Safe Outdoor Spaces and Minimizing the Risk of Liability Claims

Providing some outdoor space can really add value to your vacation rental offering. However, they can also add some risk in terms of guests hurting themselves and for which you can be held liable. We have discussed liability insurance already on the blog. Read it here!

Consider the example of someone using the swing in your garden. Imagine the swing’s seat comes loose, the person falls and breaks their arm. You can now be held liable for this and the bodily injury they incured and if you do not have the right insurance this can be costly – costly enough to ruin your business. Therefore, it is firstly important to have appropriate liability insurance which covers you as a short-term rental host and secondly to do everything in your power to make sure your property is safe. With the help of Steve Watt, Chairman of CertiStay’s Safety & Security Committee, we have compiled a comprehensive guide on how to keep your outdoor spaces safe for your guests. Read on to learn more…

Pools and Hot Tubs

  • Fencing off pools and hot tubs prevents unauthorized use and can increase child safety.
  • Ensure all doorways/gates accessing a pool or hot tub are lockable, preventing unintended access by children.
  • Small children should only use the pool and tub with adult supervision.
  • Ensure all pool components, slides and other accessories are in working order and/or safe to use.
  • Make sure the water is tested regularly and that chemicals are safely stored.
  • Non-slip decking can reduce the risk of injury.

Waterfront access

Waterfront Access

  • Young children accessing the waterfront should be under adult supervision.
  • Ensure all water based equipment is in working order (canoe, kayak, power boat, etc.) and that personnel flotation devices are available, as required.
  • Provide guidance and directions for use of water borne equipment.

Airbnb BBQ

Grills and BBQs

  • Ensure that outdoor cooking appliances are safe to use, clean and in working order.
  • Fuel/propane tanks should be full and ready for use with spare tanks available for guest use.
  • Provide guidelines for use of grills and BBQs.
  • Have a fire extinguisher nearby in the event of accidental fire.

Airbnb balcony

Balconies, Decks and Patios

  • All access to balconies, decks and patios should be lockable.
  • Ensure all balconies, decks and patios are in good order and safe to use.
  • Perimeter alarms can deter unintended guests or indicate when a guest enters the balcony, deck or patio from the residence.
  • Installing a non-slip surface can increase safety during and after wet weather.
  • All outdoor furniture must be in good condition and safe to use.

Airbnb garden

Gardens and Natural Outdoor Space

  • Make sure the outdoor space is safe for guest use.
  • Provide warning signs for any dangerous areas or poisonous plants or remove the latter, if practical.
  • Stairways should be non-slip and those over three steps should include a handrail.
  • Any playground equipment (swings, slides, etc.) should be checked on a regular basis and safe to use.

Airbnb secuirty


  • Installing alarms and outdoor cameras can provide guests can provide guests with a more secure vacation experience. However, if you do have cameras installed, make guests aware of where they are located. Read more about ensuring security of your vacation rental here.

Rather have the experts check whether your property is safe and secure? Contact CertiStay today

Make your vacation rental stand out

Get Your Vacation Rental Noticed on Listing Sites

As a short-term rental host, you are probably facing some competition. There are exceptions, of course. Maybe you are in a very special location or catering for a specific niche with a highly unique listing. However, the average location rental is a small mackerel in the big sea of fish of other offerings. So how do you get yours noticed? How do you make it the rainbow fish of vacation rentals with 100% occupancy and plenty of booking requests? Here are 5 easy-to-implement tips to make your vacation rental stand out on listing sites like Airbnb, HomeAway or VRBO.

Make your airbnb stand out

Get Picture Ready

To get good pictures taken for your STR must be the most common advice to give hosts who want to improve their listing. However, I still see a lot of listings especially in the lower price segment with blurry, dark pictures. Photographs like that give me the impression that the accommodation is more likely to be a comfortable home for some supernatural beings than my family on holiday. Most smartphones are equipped with cameras fully capable to take good shots of your vacation rental. Make sure the bed sheets are crease-free, add some colourful touches (like bright cushions or a vase with flowers) and take the pictures during the day with as much natural light as possible.

Professional pictures are of course preferable but can be costly. One tip would be work with local influencers on Instagram. This can be two-fold. As the first option, the influencer gets free accommodation for one or two nights in return for talking about the STR on his or her social channels (usually with images). As a second option, you could invite an influencer to stay with you for free in return for some professional photographs. On a side note, make sure you agree beforehand what each party’s commitment is and that you will have the right to use their pictures.

Emphasize Safety and Security

Accidents happen but they should not happen in your short-term rental. Airbnb has been in the spotlight a lot lately with devastating fatal accidents making headlines. Therefore, a host’s priority should be to assure that his vacation rental is safe and secure. Airbnb provides some handy pointers in their Responsible Hosting guide.

On top of that, operating a safe rental can be a selling point as well, as vacationers are looking for a place which they can enjoy without worries. Be certain to include information about your safety provisions (like fire extinguishers, first aid kit, pool gates and so on) in your vacation rental’s description. Alternatively, get certified by CertiStay, who provide third-party safety and security certification for short-term rentals, and then advertise your well-earned certification on our listing. Finally, you can add some photos to your listing of the features which make your offering particularity safe and secure.

Make your vacation rental stand out

Offer Breakfast

You might think that your short-term rental is not a B&B, but you don’t have to offer an extensive breakfast buffet in order to state that you are providing breakfast. Stock the cupboard and fridge with a carton of milk, a bottle of fruit juice, a loaf of bread, some cereal, jam and butter before each guest’s arrival and you have got your continental breakfast. Most of these items can be bought and bulk, don’t perish quickly or can be frozen if you have the storage space. Then place the item in the rental before the guests get there or have your turnover staff place them for you.

