committed by one not otherwise ready to commit it.” However the same section also notes “Conduct merely affording a person an opportunity to commit an offense does not constitute entrapment.”

Legal counsel

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So did the officer convince Hummel to agree to sex with a minor or did they merely offer Hummel the opportunity which he agreed to? Does the fact that he didn’t want to go through with it show that if not offered, he probably would not have ever asked? All individuals facing criminal charges should have a professional criminal defense attorney working their case. When cases involve potential entrapment, it is vital to have a knowledgeable defense on your side to ensure that everything is handled fairly.