When it comes to issues around compliance, safety and security regarding vacation rentals, it is literally, ‘every property manager for themself.’ By that, I mean that each property management company is really left to their own devices to try to figure out how best to make sure that their homes comply with local and state regulations (if they even know what these are). Additionally, that their properties follow best practice to ensure their guests are safe and their owners assets are taken care of.
The vacation and short-term rental industry is really still in its early stages in terms of the growth that we have been seeing over the last few years. The supply of properties and demand from guests has been phenomenal. It’s natural for an industry with this much transformation to need a little time to find its feet in all areas, including in terms of compliance. However, when it comes to potential issues with other people’s lives ─ or at the very least, their wellbeing ─ time is not something we can just sit back and wait for as the industry matures. A major issue for the next phase of the vacation rental industry will be about standards, regulations and safety and security compliance.
Thirty years ago, the timeshare movement was still in its infancy; there was little legislation around the fledgling industry. Anyone could set up a timeshare, and buyers really had no idea of the level of standards once in the property.
Fast forward to today, timeshares are heavily regulated with numerous guidelines at every municipality level. Granted, this may be overkill, but it is an example of what happens once a market matures. Regulation becomes the norm ─ not the exception.
Prior to becoming the CEO of CertiStay, I ran the largest (at the time) independent vacation rental property management business across Florida and into North Carolina with over 2,200 properties under our exclusive management. With that number of properties, we averaged two or three incidents impacting guests a month. Over the years, we didn’t have a single full-blown lawsuit. Accidents that were reported would be because a guest went outside in the rain in their slippers, tripped up after a night out or simply misused property. None of the accidents were because of our (or our owners) negligence.
It wasn’t because of luck that our reported incidents were low or that we were never at fault. The reason was because we made sure that every single property complied with a best practice for safety and security. We also made sure that our homeowners understood why they needed to ensure their properties best practices were up to par.
I believe that one of the fundamental problems that property managers face is the confusion that lies in the area of legislation and best practice.
There really has (prior to CertiStay) been very little guidance for managers to know how to really run their properties with best practice when it comes to safety. For instance, in the state of Florida (where I ran my property management business), a manager might have properties covering several different counties. Each county holds different legislation, so each property would have different ‘rules’ to follow, as well as complying to what makes the most sense for that county. Add to that the different municipalities (Florida has 67 different counties) and then state law ─ it’s no wonder that managers can so easily get confused and feel alone in this business.
Another issue for vacation rentals is that most properties remain as residential properties and, are therefore, not commercial units and don’t need to comply with that legislation. However, the homes are commercial in nature and for guest safety; there are things that an owner and manager should be ensuring are happening, or not happening on a property. For instance, when was the last time you checked the water temperature of your faucets? Are the fire extinguishers clearly visible? If you’ve put them in a cupboard for aesthetic purposes, are you displaying signage in a prominent place with their location?
These are all areas that property managers do need to think about when it comes to welcoming guests into homes. Knowing you are providing the best for guests and owners is the best way to get a good night’s sleep. Understanding what makes for best practice, as well as knowing how to comply with regulations, should be at the forefront of any successful property management business.
Randy is the President and CEO of CertiStay, a third party safety and security certification for short term rentals offering best practices and recommended standards above and beyond regulatory requirements. Prior to joining the leadership team of CertiStay, Randy was a successful property manager for over 25 years and founded one of North America’s largest vacation rental management companies. An industry leader, often called on to speak at major industry conventions and associations, Randy is also an experienced real estate entrepreneur with multi-state real estate ventures in the Southeastern United States. Randy has a passion for ensuring that the safety standards of vacation rentals continues to rise, and that guests’ safety is put before industry profits. Learn more about guest safety at www.certistay.com.