Preparing For Emergencies
While we always want everything to go smoothly for our guests, situations will occur that will need emergency management and our attention. This could be anything from the power going out, to storm damage to a national health scare. Waiting until they happen to search for solutions is one choice, but it is far better to have an emergency plan in place so that everyone in your team has the practical response for anything that occurs.
Think about what you might do in these situations when you have the cottage occupied:
- A storm brings down a tree that prevents guests from leaving a property on their check out date – other guests are due to arrive the same day.
- After a power outage, the water pump fails to restart.
- It’s the middle of a rental week and the the power has been out for over 24 hours - guests have no running water or light at night. They want to leave and have demanded a complete refund as their vacation has been ‘ruined’.
- Your guests have come back to the property late after a day out and have locked themselves out.
- The family that arrived on the afternoon of the heat wave call to say the fridge has stopped working – they have brought a lot of food for their stay that will go off and they are very upset.
- Your cleaner has called in sick on the morning the family of ten is due to depart – the next group will arrive at 4pm.
- A call from your neighbor alerts you to a party in the making. A group of teens has just been dropped off at your place and more are arriving. They are playing loud music, have taken the cover off your boat and are attempting to get it started.
- A family booked for a season and have refused to leave at the end of their stay because they say they have no other place to stay, and have invoked landlord/tenancy legislation.
Every one of these situations is genuine and has occurred for a vacation rental owner over the last few years. Some were prepared and were able to manage the problems promptly with little stress, while others caused more issues over a longer period of time.
Not all events are easy to manage but if there is already an emergency plan in place it allows an owner to be more responsive over a shorter time period.
Start off by brainstorming every problem that might arise. Be creative and over the top, because the more extreme situations you can think of, the better you’ll be able to manage the minor ones. Include things that may prevent a guest from fully enjoying their vacation and those that might impact others, such as neighbours or future guests.
For each situation, you need a resolution. Even if this means a guest has to leave the property, you’ll still need a plan to manage their demands for a refund or rebate.
The Emergency Plan
By now you have a long list of potential problems with some idea of how you would handle each one.
Write down your plan. These solutions should not remain in your head with a casual – ‘we’ll deal with it if it comes up…” They should be fully documented so anyone can pick it up and see the planned resolution when an event occurs.
The plan should be comprehensive and include the contact information of anyone who might be involved in problem resolution. Of course you need to ensure these people are aware of their role in the plan. There is little use in having the number of an electrician to call if they don’t have a 24-hour callout option.
Refunds and Rebates
The first thing guests will want to know if their vacation has been interrupted or curtailed in any way, is how much money they will get back.
They are likely to be upset so it’s important you are clear in your policies. Getting it out there in advance is the most helpful thing to do. If your guests know what will happen in case of an emergency they are forewarned and will be less likely to be aggressively demanding.
For example, some guests will be upset at a 2-hour power outage while others think it’s fun to be using ‘survival’ skills for a longer period. Encourage guests to purchase travel insurance that will cover cancellation or curtailment in the event of weather related events that prevent full enjoyment of a vacation. If your Terms and Conditions of Rental clearly state your policy on what you will refund in case of weather related incidents, this will make your life a lot easier when the summer storms come.
You won’t appreciate how important this contingency planning is until a situation arises and a plan has to be put into action. When that happens and all the component parts come together to deliver a quick solution to the problem, you will see how worthwhile it was.