Safe Hosting: Tips for Keeping Vacation Homes – and Renters – Safe
Contributed by Alec Feldman, owner of Western Safe & Vault Co.
For homeowners who decide to rent out their residences in sharing-economy programs like Airbnb, there are good aspects, and there are reasons to be apprehensive. Although it’s great to have your unused home or apartment make you money, there’s the ominous possibility that your guests might not be so respectful of your space. Every week, it feels like there’s news about Airbnb homes being used to host raging house parties that cause extensive damage. At the same time, homeowners have a responsibility to make their rental properties as safe as possible for anyone who might be staying. So whether it’s the guests who decide to be careless or the hosts who don’t think twice about safeguarding the property, the end result could be unintended catastrophe.
Let’s go over two sides of the same coin: how to keep your rental residence safeguarded, and how to make sure your place is as safe as possible for its renters.
Keep Your Vacation Rental Home Safe
Once you’ve put your accommodations up for rent on a residence-sharing service like Airbnb, you’ve taken the first step towards getting a bit of extra income from some unused space. But with this sharing economy comes a whole new set of rules and regulations for both sides to follow, in order to keep all parties safe. Liability is extremely important for home rentals, and if you’re the one who’s putting your home, apartment, or cottage out there, you want to make sure you’re having guests who are respectful of your property.
That’s why it’s important to communicate with potential renters early on. Many vacation rental property platforms allow for messaging between homeowner and renter; at the very least, open up a dialogue over email or phone to discuss their reason for wanting to rent from you. You don’t have to be pushy, but a quick conversation ought to give you a better sense of who the person on the other end is, and what purpose they have for renting your vacation home. Remember that even though your ad should already clearly state the maximum occupancy for your space, it’s worth reiterating to your potential guests – especially for the sake of having it recorded, in case you need written proof later.
In this process of communication, it’s in your best interest to stay on the sharing service’s own website as much as possible. Websites like Airbnb are set up with layers of protection to help take care of you and safeguard you against fraudsters or harassment. If you happen to come across a potential customer who’s trying to move you off the website, an article from Fairbnb advises that you “kick them to the curb in the initial vetting stages if possible.” Staying under the Airbnb umbrella will help protect you as you go through the process.
Also, an ebook on vacation home rental from HomeAway stresses the importance of a rental agreement for protection:
“Send your guests a copy of your rental rules and billing confirmation. Do NOT accept a deposit without a signed copy of your Confirmation and Rental Rules documents in hand (faxed signatures are acceptable).”
Again, it’s vital that you communicate the terms and conditions of renting from you, and get the rental agreement in writing. Now that you’ve got boundaries settled and agreed upon, it’s time to prep your space for guests. Aside from general cleaning, if you have anything of high value (either sentimental or financial), remove it and place it in a safe for the time being.
If this is a truly secondary space – that is, if you don’t spend much of your own vacation time there – consider purchasing affordable yet nice housewares that you won’t worry about taking slight damage. The destructive house parties you hear about are rare, but it never hurts to be too careful.
Make Your Place Safe for Vacation Rental Guests
Before you welcome guests to rent your space, you need to make sure it’s up to code as far as home safety is concerned. For starters, you’re going to need to educate yourself on your area’s regulations surrounding vacation-rental homes. This could mean going so far as to consult an attorney to find out what you need to cover as a homeowner.
In the meantime, you can start by considering fire safety and preventative measures. Check all the fire alarms in your rental property, and replace the batteries if they don’t respond when tested. There should also be explicit instructions for your renters on where they can locate fire extinguishers, as well as the quickest and safest way out of the building in case of emergency. (It’s additionally up to you to make sure the fire exits are easily accessible and not blocked by clutter.) You should install a carbon monoxide detector on any floor that has a fuel-burning appliance like a gas stove. You can even get a free smoke & CO detector through Airbnb.
Next up is checking to see that there are no issues with the electrical outlets, including frayed cords or exposed wiring that could cause sparks. Although you wouldn’t want to furnish your vacation home with appliances or lamps that are falling apart, if you do happen to use secondhand décor, test it to see that it works and that it’s not a potential sparking or open-flame hazard.
Lastly, make sure that all household locks are sturdy and turn smoothly, and that there are locks on appropriate areas (ground-floor windows, back doors, et cetera). You’re going to want your guests to feel as safe as possible while staying in your abode – and not have to break a window if they accidentally lock themselves out.
Safety Regulations are Your Responsibility
It may be convenient to rent and rent out a living space, but at the end of the day there are far fewer safety regulations than in the hotel industry – and it’s up to homeowners and renters to maintain and abide by safety codes. If you’re the homeowner, it’s your responsibility to firmly communicate the terms for renting your vacation home, and it’s also up to you to ensure your rental property is maintained to your area’s safety regulation standards. You want your home to be both welcoming and safe – and you want your renters to treat it with respect. As long as you do your research and preparation – and make boundaries clear to your renters – you should be looking at success as a vacation home rental host.
Do you rent out your vacation home, or have you ever rented one through a service like Airbnb? Tell us about it in the comments.
Contributed By: Alec Feldman is the owner of Western Safe & Vault Co. Alec bought the business in 2000 from two brothers who had worked there their entire lives. Western Safe & Vault Co. was established in 1945 with the legacy continuing with Alec’s management. Alec has more than 15 years of experience in safes, safe service and moving.