Vacation Rental Safety 101
Listen to the episode here:
John and Tim from Level Up discuss vacation rental safety essentials.
- The essentials like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and first aid kits
- Smart locks and keyless entry – do not set yourself up for failure with keys!
- Noise monitoring
- Cameras and surveillance – what is appropriate and safe and what is not.
- Have a pool? Make sure it is safe.
- Alarm systems in vacation rentals
Guests now more than ever are asking hosts about safety. After all, who wants to travel somewhere and not feel safe?
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See Tim’s Rental here —> storeybook.com
John and Tim discuss the essentials of vacation rental safety in this 20 minute podcast episode.
John Candelario:This is a LevelUp podcast where Tim and I provide you with the education, tools, skills, and insights you need to master your vacation rental business. Our podcast will provide you with the actionable steps to level up your Airbnb hosting game. Today we are going to discuss the essentials of vacation rental safety.
John Candelario: Today, Tim and I are going to discuss vacation Rental safety 101. That’s everything from smart locks to surveillance, everything your guest needs to feel safe when they’re on vacation. Tim, how important is safety today in vacation rentals?
Tim Casey: Well, John, from what I’m hearing from our guests, it’s growing in importance. I think it’s always been important, but I’m getting more and more questions before they even check in or make the reservation about how we secure the pool. Do we have a security system? So it’s top of mind. And I think just based on what’s going on in the world, we can all understand why it’s top of mind. But I think for someone who’s traveling, who’s away from home sometimes in unfamiliar place, safety and security is really top of mind right now. John, are you seeing the same thing?
John Candelario: I’m seeing the same thing. People are asking about whether there are surveillance cameras at the front of the property. They’re asking about pools. Are they being secured? If there’s automated lighting there, how are they going to get in? Is there a keyless entry? Is it actually secure? I’ve heard the most is the code changed between guests because sometimes owners will leave the codes static and give the same code out to every guest that comes in, which is not really secure. So those are the types of things that I’ve heard from guests recently, especially with all the news about the parties going on in the rentals and a lot of the crazy things we’re seeing lately. Security is at top of mind. And I know you just recently did your home super secure, and you have everything from A to Z. What’s the coolest safety feature that you have at your rental at the moment, Tim?
Tim Casey: You know, when it comes to safety, I kind of really bucketed into three categories. One, that you have to have my coat, so you have to have fire extinguishers, you have to have first aid kits, you’ve got to have safety lights. So if the power goes out, there’s light inside the home. So there’s certain things by code. You have to have that’s category one category two is kind of baseline for owning and operating a short term rental. And then the third category is things that really add value to the guest day. And we tried to really do all three. I can’t say there’s any one that’s cooler than the other, but I’ll tell you, the one that has come in most handy is having the front door locks integrated with a platform that allows you to operate remotely. I had a couple of guests just recently. They got to the theme parks, and they really kind of had that oh, my goodness moment did I lock the front door? And they text me and they said, hey, do you have any way of checking? And sure enough, I did because I used the Alarm.com network and I could go in and see they sure enough didn’t lock the door. So I could lock it for them and give them peace of mind that they could enjoy the rest of the day without having to worry about that. So there are several things we can talk about, but I really try to stay on the side of that which makes the guest feel more secure and that which comes in most handy to just create a great guest experience.
John Candelario: We’re definitely in the future where you could lock the door from your phone. That’s pretty neat that they could just ask you if the door is locked and you can check it. It really is for anyone managing remotely. That’s awesome. Yeah. And I think the guest is becoming more and more savvy because I’m getting questions now like, hey, I know you’ve got other people that come in the house like your pest control people. Do you deactivate their code when we’re in the house? Well, that’s a great question. And as owners, we’ve got to be mindful of that. But the only way we really make our guests feel safe and secure is they’re the only ones that have a code that work during their stay. So whenever a new guest checks in, I make sure pest control, maintenance, all of those codes are deactivated. And then when they check out, I reactivate them so that those services can get back into the house. So they’re becoming more and more savvy, and they’re making all of us, as owners, really keep safety and security top of mind. It’s funny you mentioned the code changing, because I had a situation with a host friend of mine that they rented out their unit on Airbnb and didn’t change the code. And someone from their staff came in and maybe could have been a handyman or whoever, we just don’t know. But someone went in there and took some items out while the guest was in residence, and it was a whole fiasco. She had to have the police Department out there to do a report and everything, but this could have been prevented if she changed the code. But she had the same code running for two years. I wonder how many people go in and out with the same code? Yeah, it’s a great point. So what you’re mentioning about having that access on the phone and you’re able to change it on the fly, that’s a big one. And I think anyone who’s doing this remotely, they need to be able to do that. And the first category you mentioned, the stuff like the smoke detectors and the fire alarms and as needed stuff that you really need to have there before you rent. They did a study of over 120,000 Airbnb rentals, and they found out only 80% of them had smoke detectors. Only 57% had carbon monoxide detectors. Only 42% had fire extinguishers, and only 36% had a first aid kit. So most of us are missing the basic things. And to your point, I think it’s really important that before we get into the smart stuff to secure your home, that the basics. And the fundamentals are covered because that’s the big one.
