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We are new to VRBO and have just started renting early July, 2011. A guest has queried us today about our gas grill tank being empty and wanting to know if it is his responsibility to refill it. He doesn't mind refilling it but suggests that we should add the cost to his security deposit refund. The cost of a tank exchange from a local ACE hardware store is $21.99. As we have not really given this any thought we can see his point as we did not put anything in our property description about "responsibility" for refilling a gas grill. Something that I intend to rectify. I intend to spell out in our contract which is sent out after they have given us a security deposit that the responsibility for refilling propane gas tanks will be at the renters expense. I know this can seem unfair to the family that gets the short end of the stick but as we have no control over the useage of the grill we can never know how much is left. We purchased the grill for the guests convenience and could just as easily have gotten a briquet burning grill which would have solved the problem as I don't think anyone would think twice about buying a three dollar bag of briquets. An alternative compromise would be to offer to absorb 50% of the cost with a valid receipt from the guest. I would appreciate any opinions from other owners on how they would treat this. Also, is this something that our property manager should deal with?
THANK YOU FOR THE RESPONSES. THEY ARE CONSISTENT WITH EARLIER "GRILL" BLOGS IN THAT MOST OWNERS REGARD THE GAS FOR A GRILL AS AN OWNERS EXPENSE. I WILL BE BUYING ANOTHER TANK TO KEEP IN "RESERVE" AND BROUGHT OUT BY OUR MANAGER OR HOUSEKEEPER WHEN THE OTHER ONE IS EMPTY. SPEAKING OF EMPTY, ASIDE FROM LIFTING THE TANK IS THERE ANY KIND OFA GAUGE THAT INDICATES HOW MUCH PROPANE IS ACTUALLY LEFT? THEY USED TO HAVE A STRIP ON THE SIDE THAT YOU POURED HOT WATER ON AND IT "READ" THE APPROXIMATE CONTENTS BUT I NO LONGER SEE THEM ON THE REPLACEMENT TANKS.
I have all guests sign a short term lease agreement. I have a clause that states that even though I have a grill if the tank becomes empty I will not issue a refund (funny what guests think justifies a full refund). However I also wrote that if a guest fills it and sends me the receipt I am more than happy to reimburse them for this amount. After all I would have had to go do it myself and this saved me from doing it and kept the guest happy on their vacation.
We provide the propane and try to monitor how much is left. We have a spare one for when the first one goes empty. We've had one customer who ran out when we were not around and we reimbursed him for it.
Like other posts have noted, we provide a tank on the grill and a back up. We ask (..beg...!) our guests to help us with this task since we live 600 miles away, and always with the understanding that we'll be happy to reimburse them!
We fill 2 tanks at beginning of season and check mid season to see if we need to refill. We do consider this included in the rental price. If somehow they both are empty at the same time and a renter is willing to refill it, we ask for the receipt and include that amount in their refund.
It is the owner's responsibility to fill and maintain the tanks. If you are unwilling, then you shouldn't have the grill in the first place. You don't say to your guests, "You can use the furnace but you need to pay the gas bill or you can take a shower but you need to pay the water bill. If I was a renter on vacation and I had to go get the tank filled and not reimbursed, I would be furious.
I think that the owner should supply one full tank, with clear instructions for refilling it at the guests' expense.
This would seem to fall under the same category as providing a starter set of toilet tissue, etc. Owners should not be expected to provide enough paper products - or anything else - to last an entire stay. The exception would be, of course, if the grill were the only cooking method available...
Thank you for your reply.
I agree entirely. Somehow we didn't think about the propane for the gas grill. At home, we use a tank that lasts us almost the entire summer, but apparently some people are really addicted to the grill. So after getting numerous responses everyone agrees it is the cost of rental. I suppose, given the fact that fuel costs about $22.00 a fill, that this is not insignificant, given all the other costs we absorb. So now we will provide another tank in reserve which our housekeeper will install as needed. I guess we just add it to the bill next summer. Who said this was easy??
In our first confirmation letter we state "we do not provide propane for the brill. If there is some, you may certainly use it. Propane is readily available at most gas stations and hardware stores"
In over ten years we had one complaint, guest did not read the confirmation, came to house, planned on BBQ the first night and called up very irate. We appeased him by paying for the tank (refunded cost with refund of security deposit).
In long island, a tank of gas is $30.00 to fill. We have not raised prices in three years in order to be competitive a d we cannot afford to absorb costs.
