Short-term rental management has its risks. Theft of items, property damage, personal safety, and accident liability are your responsibilities as a host, and your guests expect you to have them covered. Get up to speed making your vacation rental business responsible and secure by reading a few of our tips, and avoid costly mistakes that may result from lack of preparation.
1) Screen your Guests
When selecting an appropriate guest for your property, do your due diligence and see if they will be a good fit based on the information available to you. Starting with their personal profile and the “About Me” section on their vacation rental profile, take note of information that may reveal interests, maturity, and age. If the guest has social media accounts linked to their VR profile, delve deeper and get a better idea of what the guest is like. If their accounts are not linked, a simple Google search of the guest’s name or email may do the trick to reveal social accounts. Airbnb even provides members the option of uploading a picture of a government issued photo ID to verify their identity, which grants them an “ID Verified” badge on their profile.
Once you are comfortable and feel the guest will be an accountable visitor, take a look at their reviews. Now, most hosts will typically give rave reviews of their guests, to make certain of a good review in return. As best as you can, try to interpret when the host is trying to be honest about their disappointment in the guest. Reading between the lines, and being aware of what the host is NOT writing, could be an indication to ignore the guest’s request. For instance, most hosts will write “We hope to host (guest) again,” if they are satisfied with guests. A host avoiding this statement in their review may indicate they do not want those guests to return.
2) Security Deposit and Insurance
A smart property owner/manager understands that problems arise and are prepared for when they do. A security deposit is one way to protect a portion of your property, but often not enough protection when working with numerous units. Typical vacation rental security deposits are around $200 or 10% of the total weekly rate, but it is entirely up to the host to set the price (Homeaway). Applying a deposit to your rental may hinder a negative reaction from some, but won’t scare off guests that care about safety and security, and are probably not the types to lose their deposit.
In addition to a deposit, many hosts purchase insurance through Airbnb or the vacation rental application they use. Airbnb provides you with Host Protection Insurance that “provides primary liability coverage for up to $1 million per occurrence in the event of third party claims of bodily injury or property damage” (Airbnb). However, in the event that an act is intentional or criminal (assault, battery), you are on your own. If you want to protect against all potential troubles that may present themselves, many insurance companies like Aviva and Allstate now sell “Home Sharing Insurance” for what vacation rental applications don’t protect, including:
Major loss/damage to buildings and personal property
Intentional/criminal acts, or failure to act by a guest
Major loss or damage to a guest's property, loss of rental income
Liability arising out of the short-term rental
3) House Rules and Manual
Keeping things safe within the unit is not only the responsibility of you, but also your guest during their stay. Enforcing house rules and providing a manual in the unit that outlines these rules is how most short-term rental managers and hosts try to keep things in order. You would think some rules might go without saying, like no smoking or pets, but it's better to be explicit to avoid language and cultural barriers. Common rules to outline in addition to smoking and pets are:
- No outside/additional guests
No open fires/candles/incense
Keep temperature in the __° to __° range
Quiet hours are between _:__a.m. & _:__ p.m.
No shoes on when in the unit (tough to enforce)
No food in bedrooms/on couch (tough to enforce)
There is no way to ensure your guests are all following the rules, that is just one of the “perks” of managing a short-term rental. In addition to having a house manual that outlines the rules, some hosts will hang reminder signs (ex. No Smoking/Fires), provide slippers (to promote shoes off), or install precautionary devices like sensitive smoke alarms, front door cameras, or wireless controlled thermostats to make it tough to break the rules. Another way to address those who may not follow the rules is to make the consequences for actions clear to all guests, and strictly enforce them. Some hosts, however, won’t hold the guest accountable (keep security deposit) to avoid the headaches of a bad review. VR forums like AirHostsForum.com are great places for hosts to gain feedback on what to do in sticky situations like this.
4) Security Measures
Security at your property is of utmost importance to your peace of mind and that of your guest's, as well as to the success of your vacation rental. One security breach or incident could result in a bad review or even legal action. Simple measures to follow to ensure your unit and guests are safe include:
Inform your guests about alarm systems/smoke alarms
Know your neighbors
Use deadbolts locks/window locks
Beware of Dog sign
If you know the unit will be sitting empty in between bookings, inform your cleaner to close all blinds and maybe even stop in during the break period if a host is unable. If you are managing the property from a distance, it is smart to think about taking unit security to the next level. Some higher security options to consider for your short-term rental business, that are slightly more costly, including:
No matter the neighbourhood, and no matter the guests, security should always be considered a top priority for VR managers. It is important to stay up to date on what your VR management system offers, and what other hosts are using.
5) Keyless Access Automation
EveryDoor provides secure keyless access automation technology for short-term rental property managers and hosts. By using a keyless access automation solution, it will be easy for you to improve your security practices at all of your properties by automatically changing pin codes for every guest, keeping doors locked until your guests arrive, and reducing the need to distribute duplicate keys to cleaners or hide them in a public place. Many concerns that arise for guests when dealing with vacation rental unit keys include:
Past guests copying keys
Hosts leaving keys in property with the door unlocked
Infrequently changing keypad codes so past guests/workers can’t re-enter
Hosts hiding keys
In addition to being able to grant access to all guests, workers, and hosts, EveryDoor allows you to view all active Smart Locks from one interface, and control their status. For example, if you notice a worker failed to lock the door after cleaning or maintenance, you can easily lock that door from wherever you are, using the EveryDoor app on your phone or desktop.
There are many risks in allowing strangers in your home and vacation rental owners need to stay up to speed with how to prevent incidents. It is unfortunate, but criminals of all types do exist in the short-term rental world and will use vulnerability to their benefit. Don’t make it easy for criminals to choose your property to target and keep your guests happy knowing you follow extreme measures to ensure they are safe and secure during their stay.
Are you interested in improving your rental business by adding keyless access automation to your properties? EveryDoor is the secure keyless access automation solution designed for vacation rental professionals like you. Learn more by filling out the submission form below!