Few days go past at the moment without a report of stormy weather, wild fires breaking out, or gloom-and-doom forecasting of even nastier stuff to come. For vacation rental owners this can be challenging and makes it even more important to have all eventualities identified in the Terms and Conditions of Rental (TCoR).
For some guests it can be enough to see a hurricane building out in the Caribbean for them to be on the phone wanting to cancel their vacation and get a refund. Weather forecasters and news media just love the drama and as we know from recent weeks, will sensationalize the situation to the extent of scaring even the most unflappable individuals.
It can be tough to deal with emotional guests who have concerns about the potential of putting their families at risk. To them it will seem a simple request and they won’t understand if you baulk at offering them their money back – after all, the news is talking about Armageddon so why don’t you understand their worries and appreciate they can’t possibly take a vacation when it would be ‘dangerous’ to do so? Or, let’s say they are at the property and want to bail out because they believe there’s a good chance of being blown to Kansas. I don’t intend on making light of what might be a genuinely hazardous situation, because that is an entirely different matter, and one that can be addressed through the Terms and Conditions of Rental.
Managing conversations such as these is much easier if you can simply refer back to the rental agreement they signed when they booked. A clearly stated policy on cancellations and refunds can help enormously to explain why an over-dramatized weather forecast is not enough to affect a refund.
Don’t forget this is a new industry and many of your guests only have the experience of buying hotel or resort accommodation to relate to. They often find it difficult to understand that privately owned vacation rentals have different parameters and the ability to cancel at short notice with limited penalties is unlikely.
When you consider your policies, think about the types of circumstances your guests might encounter. If you are in a hurricane area, you’ll want to include information on what happens when mandatory evacuation orders are in effect; in snow- belt regions, your clauses may cover access after heavy snowfall. One option is to offer no refund at all for inclement weather unless the property becomes uninhabitable for any reason; another may be to include different conditions that may impact on their options for cancellation such as power interruptions.
If you are able to refer your guests to a vacation rental insurance policy that will cover them for cancellation, interruption or curtailment that include weather related situations, then you have carried out a duty of care. If your guests opt not to take out appropriate insurance, they have made a key decision that really takes away any portion of ‘responsibility’ from the owner.
Heather Bayer is Director of Owner Community at VacationHomeRentals.com. She has been renting her vacation homes for over 20 years and is author of the book Renting Your Recreational Property for Profit