I just don't see how that is fair to your renters. So the first person of the season has to fill up the tank but the other guests that checkin afterward get free propane. A tank of propane can last for months. It's not a single use tank in that the person who purchases it isn't the only one who uses it.
When I move out of the house for the season I usually leave two tanks. Some people BBQ twice a day and others an occasional BBQ. We tell renters up front that we do not provide this. If there is propane they are welcome to it. But basically they should be prepared to provide their own.
We supply two full propane tanks at the start of our season (May - Oct).
We have an account at a local propane station. Our guests refill as necessary.
I wouldn't expect the guest that encounters an empty tank to subsizide our other guests.
A propane refill is $30. It's not much, but I believe the guest that gets stuck with an empty tank won't be happy paying for the refill when they have paid handsomely for their vacation week.
Here's one way of looking at this: an "amenity" should be offered in the whole sense of the product or service you are providing. So, it follows that if you list a grill, it should include a reasonable amount of gas or charcoal for the length of the rental period. Otherwise, it would be like advertising a swimming pool, but only filling it with a couple inches of water and expecting your guests to do the rest.
A grill is an amenity that drove your guests to choose your property, and the rental fee should cover whatever it takes to make the thing work - within reason. You should decide - and state very clearly in your signed rental agreement - what "reasonable" means, including your policy on refills. If guests don't like it, they can choose another rental. If the whole package is too expensive or inconvenient for you to maintain, then you might re-think offering this as an amenity.
As far as the "pay it forward" issue of leaving a filled tank for the next renters, this seems to fall outside of the "reasonable" expectations your guests would have. Since they have already paid for their amenity. why should they be required to subsidize the next folks? I don't think this can be compared with the bits and pieces of left-over food items that some people leave behind...unless, of course, you advertised that as an "amenity"!
Propane gas is part of a supremely important amenity, the vacation barbecue. I believe guests consider a gas grill sans gas a nuisance. It may be considered acceptable for a value priced rental to charge guests for cooking their meals, but for a quality to luxury rental I believe gas should be supplied. We have asked our guests to charge our account since we began renting our home(s). It never occurred to us not to include the propane gas, as well as many other household items and all of the utilities in the rental fee. But, I don't charge for any "extras". It's one fee and all is included. No worries, no additional or hidden costs for my guests.
We provide the propane. We clean the BBQ's after every check out and we make sure that there is propane for the next guests - so it's clean and ready for them. We also provide the refills, if/when it runs out. It usually does not run out in the middle of anyone's stay...I think it happened a couple of times over several years - after preceeding guests had a longer stay and used it up. The BBQ in my location is a "lifestyle", all year...it's a necessity...everyone expects this. We consider it our responsibility to supply what the guests need. We advertise a fully stocked, supplied and fully equipped unit --- and we do advertise that we will re-supply the propane if it should become necessary. We have a few tanks filled and ready, on hand --- also for our own personal use :o)
We, too, provide two filled propane tanks which last more than a year for both in spite of the fact that our Weber gets hard use. We think this is part of the cost of doing business. We don't charge extra for utilities or firewood either. Perhaps if we had a long-term rental of a month or more during the off-season our attitude would change and we would charge extra for propane and other expenses incurred.
We rented a cabin once and experienced an empty propane tank for ourselves. We had purchased food at the grocery for a nice at-home-dinner with the kids and then when we went to put it on the grill...nothing. We called the rental office and they said, sorry it's the weekend and we can't do anything about it. So my husband drove back to the grocery store, bought some charcoal and lighter fluid, and made dinner on an old park model grill that was also on the property. It was frustrating but we managed to pull dinner together about two hours later.
When we bought our first cabin, I said no to propane grills based on our experience. We installed a heavy duty park model charcoal grill and it lasted 5 years. We're now on year 4 of our second one and it's going to be retired at the end of this year. They cost about $200 now but are worth every penny because no one ever gets upset about empty propane tanks. Just a fresh coat of high temp spray paint each spring and a storage box so guests can keep their charcoal and lighter fluid safe and dry. I always mention to guests that before they go out and buy grilling supplies to check the box first. Oftentimes, previous guests have left charcoal behind and they don't have to buy anything.
I know a charcoal grill won't work in all rental venues, but if you can offer one...they won't cost you a penny in fuel costs and guests love them. Plus grilling enthusiasts love charcoal anyday over propane!
