A poolside slip, a protective gate that doesn’t close properly, an unattended leak—it doesn’t take much for an accident to occur on your watch, but that accident could cause a nasty fall, hefty medical costs, and your business thousands.
However, with professional insights into preventative measures, best practices, and software solutions, you can minimize the chances of a guest injuring themselves at your properties and protect your business from the legal fallout.
To provide those insights, we spoke with Justin Ford, vacation rental safety expert and keynote speaker, and Breezeway’s Director of Short-Term Rental Safety & Certification Programs.
From Justin’s years of experience in short-term rental safety, you’ll learn about the biggest risks on vacation rental properties and how they can impact your business, you’ll see advice on issues like fire hazards and pool safety, and we discuss Breezeway’s Safety Training Program.
Protect your vacation rental business from accidents
Protecting your vacation rental from slips & falls, litigation, and worse
Guests are more susceptible to accidents because they’re unfamiliar with the idiosyncrasies of another person’s home. Also, their behaviors while on vacation can lead to poor judgment calls that increase risk.
Here we look at the main areas of concern for property managers, giving you advice on how to minimize the chance of a serious incident occurring on your short-term rental (STR) properties.
Slips, trips, and falls
“Slips, trips, and falls are 83% of all accidents,” Justin explained. “Most people are injured walking in because there's a lack of good lighting, the landscaping forced them to walk along the path in an awkward way, they step in and there's a rug or carpet that's in a poor location, or the handrail isn’t good enough.”
But what exactly are the consequences of a slip or fall?
“There's going to be a claim that's filed, and the insurance company is going to check very carefully what happened. If they slipped because of flooding due to the windows being left open when it was raining, or because there wasn't a handrail where the building codes require one, that's negligence. So now it falls back on the business.”
In Justin’s experience, those costs aren’t insignificant: “It can be very expensive. A typical slip and fall is around $350,000.”
So, there’s your incentive to take precautions. Here are our recommendations:
- Provide well-lit pathways and entrances
- Ensure pathways aren’t obstructed, for example by overhanging branches, overgrown bushes, or discarded clutter.
- Look for wobbly steps and uneven paving slabs.
- Put in place non-slip mats at every entrance.
- Fix anti-slip stair treads to steps.
- Install non-slip safety flooring, especially in corridors, kitchens, and bathrooms
- Remove or replace rugs that can upturn or slide around.
- Install railings beside steps and stairs, as well as in bathrooms, being highly observant of building codes.
- Carry out regular inspections and maintenance of all the above, keeping an easily accessible record of every event.
- Inform guests of what to expect with clear pre-arrival communications, for example in a digital guide.
Provide porch lighting, keep steps clear of tripping hazards, and consider anti-slip treads, especially if the steps are slanted or walkways are naturally slippery.
“You can't sign your life away,” said Justin, talking about the risks of household environmental hazards. “Aside from the potential loss of life, of course, a carbon monoxide leak happens on your property and the cost is in the millions."
“Just last year, three friends died in a Mexico City vacation rental from carbon monoxide poisoning. And that was preventable—a $30 device would’ve saved their lives.”
Some of the environmental hazard risks to your short-term rental include:
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Natural and propane gas leaks
- Mold spores
Here’s our advice:
- Install carbon monoxide detectors and gas leak detectors.
- Install humidity detectors with mold risk analysis.
- Provide well-ventilated indoor spaces, for example with air vents, opening windows during turnovers, and the use of exhaust fans and dehumidifiers.
- Regular checking and maintenance of appliances like gas stoves, boilers, and gas fireplaces.
Also, be aware that Airbnb provides safety information and equipment as part of its home safety program. This includes free carbon monoxide and smoke detectors to eligible hosts, which you can read more about here.
Fire safety and electrical hazards
A fire at your short-term rental would have the potential to cause untold damage to the property structure and its contents, as well as risk the lives of your guests.
In fact, a worst-case scenario occurred recently when a catastrophic fire developed at a vacation home in France, and a group of travelers with disabilities became trapped on the mezzanine and upper level of the building.
So as well as the potential causes of a fire, you also need to be aware of restrictions in access, emergency exits, and occupancy limits.
By providing the right equipment, systematically carrying out the necessary checks, and encouraging guests to observe best practices, you can minimize the risk of such an occurrence at your rental property:
- Implement a "No Smoking Indoors" policy.
- Install smoke detectors throughout the property.
- Inspect wiring, keeping an eye out for flickering lights and discolored outlets.
- Warn guests against overloading outlets with multiple plugged-in devices.
- Ask guests not to leave switched-on appliances unattended.
- Where possible, remove any flammable materials (for example, cleaning agents) from the rental property, or at least store them away from any potential heat sources.
- Install a fire extinguisher and heat blanket near the kitchen.
- Provide clear instructions for using appliances in your digital guide.
Asking renters to play a proactive role in their own safety, like not leaving electrical appliances unattended, is the most important action you can take to protect your short-term rental property.