Tim Casey: Yeah. You got to revisit those basics. So I’ve got a service that comes in once a year to change out all of the batteries and the smoke and carbon dioxide detectors. I’ve got a company that comes in to make sure that all of the systems are working properly because you know what could happen, John, if you’re operating something on batteries, batteries die or first aid, kids can disappear. Guests may need things and they disappear or your fire extinguishers are out of code. So you just have to stay on top of all those things so that if there is ever a need, they’re there and they give the guests peace of mind that they need.
John Candelario: Got it. And a service like that, cost wise, is it affordable for someone operating a smaller home? Is it affordable for them to come in and do that type of check? Because I think a lot of people would see value in that. I personally haven’t had a service like that scheduled in my own home. But what are you thinking in terms of affordability? Do you think that’s something everybody can do is have a professional come in and check those items out? I do preventative maintenance. So I have a plumber come in twice a year to check the hot water heater, make sure all the drains are running correctly. That’s one thing that I’ve heard from a lot of guests when they go to short term rentals. Drains are draining slowly because they haven’t been kept clean. So I have a plumber come in to do that. I have an electrician come in to check to make sure that all the doors, all the smoke alarms, carbon dioxide detectors, all of those are working. And I think I pay $150 a year combined for both services. No. And it’s a peace of mind. It’s the peace of mind because a lot of the times the calls you get is hot water is not working, drains aren’t draining, and those are the things you want to prevent and not have to react to it when it’s causing a problem for your guests.
John Candelario: Absolutely. And I’m just surprised how many stories I see in the news about something happening and it could have been prevented by having those essential things covered or just like you said, have that regular routine maintenance check so that everything can be in tip top shape that’s often neglected. And it’s something so simple and it doesn’t cost anyone much, but it’s something that people don’t think about when they’re investing in vacation rentals. It’s kind of a back of mind thing. And safety should always be at the front of mine. I agree. So what do you think about that new noise monitoring stuff and the Occupancy monitoring? Do you use any of that?
Tim Casey: Yeah, so I use noise alert. That’s the system that I use. There’s one inside the home on the main level. There’s one outside of the pool patio. And the reason I do that, I put it out on the pool patio because the community that our homes in has a noise ordinance. So at 10:00 at night, the noise is supposed to really be down to a very low level. And the noise alert helps me monitor that. And what’s been great is if I see a spike in noise, I can simply text our guests and notify them that we have a 10:00 noise ordinance. Would you please kind of turn the music down or whatever is happening? And they’ve been very respectful. And then on the inside of the home, it’s your first indication that a party might be happening, and not only from an owner’s perspective. You want to try to prevent the partying because of the damage you can do on the inside of your home, but it can also be disruptive to neighbors. So, yeah, we use noise alert. I think I pay $9 a month or something like that for monitoring. And it served me well a couple of times already. But that’s another example of something. You got to keep the battery change. So that’s something else. The electrician checks when he comes out for his PMS.
John Candelario: Tim, when we talk monitoring, do we have to disclose this to guests because things like surveillance cameras in the front, the back or noise monitoring, do you disclose that you are monitoring to guests, and how does that work for you? I know in my past experience on the major platforms and even renting privately, it is disclosed, and guests appreciate that. But have you ever ran into questions from guests like, why do you have that? Why are you monitoring me? Or you just disclose and they have usually no issue with you putting safety devices?
Tim Casey: Yeah, I disclose everything. I put it in my initial email so that people are aware and not surprised in my listing. And then in the rental agreement, I spell it out as well. And it does a couple of things. It creates awareness for the guests so they know the things that matter to you and they know the guidelines of the home. So it comes in handy from that perspective. And I’ve only had one guest reach out to me saying, hey, tell me more about the video cameras you use because they were concerned that I was monitoring something that would really get in the way of their Privacy. And I assure them that all my cameras are there for a purpose. One monitors the front of the house for safety and security. One monitors the pool equipment for safety and security, and one the AC equipment for safety and security. There’s nothing that monitors the guests enjoying themselves around the pool or inside the home. And I make that very clear. And usually when you do that, it really provides the guests with peace of mind, and they’re very happy to know that their Privacy is not going to be invasion.
