In the last five years, vacation rentals have taken the hospitality world by storm. As it turns out, people would rather stay in a cozy residence with all the comforts and amenities of home instead of a cramped, noisy, one-size-fits-all hotel room. This gave everyone with a spare bedroom, guest suite, or rental house an incredible new way to make money by hosting short-term renters; today there are over 47 million people renting vacation rooms or homes each year.
Unfortunately, maintaining a vacation rental isn’t always an easy task. Renter horror stories, damaged property, and even criminal activity are common concerns for rental hosts. However, one of the most debilitating events for a host can occur when a guest suffers an injury on the property. To help vacation rental hosts avoid the prospect of an injured renter or potential legal claim, we’ve put together a few best practices for ensuring the safety of your guests.
Your first line of defense is honesty. Only guests know if they have special safety needs due to age, disability, or medical condition; likewise, only you know how well your vacation rental can accommodate certain safety requirements. Hosts, for example, are often very clear about whether or not small children will be safe in their properties, both to protect rental property and to prevent injury to renters. Accessibility for disabled renters is also an important consideration. Be honest and thorough in your listing description, and include any potential risk points for renters.
Grab Bars for Every Step
Stair safety is an important priority, particularly if you anticipate guests who may be elderly, disabled, pregnant, or similar. At the very least, ensure banisters and railings are secure, and stairs are made or treated with a non-slip finish. Most homes don’t include grab bars, but including these precautions may prove wise. Grab bars are inexpensive; including them in and around bathrooms, showers, doorways, and steps can drastically increase the home’s safety and accessibility.
Gripping Bath Mats
Statistically, bathrooms are the number one most dangerous room in the house. Wet floors and unforgiving surfaces can make it all too easy for a single misstep to result in a bad fall. Every vacation rental property should include adequately-sized, grippy bath mats throughout bathrooms. Look for a bath mat with decent traction and a size that can cover as much of your bathroom floor as possible to reduce the chance of any accidental slips.
Driveway Salt in Winter
If your vacation rental is located in a state that experiences ice and snow in the winter, don’t forget the driveway salt! A high number of slip-and-fall cases arise from slipping on icy pavement. When there’s a risk of ice on pavement, make sure to thoroughly apply salt, sand, and/or ice melt to all driveways, sidewalks, and low-traction walkways. Make sure to provide guests with a supply of salt, sand, and/or ice melt as well, and clearly instruct guests where it is located.
Open Walkways Between Furniture
While worrying about guests tripping over the coffee table might seem needlessly paranoid, many slip-and-falls are caused by simple furniture. Make sure there are wide, open walkways between furniture, and try to avoid placing furniture too tightly together. Spacing chairs and sofas away from the wall can help prevent accidental falls, as guests with reduced mobility can use them as handholds.
Every kitchen has its own unique quirks. It could be the burner that takes a few tries to light, or the faucet that only stops dripping when you turn the handle a certain way. These may be fine for long-term residents, but can be both frustrating and potentially dangerous to short-term guests. For example, issues with gas ranges, ovens, and electrical appliances can be dangerous to uninitiated guests.
Before making your home available to vacation rental guests, consider upgrading the kitchen appliances, or at least giving them a tune-up. Ensure all fixtures are properly installed, grounded, and include GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets around wet areas like sinks and bars. Home inspectors are a great resource for uncovering any potential pitfalls around the property before opening the doors to renters.
A few extra grab bars, soft surfaces, spacious arrangements, and clearly marked steps can make your entire listing much safer for everyone. Make sure guests know in advance how the sleeping arrangements are situated; for example, sleeping rooms on the ground floor are helpful or possibly necessary for many potential guests. Be aware of elevation disparities, such as raised seating areas, and be sure to clearly mark any potential trip hazards. If you think your property might not be a good fit for mobility-impaired guests, clearly express this in the listing or consider making upgrades to the property before listing the rental.
Finally, it’s important to realize that you are now a business owner; and with great profits, comes great responsibility. Liability insurance is something that every business needs to ensure they are protected in case of a personal injury lawsuit. Whether the injury is severe or superfluous, liability insurance will ensure you have the means to defend against potential claims. Even better, consider hiring a personal injury attorney to evaluate your property, policy, and business structure; they may be able to help you discover pitfalls you wouldn’t normally catch.
Running a vacation rental home can be both fun and profitable for savvy investors: the total US vacation rental market accounted for more than $16 million in 2017 alone. For hosts who want to hold onto their profits, making each listing as safe as possible is good for your guests, enhances your property value, and can protect you from the potential devastation of a personal injury lawsuit. To learn more about protecting your business investment, contact us at (727) 451-6900 or by email.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765