The statistics associated with the obvious risks of vacation rental property swimming pools are genuinely alarming.
“You know, kids getting to pools is a huge problem in the US,” Justin said. “Over 150 kids have died in a vacation rental pool this year so far in the US alone [our conversation is in early October 2023]. It happens constantly.
“There are lots of different reasons,” Justin explained. “For example, the pool alarms for our industry are horrible—children will go in, it just makes a quick beep, and if the parents are upstairs sleeping, they just don't hear it.
“Or maybe there’s no alarm at all,” Justin continued, “and the pool inflatables are a hazard themselves—it only takes seconds, and the parents didn't come on vacation to be a pool supervisor.”
So as well as implementing all the safety precautions you’re able to as a property manager, Justin’s advice is to educate and empower your guests.
“The Water Watcher program is free,” Justin explained. “It's a lanyard with a card on it. And if you're in charge of watching the pool, then you wear that and you don't go to the bathroom, you don't drink a cocktail, and you don't leave the pool.
“You're there to watch, and then if somebody else is ready to relieve you or you got to go to the bathroom, you either take the kids with you or you take that lanyard, and you hand it to somebody else.
“Your job as the property manager is just to put it on the kitchen counter with a written note that you reinforce in your guidebook. And there's the card—you’ve done your bit.”
Here’s an overview of what you can do to prevent pool accidents at your vacation rental:
- Implement a Water Watcher program.
- Install a pool alarm to alert guests when someone enters.
- Install a self-latching gate and fence around the pool.
- Lay anti-slip flooring around the side of the pool.
- Provide clear signage to warn against running and diving.
- Provide a first-aid kit within easy reach of the pool.
An easy way to manage and track your vacation rental’s preventative maintenance
As we’ve seen, to protect your guests, homeowners, and business, you need to:
- Be aware of basic safety standards
- Equip rentals with the correct safety features
- Communicate effectively with guests even from before check-in
- Implement and track regular checks and maintenance
In doing so, you’ll not only mitigate some of the biggest risks you can face in STR property management, but you can provide peace of mind to your property owners, which you can use to enhance your brand and market your services.
To provide support in this, Justin has helped develop Breezeway's Safety Program, which trains property managers to identify and address the safety risks at your properties.
As well as exclusive access to our community of vacation rental safety resources, including the self-guided course and its training materials, you’ll gain access to Breezeway’s home safety checklist and a free customized digital inspection account.
Breezeway’s property care software includes built-in safety and cleaning checklists, allows you to easily schedule regular safety inspections, and provides you with a history of all your maintenance checks and tasks.
"We plan to promote safety inspections to prospective owners as a benefit of signing with our management company. We're going to spend time marketing this service, and I encourage my partners and staff to take Breezeway's course as well."
Heather Bayer, Co-Founder of Vacation Rental Formula, ON, Canada.
Protect your guests, property, and business
It’s time for the vacation rental industry to get serious about safety, and at Breezeway, we’re committed to help.
By making safety a cornerstone of your management services, you can keep guests and their families safe, protect the interests of your homeowners, and guard your business against legal risks.
“Breezeway’s task management reminders tell you that you need to vacuum your smoke alarms once a month. They tell you to change the batteries, when to change the CO detector, when to check the pool gate. And the software keeps a record of it."
“Litigious incidents are so huge in the US—a renter fell down the stairs, a kid got access to the pool—well now you have a record to show that two weeks ago, you checked that pool gate and it worked. Because you use Breezeway. You can prove you’re not negligent.”
Justin Ford, Breezeway Director of Short-Term Rental Safety & Certification Programs
Protect your vacation rental business from accidents
Frequently asked questions about vacation rental safety
How can I use technology to improve vacation rental safety?
Breezeway’s property care platform includes task management and scheduling software so you can program maintenance inspections and tasks months in advance.
The software automates reminders, communicates with your team or vendors, and ensures you never miss a smoke alarm battery change, appliance check, or review of loose paving stones.
Since Breezeway automatically records all those checks and tasks, if an accident does occur on your property, you’ll be able to prove that you weren’t negligent in your responsibilities as a vacation rental host.
What's the best workflow for managing maintenance issues?
Using Breezeway, you can create cleaning and maintenance checklists for teams to refer to as they complete any task. The platform makes it easy to automate task scheduling based on check-in and check-out times, as well as the requirements of your on-site amenities, whether those are electrical appliances, water heaters, or air vents.
Plus, Breezeway allows cleaners to easily create maintenance tasks whenever they spot an issue during their scheduled turnovers.
With these solutions in place, you can schedule maintenance tasks to be carried out as and when required according to the nature of your property and its contents while causing minimal disturbance to guests.
How do I carry out a vacation rental safety inspection?
Breezeway’s Safety Program educates property managers on what to look for, how to address issues so they don’t present a risk to your guests, and how to perform regular maintenance checks for safety.
As well as our learning materials, you’ll gain access to vital tools, such as our cleaning checklists and inspection templates, which are designed by experts in STR safety.