So you fixed the running toilet, patched the torn screens, scheduled a professional deep spring cleaning and bought some new beach chairs to replace those old rusty ones. You’re all set for the vacation rental season, right?
Not if you haven’t taken the following safety issues into account:
Check your insurance.
If you haven’t already, ask your insurance agent or carrier if your current homeowner’s policy covers claims that may arise when rental guests are occupying your home. If the home is your primary residence for most of the year, it may provide the coverage you need for vacation rentals. But there may be a limit on the number of weeks you can rent and still have that coverage. At any rate, it’s prudent to at least let your insurer know that you have rentals.
“When does occasional rental of a second home transform to one that requires separate coverage? ‘It depends on the insurance company,’ says Bill Mills, vice president of Strategic Insurance Agencies Group of North Carolina, in Jacksonville, N.C. ‘You have to make sure the company will even allow short-term rentals,’ Mills says.” — Bankrate.com
If your rental property is a second home, you’ll likely need a separate “dwelling” policy or even “landlord’s” insurance. Generally, you can choose from two or three levels of coverage, including an “open peril” policy, in which, unless a peril is specifically excluded, it’s covered.
The point is, check to see what coverage you have and whether or not you need something more.
Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
You’ll likely find that your insurance policy requires the proper placement of working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Even if your insurance doesn’t require it, why take any chances with the lives of your family or rental guests who stay at your property?
Here’s a sobering factoid: From December 2015 to March 2016, in 55% of the 31 instances of fire deaths in homes in Massachusetts there were no working smoke alarms.
“State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, ‘Most people know they should have working smoke alarms. The one thing many people don’t realize is that smoke alarms need to be replaced about every ten years.’ Major manufacturers of smoke alarms indicate they have a service life of about ten years and recommend replacement after that because the sensing technology deteriorates over time.”
Also check your fire extinguisher(s) to be sure it’s in good working order and that your rental guests are told where you keep it for quick access if an emergency arises.
Here’s a simple, solid set of guidelines for home fire extinguishers:
Dryer, dryer, pants on fire.
It’s no joke. Nearly 3,000 residential fires each year are caused by clothes dryers. But you say, you regularly clean that lint trap and instruct your rental guests to do the same, right?
That’s great, except for the fact that the lint trap on the average dryer, captures only about 25% of that highly flammable lint. The rest goes into your dryer vent duct, much of it sticking to the walls and accumulating over time. Eventually, the duct becomes completely blocked, the dryer overheats and boom! The ignition point is reached and you have a dryer fire.
A few tips on preventing dryer fires:
Make your dryer vent run as short as possible with as few turns as possible. Straight and short makes for less lint build-up.
Use a rigid metal vent duct, not one of those flexible vent hose-style ducts which can sag, allowing more lint to gather in the low points. The “sag factor” is a more frequent problem on the Cape, because so much sand gets into the dryer on beach towels, etc. Sand is heavy, so once inside a flexible vent duct, that duct is going to sag for sure.
Here are a few warning signs that your dryer vent duct needs to be cleaned:
- Drying times are taking longer.
- Your dryer is getting too hot when in use
- You can’t see any steam, hear much noise or feel much hot air flow outside your house at the wall vent when you run the dryer (a good thing to check once or twice during the rental season).
Very important: clearly instruct everyone that your house is never to be left unoccupied with the dryer running. It’s tempting, especially for your cleaning service on a hectic turnover day, to wash a few bath mats, kitchen towels or small throw rugs, then chuck them into the dryer, fire it up, and beat feet to the next property on their list. Very risky practice.