It’s no secret that alternative accommodations like Airbnb have faced their fair share of controversy lately. While Airbnb's brand notoriety makes these stories more attractive to media outlets, mishaps are nothing new to the hospitality industry. Long before Airbnb, hotels experienced the same sort of problems surrounding safety and security.
Don’t let these hosting headaches and guest nightmares scare you away from your short-term rental business. There are many ways to be proactive to ensure safety for your guest, yourself, your property, and your business.
Basic Safety Standards
If welcoming any guests into your home, you should always be diligent about upholding basic safety standards in your property.
What are some examples of basic safety standards?
- Make sure all doors and windows can properly lock
- Stock your property with typical emergency supplies, including flashlights with batteries, first aid kits, and evacuation maps
- Provide a list of phone numbers and locations of local emergency services
- Light outdoor walkways—it’s inevitable that guests will return to your property late at night
- Stock units with fire extinguishers in areas where a fire hazard could occur
- Remove any valuable or personal items from a unit
Do a ten-minute walk through of your property to go over safety measures like the ones mentioned above or in this article. Consider any and all liabilities that might happen and prepare for them.
There are a lot of regulations and requirements within the short-term rental industry. While the business may seem straightforward and easy to get into, this is where you’ll get tripped up. Pay attention to local regulations to ensure you won’t lose your business or property over violations.
Regulations vary and get pretty complicated based on zoning, property type, property contract, and tenant's level of ownership of the property. You especially need to pay attention if your unit is located in an urban area like New York City that may have broad public laws regarding short-stay units. If you host in the United States, Airbnb has compiled a list of city regulations you can reference to ensure you're meeting legal standards. If your property is located in a region that is prone to frequent natural disasters, ensure your property is up to building codes. Don't forget to also consult homeowners associations that might regulate who can and can’t stay in property or whether you can even use your property as a rental unit.
Online listing and booking channels like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Homeaway offer hosts $1,000,000 in free liability insurance, but these standard coverage offers do have some conditions and limitations. Rather than blindly relying on these offerings, take the time to ensure everything you need to be covered is insured by these policies. If not, you’ll likely need to invest in vacation rental insurance.
While you never want to experience the worst, you have to prepare for it. If you have to file a case, you’ll need to provide proof of damage. Be proactive about taking photos of your space. If you can, try to get photos of properties in their pristine state before they are occupied. If you can’t get into properties between stays, ask your cleaners or property managers to take photos as references. Stay organized and try to keep track of payments and messages. You’ll need this information as a record if something ensues.
The huge concern for short-term rental hosts are the limitations found in traditional homeowner’s or landlord insurance policies. Both policies carry a “business activity exclusion, which means any claim involving business activity (short-term rental) could rightfully be denied. Here’s the good news: there are various companies that provide full-replacement, all-inclusive short-term rental insurance, such as Proper Insurance. Proper Insurance is the nation’s leading short-term rental insurance provider covering condos, cabins, cottages and everything in-between. They’ve custom written the most comprehensive policy on the market with unmatched protection for host liability, amenity liability, theft, vandalism, and more.
One of the first steps to establishing safety and trust between a host and a guest is facilitating positive and informative interactions prior to their stay. Set expectations for a guest in the listing. Ground rules may deter some bookings but will make sure you have the right guests staying in your property.
If you are wary of who could come into your home, use Airbnb’s verified ID services on your booking. This will require guests trying to book your unit to go through verification. This may be an obvious one, but never share the exact location of your property publicly. Wait until a thorough confirmation is complete to send out the address to your guests.
Always handle payments and communications over secured platforms, whether that be your listing and booking channel or your property management system. As soon as you operate off the platform, you are losing protections offered by the platform. While it sounds nice to avoid paying listing commission fees, under-the-table operations make you vulnerable to scams.
Be a resource for the guest during their stay. Make sure they understand that they can reach you and you will respond quickly to their inquiries. Provide guests with a thorough guestbook that goes beyond providing city recommendations. Rather than what’s happening outside the home, walk your guest through what they may experience inside it. Make sure guests have an understanding of the space they are staying in. Be detailed enough in telling guests how to use the devices that are set up within your units. This is a great way to be proactive and eliminate the chance of problems. You're also or giving guests the power to problem solve for themselves so you don’t have to run over to the property and fix things for them.
Guest's aren't the only ones that need to be happy about your short-term rental. If neighbors become an issue, consider having a conversation with them in to deter them from causing trouble during your guest’s stay.
Smart Home Devices
Smart home devices are a great way to monitor and regulate your short-term rental properties. Make the initial investment in installing safety features and amenities to protect yourself and your guests in the long run.
Keys can be messy—there’s the exchange process, the chance of someone losing keys, even the fear that keys may have been copied by another guest. Keyless access eliminates many of these hassles. With a smart lock, guests don’t have to fumble with physical keys. You can even program unique access codes, eliminating the fear of unexpected guests.
Not sure what smart lock to invest in? We recommend Yale Locks due to their ease of use for both homeowners and guests. They also have the best remote access features on the market.
Carbon monoxide detector & Smoke alarms
Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors that are regularly updated with fresh batteries.
While installing smart security devices is great, it can get to be too much real quick. Never install something that would violate a guest’s stay or make them feel uncomfortable. You are required by Airbnb to let your guest know what if any surveillance devices you have installed in your unit. Guests privacy should always be your priority.
Short-term stays shouldn’t have to be intimidating for either side of the business. There are ways you can be proactive as a host to make sure your guest feels safe and accommodated while staying in your property. Investing a little time and money upfront will better prepare you in the long run for preventing bad guest experiences, bad guest reviews, and bad business.
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