Posts

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

Security

  • 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

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.

nordwood-themes-469906-unsplash-small2 (1)

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…

local regulations airbnb

How to Find out about Laws and Regulations in Your Area

Navigating local regulations regarding short-term rentals’ safety and security can be a confusing minefield. With laws constantly changing on a national, regional and most frequently city level, hosts have to put in increased efforts to keep up with the latest requirements. Most of the time not fulfilling these requirements can mean not only putting the safety of your guests at stake but also risking being banned from running your Airbnb, HomeAway or VRBO. For example, as stated in an article by Justin Ford on VRMintel, “many localities around the United States […] require vacation rentals to have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, emergency exit lighting, and fire extinguishers in place.”

Additionally, some places also ask STR hosts to follow certain procedures in order to avoid health issues. These can, for example, involve linen sanitization or pool and spa maintenance.

So where do you begin? Not to worry! We’ve compiled a guide on where to look for your area’s safety and security requirements for your short-term rental or vacation home.

Consult Your Local Government

Firstly, your local government will be able to provide materials on what safety standards need to be fulfilled by STRs or even if safety inspections are required. However, which department of the government is responsible varies a lot. Generally, you will be able to obtain information from the city hall or the city’s general website. At times, it is also worth checking with the housing department or the licensing department, since running an STR can be considered a business. For example, to obtain a Short-term Rental Licence in Denver the “STR must have an operable smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector and fire extinguisher”. Find this information on the city website under the Business Licensing Center section.

Check the Airbnb Website

Secondly, the Airbnb website provides some great guidelines on how to be responsible host in the US.  These recommendations proof useful even if your not in the United States or if you use other channels than Airbnb to promote your STR. Further down the page, US hosts can find the regulations specific to their city. For example, in Seattle, WA, the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance requires certain rental property owners to register with the city. In Seattle short-term rentals need to abide by certain standards, which include safety and security variables, in order to legally welcome guests.

safety regulations short-term rental

Join Facebook Groups

In addition to the above, Facebook groups, where fellow short-term rental hosts come together, can provide a great resource. It might not give you the most reliable answers but will provide a great starting point for your own research. Find our short-list of the 5 most useful Facebook groups for hosts to join here.

Ask CertiStay

We are experts when it comes the safety and security of short-term rentals. We work with a Safety & Security Committee of renowned experts in the industry. Furthermore we’re constantly providing recommendations to hosts on how to keep their guests and property safe. This is why we’re always up-to-date with the latest regulations and are happy to share. Get in touch!

Do you know another great way to find out about local regulations that you would like to share with us? We would love to hear from you on our social channels – FacebookTwitter or Instagram

airbnb safety security

Tips & Tricks on How to Keep Your Short-term Rental Secure

As the Chairman of the Safety & Security Committee of CertiStay, Steve Watt can look back on over 35 years of experience in policing. Starting his career in Northern Ireland with the Royal Ulster Constabulary, he quickly established his career in police, law enforcement and private security training not only in Canada but internationally as well. A recognized expert on policing matters, he has been consulting for the Province of British Columbia and Public Safety Canada since 2007. With this impressive CV, there is really no better person to ask a couple of questions on how to keep your Airbnb and short-term rental safe and secure. Let’s get started!

Note: Short-term rentals are referred to as STRs.

1. Having summarised your experience a bit above, could you tell us about a highlight that stood out in your career?

While there many are highs and lows in policing, my main focus has always been helping others; whether that was a police officer in training, the victim of a crime or someone struggling with life’s challenges. It’s all about reaching out and touching someone in a positive way. My role with CertiStay carries on that philosophy to ensure individuals and families can experience safe and secure business and vacation short-term rentals.

2. How did you become a member of the Safety & Security Committee of CertiStay?

Happenstance! A colleague of mine introduced me to Wolf Worster in April 2017 and the rest fell into place after meeting with the CertiStay team.

3. Getting onto the subject of security in STRs, which are the 3 most important issues in terms of security to consider when setting up your Airbnb, VRBO or Homeaway?

There are two interrelated issues to address here, the security of your rental property and the safety and security of your guest. Take steps to target harden your property from break and enter, theft and vandalism. That includes secure doors, windows, lighting and visibility to and from the street; and as an additional step, exterior cameras and motion sensor lights. By increasing the security of your property you will also enhance the safety of your guests as a result.

4. What is an easy thing an short-term rental host could do just now to increase the security of their vacation home?

Generally welcoming someone into your home or rental unit and especially as they are paying, increases your responsibility for their safety, security and overall experience of their stay. As the owner, make sure your property is secure from unauthorized entry: door locks are secure; keypads are reset with each new guest; door chain locks are installed as a secondary step; and windows are secure. Also, ensure that your property is well-lit at night and entry ways are clear allowing your guests to safely enter and exit the dwelling. On the inside make sure everything is operating as promised and that emergency information is available for your guests. Finally, make sure your guests can easily exit your property in case of an emergency.

5. What do you think that most hosts forget that is important to keep their STRs safe and secure?

Make sure your rental unit meets the standards expected by the general public and the safety and security guidelines provided by your municipal government and/or crime prevention and community based policing practices. Also compare your rental to others being offered, including hotel rooms and suites. Identify your problems and correct them. Just because you have the space to list a short-term rental, doesn’t mean you have acceptable accommodation. Most importantly, put your guests first.

6. You help put together the audit CertiStay performs for STRs/vacation homes to certify their safety and security. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?

The CertiStay audit template is quite comprehensive including some 24 categories covering a wide range of rentals from single family homes, laneway homes, basement suites and condos. An example of some of the categories are: security and surveillance; doors; windows; fire suppression; smoke and CO alarms; electrical; emergency preparedness; communications; and individual rooms (living room, kitchen; bedrooms; and bathroom). Each category has multiple questions to ensure the rental unit meets the base requirements for certification by CertiStay.

Furthermore, owners who go beyond the basics will be recognized as ‘exceeding requirements’ and can achieve Smart Home certification were smart components are in place. Regardless of the foregoing, should a rental unit score ‘below requirements’ on a category that would potentially be life threatening (absence of smoke and CO alarms), that element would require correction before being certified. Mainly, our goal is to collaborate with the owners to enhance the safety and security of their short-term rentals.

7. Is the audit automated or is it performed by an auditor?

It’s both. Gone are the days of paper based audits. The CertiStay audit template will be accessed by our auditors via the CertiStay App on a tablet. The tablet application allows the auditors to walk through the audit questions, category by category. While the questions have been developed to eliminate subjectivity, the auditor will be able to comment on any element of the audit and also embed photographs, as required.

nordwood-themes-469906-unsplash-small2 (1)

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