John Candelario: After hearing about your placement of the devices, it sounds completely normal to me. And if I was traveling somewhere, it would be fine with me to have that kind of surveillance because it makes me feel safer and it’s not intrusive. But I have talked to some owners and some hosts that don’t understand that boundary. And they ask me things like, John, can I put it in the living room or in the hallway upstairs or by the pool? And I always explain, even if you want to secure the property, I mean, you can’t really aim a camera like a ring camera at a pool because people’s children might be swimming in there. They might want Privacy. Same with upstairs or in the living room. That’s just weird. So some owners have that concept of it’s my property. I can do what I want, but that’s not necessarily true when you’re renting your house to the public. Right. So your placement is really good advice for anyone who wants to put surveillance cameras. There is a proper and appropriate placement, and you just went over it. But I do want to reiterate that there is a right and wrong place to put security cameras and surveillance in the house. But that’s just my experience with that. And your lock, can you speak about like, you talk about how you can change the lock from your phone? What about guests that aren’t familiar with using an electronic lock? Have you had an issue with someone not knowing how to use it, or has everyone been pretty tech savvy and understand? You put the four digits, six digits that lets you in. Like, what’s been your experience with that smart lock that you have here?
Tim Casey: For the most part, the guests have been pretty aware and knowledgeable of entering the code, depending on the type of digital keypad you use, some of them, you have to enter a check Mark or hit the checkmark button after your code. A lot of guests don’t really read that, so they don’t see it, but typically it’s just the call me or they text me, and it’s easy for them to move forward from there. So I would say that guests are really familiar with it. And I try to put those kind of locks on any door that faces the outside. So I’ve got a door that goes from the master bathroom to the pool area. I put a digital keypad on that as well. So that the guests can easily get in and out. So just try to make it super easy for the guests. Try to put myself in their shoes and try to kind of think about if I was on vacation in this house, how would I want this house to really provide me with a great experience? And then I try to solve for those things to the best of my ability.
John Candelario: I don’t want to point out the obvious, but since you just went over how you explain and think about your Smart lock, I just want to remind our listeners that at this point in time in 2022, you shouldn’t have a key to enter your property because it’s making logistics extremely complicated. There’s situations where the guests will lose the key or can’t find the key or your cleaner will forget to put the key back. So having a smart lock system, just like what Tim uses, is extremely important to make your life easier and make your guest experience better and easier because you won’t have to worry about missing keys at any point. So if you haven’t done any of this yet for your own rental, I strongly suggest investing a little bit of money into a smart Lock. Now everything is way less expensive than before in terms of technology, and you can pick one up at your local hardware store for a little over $100. Exactly right. Yeah. Something that people definitely need to check out. And your alarm system you mentioned Alarm.com not going to get into a discussion about what brand is better, but what would you say in your experience, a good alarm system should do for a vacation rental?
Tim Casey: You know, it’s a great question, because when I initially put the alarm system in, I chose not to have it monitored. And I did that just because I wasn’t sure there was a need. But just a few months ago, I changed it to monitored. So now there’s a service that’s monitoring 24/7 in case the alarm goes off. There’s someone that’s going to call me right away, so I can help in any possible way. But the alarm that we installed, it also alerts the guest whenever a door is open. So if the front door is open, the alarm system announces front door open. The same for the sliding glass door going to the pool. That way, if you’re a guest and you’re upstairs and you hear that, you know that you have a child who may be going out on the pool patio. And I think that’s super important. There’s all kinds of things. Yeah. And there’s all kinds of pool security systems. I just tried to find the one that was most straightforward for the guests to use, and they seem to really like the one that they verbally hear sliding glass door open. They know right away that someone’s going out to the pool. So I like monitored. To me, there’s value for the guests. Peace of mind for the guests. And I found that a lot of the guests arm the alarm when they’re in the house, which I was glad to see. So it certainly tells you that their safety and security is top of mind for them if they’re arming the alarms while they’re staying in the home as well. So a lot of things to think about, but pool safety is certainly one. And then, personally, I like a monitored system as well. And you speak to how guests are actually harming the alarm system. Do you ever run into a situation where they forget how to use it and you have a false alarm from the fire Department?
Tim Casey: Oh, of course. You had that happen. Yeah, of course. And the way it’s set up is I get an alert on my phone, which is great, because I can just call the guest and say, hey, is everything okay? Do you want me to deactivate it? Was it a false alarm, and usually I can take care of it for them in 5 seconds. But I think the main thing for all of us, as owners, we can’t think of anything like that as a nuisance that’s just providing our guests with great service. And if they mistakenly set off the alarm, they’re not familiar with it. This is new stuff for them. It’s a simple call. He was at a false alarm. Yes. Great. Let me deactivate it for you. Keep on enjoying the house, but, yeah, it’s happened a few times.
John Candelario: This has been another episode of the Level Up podcast where Tim and I provide owners and hosts like you with education, motivation and practical strategies and tactics to optimize your profitability. If you want to join our community, please visit Level up. Dnb. Io. We will be posting helpful content that will keep you up to date, and we’re going release a get started toolkit for you that has lots of free and useful templates you can use for your very own vacation rental business. Thanks for tuning in and Adios Amigos. Take care.