By Justin Ford, Director of Safety Programs at Breezeway
Historically, vacation rental safety hasn’t been a focal point of property management. While a handful of municipalities have passed safety codes over the past few years for vacation rentals in their jurisdiction, the vast majority of guidelines are limited to fire safety (these cover smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, sprinkler systems, and fire extinguishers). Considering that the bulk of insurance claims at vacation rentals are unrelated to fire, there is a disconnect between regulation and the reality of vacation rental safety hazards.
Without external pressure from local regulators, the depths of vacation rental safety can easily fall through the cracks. This is partly due to the sheer volume of property care and service tasks associated with managing unique properties, triaging last-minute schedule changes, coordinating work across multiple locations, and handling frequent service requests from guests and owners. The trend towards higher quality accommodations and deeper service offerings has become well documented within the industry, creating an almost myopic focus on enhancing the guest experience.
The events of this year have made it more clear than ever that property and guest safety are foundational to delivering five-star guest experiences. The current travel climate has accelerated the emphasis on quality, and stretched the meaning of ‘vacation rental safety’ to include the hygiene and well-being of guests. Safety has now become synonymous with quality, and more property managers are embracing technology to dedicate themselves to standards for property preparation and drive ancillary revenue streams for their business.
Survey Shows Accelerating Importance of Vacation Rental Safety
Earlier this summer, Breezeway surveyed hundreds of vacation rental managers on changes they plan to make with respect to compliance with cleanliness and safety standards. We found that 66% of managers think cleanliness and safety will become the most important considerations at booking, and that operators are quickly gravitating towards adopting safety and quality assurance programs to cater to these shifting traveler demands.
In fact, 95% of survey respondents indicated that they plan on implementing operational changes to help guests feel more confident in property safety, including enhancing quality assurance programs, adjusting guest communication strategies, customizing digital checklists for dedicated safety inspections, and certifying their rental properties through independent safety programs.
But with so many competing priorities, it can be difficult to carve the time and resources to implement safety protocols at your properties. We looked under the hood of the safety operations used by some of our leading vacation rental managers in order to offer suggestions on how managers and owners can bolster their safety for 2021 and beyond.
Communicating Safety to Guests
Proactively communicating the safety precautions taken at each property is a key component of every safety plan. In fact, 74% of managers we surveyed plan on adjusting their communication strategies prior to arrival, and throughout the stay, in order to instill more guest confidence and ensure a positive property experience. So, what exactly should you be communicating to guests?
There’s so much behind-the-scenes work that goes into the preparation of each rental, and managers can get full credit by sharing their professional approach with guests and owners alike. This starts with making a great first impression at the very top of the funnel by marketing your COVID-19 protocols and precautions through dedicated landing pages and FAQs. It doesn’t stop there though, and operators should continue proactive guest communication throughout each stay, with details on safe and contactless check-in, changes to in-stay services (maintenance, concierge, mid-stay cleans), and relevant updates in your market. Managers can also communicate the location and instructions for any sanitization items or PPE left for guest use (e.g. cleaning products, hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, etc.). Effective communication throughout the guest journey builds trust and paves the way for a safer and more relaxed stay.
Customizing Checklists for Safety Inspections
The majority of leading managers equip field teams with mobile checklists for cleans, inspections, and other property care and service tasks. Doing so helps managers gain confidence that each rental is well prepared for the next reservation, ensures compliance with company standards, prevents emergency repairs, and digitizes a massive amount of property data (think historical issues, appliance conditions, codes and passwords, etc.).
Applying a similar process to ensure the safety of properties will continue to gain traction within the industry. This entails routinely inspecting the interior and exterior of each property in order to identify and mitigate potential risks for guests. Digital safety checklists will guide staff to verify that smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers are functioning correctly and placed in a central location. For starters, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be less than 10 years old, placed in every bedroom or sleeping area (as well as within 20 feet of those spaces in each corresponding hallway), and on each level of the rental property. Managers and owners should also provide critical safety information in a prominent location in each rental; such as the property address, emergency contact info, and the location of gas and electric shut-offs, first aid-kits, and the fire extinguisher. That said, the number one cause of accidents in vacation rentals are trips and falls, and managers should follow a prescriptive regime to prevent these by inspecting lighting, flooring hazards, and stair handrails.
Adopting Independent Safety Training Programs
According to our report, 13% of professional managers are considering certifying their rental properties through independent safety programs. Self-inspections can be a great diagnostic tool to start with, and can be completed using a pre-built checklist from a cell-phone or tablet. These pre-loaded checklists are often built by vacation rental safety experts, which provides peace of mind that the most important safety items are accounted for.
The benefits of these accredited vacation rental safety inspections extend beyond safeguarding properties and guests, and can become a revenue source for agencies. Managers and owners can showcase their dedication to safety through marketing listings, and promote the quality of their inventory.
Furthermore, many leading agencies are using safety programs to deliver more value to existing owners, and expanding their service offerings. Maui Paradise Properties, for example, implemented a comprehensive short-term rental safety training program last Spring. “We certified our team of nine property managers as ‘Short-Term Rental Inspectors’, and have informed our owners that safety inspections will be a requirement that accompanies general inspections,” said Founder, John Kevan. In addition to providing peace of mind for himself and his owners, John has created a new revenue stream for his business, making it more defensible from unforeseen events (like a global pandemic, for example).
2020 saw safety and quality become more closely tied to service delivery, and managers can expect next year’s traveler to be even more attentive to property preparation and safety. Ensuring that properties have been carefully prepared and reviewed through comprehensive safety programs should become commonplace, and will help vacation rental managers capitalize on more growth opportunities as the fabric of hospitality continues to change.
Breezeway's property care and operations platform helps coordinate, communicate, and verify detailed work at properties, and deliver the best service experience. Breezeway’s software and mobile apps have facilitated over 3M property tasks across 80+ million square feet, and help hundreds of short-term rental operators and hospitality professionals meet detailed service standards. Started in 2017 by Jeremy Gall, who previously founded and sold FlipKey to TripAdvisor, the company is creating the tools to power the future of property care and services. https://www.breezeway.io/
About Justin Ford
Justin is Director of Safety & Certification Programs at Breezeway; where he helps short-term rental managers and owners maintain the safety and quality of their vacation rental properties. Prior to Breezeway, Justin co-founded On the Water in Maine in 2006 and grew the company into the highest-grossing vacation rental company in New England. A former member of the US Coast Guard and Rockport Fire Department, Justin travels worldwide to share his expertise on vacation rental safety.