Many vacation home buyers are drawn to the beauty of the mountains or the peacefulness of the ocean. But what do you know – these places also just happen to be prone to natural disasters like blizzards and hurricanes!
In reality, just about every city or town on the planet could be affected by some kind of natural disaster, so it’s important to understand the risks and prepare accordingly. You don’t just have your house to look after; you also have to consider the well-being of your renters.
Although we’ll never welcome a natural disaster with open arms, a little preparedness can go a long away. To help lessen the blow, we've compiled a short set of guidelines to prepare your home and your guests for potential catastrophes.
1) Get insured for natural disasters that affect your vacation rental's location. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it remains the most important step in preparing yourself for an act of God. In addition to your homeowner’s insurance policy, you should strongly consider purchasing coverage if you are at high-risk for natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. Try to get a policy including a “loss of use” provision because this helps to guarantee at least some reimbursement of lost rental revenue, in addition to coverage for the expenses associated with any damage.
2) Make an emergency plan for yourself and your guests. What will you say to renters whose reservations have to be cancelled? What will you do if renters request a refund? Who will be in charge of inspecting the vacation home for damage and hiring servicemen to fix the damage? Knowing the answers to these questions before they arise will help you to remain calm in the face of a potential disaster.
3) Outline your inclement weather and “acts of God” policy in your rental agreement. Because you cannot guarantee the weather for any of your guests’ stays, your rental agreement should clearly spell out your policies, from rained-in renters who are clamoring for a refund to full blown emergency evacuations. Explain in clear terms your procedures for natural disasters and under what circumstances you will issue refunds, if any. In our opinion, you should offer a refund for unused nights to any guests who are forced to leave your home.*
5) Contact your renters. If you receive official warnings of a natural disaster and you have renters scheduled to arrive, you may want to call them and let them know about the recent reports. This is a good opportunity to review the inclement weather policy of your rental agreement and build rapport with your guests. It would be best to contact anyone who will be staying in your home in the next 2 weeks. If renters will be in your home when a natural disaster is supposed to hit, advise them on the safest areas within your home and community, along with their options for canceling or rescheduling.
Because hindsight is always 20/20, you don’t want to look back on all the should-haves when faced with a natural disaster. Creating a plan will allow you to be up front with renters, stand firm on your policies, and protect your home and your guests to the best of your ability.
You can learn more about disaster preparedness from the FEMA website. This government site explains what to do before, during, and after most types of natural disasters.
*We highly recommend contacting an attorney to review your specific contract and policies for inclement weather.
© Copyright HomeAway, Inc. 2008