We also provide 2 full propane tanks for the start of each rental and plenty of firewood (our rentals are a month or longer), although the firewood is used periodically the grill gets good use. Luckily we have a "free" supply of firewood from normal tree trimming maintenance projects.
We always have 2 tanks of propane available. If they run out, well after a one week stay, then they have to buy their own. Most of the time a tank lasts me MOST of our High Season.
I installed a natural gas grill. My guests never have to worry about tanks etc. Every guest has been great about the grill and my gas bill has been about average in cost. I clean the grill after each guest. The natural gas grill seems to work very well for me.
I don't know why owners are complaining about having to provide the propane. Yes, some guests will BBQ more often than others, but (just the same), some will use your kitchen stove more than others.
The thought of telling a guest that he has to fill the tank up at his expense (for what may be one BBQ time) is ridiculous.
Either provide the propane and budget for it, or remove the gas grill. A tank should last at least a month or even a summer. If a tank lasts a summer, then that's about $2 a weekend.
It's not as Black and White as you simplify it down to. A case in point is anytime they can not figure out how to light the grill, back goes the tank for an exchange on the owner's dime. In the bieginning I was paying for it and exchanged 3 in 1 month for 4 renters. The renter who can't get it lit, will simply go exchange a brand new full tank for another full tank if the cost is on the owner.
Here's what I have found is a common problem with how renters light gas grills.
1) Guest does not check if propane tank is actually turned on, leave it turned off
2) Guest then turns all burners to high and presses igniter
3) Guest figures out the tank is off because it wont' light and then turns the tank on underneath
4) Now it lights but won't burn hot, seems stuck on low
There is a vacuum or something in the line at this point. Turning on the tank after the burners are on screws it up.
Some renters will go exchange a brand new tank at this point.
I've had no issues with my propane exchange policy and I do go exchange it myself if I can find it empty.
If you provide a charcoal grill, you should supply charcoal briquettes as well right? Don't make them go buy a bag for just one barbeque!
"It's not as Black and White as you simplify it down to. A case in point is anytime they can not figure out how to light the grill, back goes the tank for an exchange on the owner's dime. In the bieginning I was paying for it and exchanged 3 in 1 month for 4 renters. The renter who can't get it lit, will simply go exchange a brand new full tank for another full tank if the cost is on the owner."
I would never expect my guests to go refill. I provide two tanks. If one empties (or is believed to be empty), then the guests would just use the other one. If they still are having problems, then they would realize that the problem isn't "empty tanks", but either them or the grill.
That said, my grill is very simple to use, so no one has any issues using it.
Also, there are these things you can put on the outside of a tank that lets you know how full the tank is.
I can't edit my post above:
In addition to my grill being very easy to use, I have placed labeled instructions on the grill. And, the grill is clearly marked as to which burner should be turned on when lighting.
we also provide propane, it usually needs refilling every 45 days or so. We bought a tank at Costco that has a gauge on it - very handy. Only thing is, you can't do the 'propane tank exchange' otherwise you lose your gauge. I have a spare in my garage (we have a ground floor condo, a spare on our lanai (patio) would easily 'walk'.
I used a propane grill for about 6 years. It was always a hassle. No one wants to lug those tanks around, especially if you are on vacation...but it I think the owner should pay of course. I was having to pay my cleaner to go get refills.
What I did, along with a few others on this thread, is convert to Natural Gas. So much easier! It's actually cheaper to operate as well and the best part is it NEVER runs out in the middle of a BBQ.
There are some downsides to Natural Gas however:
1) There may be an install cost of running black NG pipe to your grill area. Was $200 for me to have a professional install it.
2) Natural Gas Grills are harder to find (less selection) which may drive up the price. Mine was $400 at Home Depot.
3) Most require a conversion kit. About $50 usually and a half hour to install.
To me it was absolutely worth the set up costs, to never have to worry about this issue again.
Steve - VR Owner's Guide
Our rental is electric only, otherwise we'd do natural gas.
We've found that many UHaul stores have propane refilling stations onsite, so you can refill as needed. Especially convenient if a tank isn't completely empty (so you just pay for what you need).
I start out with them full. I let the guests know ahead of time they have to leave a full tank of gas for the next guests. If the guest has to refill I pay by reimbursing. I have one of the more expensive rental properties in our area and feel a one time refill of $20 is worth it. One guest took two tanks and traded them for refills and I paid for both plus a $10 refund for their time and gas used. It was worth not having to have someone else do it as we do not live near the rental.