With two similar listings with identical prices, people will most likely prefer the option with breakfast. It provides additional value to the guest with limited effort from the host.

Laptop-friendly workspace airbnb

Provide a Laptop-friendly Workspace

It is a growing trend to work location-independent. And at an advantage for the short-term rental industry, the so-called digital nomads took a great liking to Airbnb. Why? Because compared to a hostel, they can have their own space to live like a local in a place, rest and work. Furthermore, especially on Airbnb you can filter listings for laptop-friendly workspaces. What does that mean? A comfortable chair, a desk without clutter and a desk light are usually recommended. Take a picture of your set-up and post it with your listing, so your guests know exactly what they can expect.

Besides having a work desk in your rental, high-speed Wifi can also be a big selling point. Test your internet speed online and publish its results on the listing description or as a screenshot.

Airbnb description get noticed

Highlight Main Selling Points in the Listing Heading

I get it. All vacation homes are comfortable, beautiful and amazing but that is probably not something that is going to help your listing get noticed. You will want to advertise what makes your short-term rental extra special. So instead highlight your main selling points in your listing title. Your guests have access to a pool? Great! Stick it in there. Air-conditioning? Located next to main landmark? Balcony? Identify what makes your listing different and what sells it and then shout about it.

Anything to add on how to make your vacation rental stand out? Let us know on our social channels – FacebookTwitter or Instagram

Insurance for short-term rentals

Understanding Liability Insurance for Your Short-term Rental

Chief Insurance Officer CertiStayAs the Chief Insurance Officer of CertiStay, Yvonne Chan is the go-to expert to answer any questions regarding vacation homes and insurance. Yvonne holds impressive qualifications such as Chartered Insurance Professional (CIP), Canadian Risk Management (CRM) and Canadian Association of Insurance Brokers (CAIB) designations. She has been working in the industry for over 20 years and specialises in modelling proprietary insurance solutions.

Also read our interview with Steve Watt, Chairman of CertiStay’s Safety & Secruity Committee.

1. Yvonne, thank you for answering some questions for us today. Could you briefly describe your background in the insurance industry?

Today many young insurance professionals are graduates of a risk management program at post secondary institutions – many of my peers of my generation either fell into insurance by accident or it is a family business. I fell into insurance by accident when I was trying to figure out what to do after school. In my very first insurance job, I met a wonderful mentor who continues to be a mentor and friend to me to this day. She was knowledgeable and kind. However, she was a tough teacher, which I admired and wanted to emulate.

My first job was with The Dominion of Canada Insurance Company, which was the oldest Canadian Insurance company prior to Travelers acquiring it. I was a Claims Assistant before being promoted to an In-house Claims Adjuster, adjusting homeowners’ claims. From there it was a natural progression to learning how to create insurance programs to meet the needs of different insured operations so that when there is a claim that the policy would respond. I went on to become a Placement Specialist with several global insurance brokers to continue to develop my craft. I was extremely fortunate to have many wonderful mentors along the way that encourage my curiosity and passion for the insurance business.

2. What is your role now at CertiStay and what does it encompass?

My title is Chief Insurance Officer. I believe that everyone dreams of having an opportunity to apply what they have learned throughout their career and to implement products to specific business needs.
CertiStay’s business is unique and one of a kind as there is an urgent need to address safety and security of short-term rental properties by an independent third party. The clients that seek us out are therefore savvy and exceptional business operators with specific insurance requirements.

My main role at CertiStay is to create insurance product offerings to address their specific business requirements. Insurance that will stand the test of claims that are unique to this class of insured.

3. Diving right into the topic, what is liability insurance and why should operators insure their short-term rental?

Vacation home owners can be sued at any point in time – whether there is wrongdoing or not. This is a fact. It is also a fact that our society has become more litigious. It takes time and money to defend yourself or your business, whether it is your fault or not. Liability insurance therefore is a financial protection against bodily injury and property damage sustained by others for which you are found liable.

You and your business can attract liability for things that you have done or may not have done. Consider the example of someone tripping down the stairs at your short-term rental. If the injured person tripped over their own feet, you are not in any way at fault. However, if they felt that that the unfortunate accident was due to some faulty treads on your stairs, you can be held liable for their injuries. So at the very least, you as the operator would want the peace of mind to, either be able to pay for the damages or to have the ability to defend yourself against nuisance claims.

4. Do popular short-term rental listing sites like Airbnb or HomeAway include liability insurance? Why would operators consider seeking extra insurance beyond that coverage?

Short-term rentals are not like a hotel or a bed and breakfast. Many operators operate either from their principal residences or have property that is strictly for short-term renting. As a result, insurance programs have to be tailored for these unique business operations.

Some of the larger listing sites do provide some liability coverage for operators or hosts, but generally the limit of coverage is too low for a business operation. Should a serious accident occur – the limit may be insufficient.

Operators should not only seek additional insurance coverage but they should make sure that they have the right coverage. They run a business, and in order to thrive as a business, they must operate profitably and without loss due to liability claims. Therefore, financial protection and the ability to transfer the risk to an insurer should be key considerations of any business operations.

Find out more about CertiStay and how it works.

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Do you have any more questions for Yvonne? Feel free to join our Facebook community where safety and security experts and STR hosts come together! Join now…