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.
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…