What You Should Know Before You Rent Out Your Home During the Ski Season

If you have a slope-side vacation home at Attitash or a chalet in Jackson, you might have been tempted to earn some extra money or offset the costs of the home through short-term rentals during ski season. With the influx of vacation rental websites like Airbnb and VRBO, renting your home out has never be easier. Enter some personal information and data about the home, upload some pictures, and voila! You’re one step closer to replenishing your bank account. As easy as it sounds, though, we urge you to keep several considerations in mind before temporarily handing the keys to your home over to an overnight guest.

Do I need more insurance?

 Your co-worker Fred and his family want to stay at your house in North Conway, NH for a week during the ski season this winter and insist on paying. If you rent your house out only that one time, you likely don’t need special insurance. However, if you rent it out for a few weeks every winter to several different parties, you will need to explore what options are available to cover your increased exposure to risk.

While many of the online vacation rental websites now offer insurance to those who rent their homes, coverage varies and some policies are more comprehensive than others. The only way to truly know you have the right amount of coverage is to contact your insurance agent ahead of time.

I’ve decided to list my property as a vacation rental. What should I do next?

Check local regulations. Many towns and cities are enacting ordinances to restrict short-term rentals. Violations can result in large fines and even jail time. If your second home is a condo or part of a co-op, make sure your short-term rental does not violate any of the HOA by-laws.

Minimize your liability.

  • Hire a professional snow removal service that can help you maintain your property during the winter. The service should remove ice and snow from walkways and driveways, and also clear pathways for oil or propane delivery, if applicable, as well as remove ice and snow from vents and meters.
  • Warmer days may cause snow and ice to melt, but it might refreeze overnight, causing a hazard. Leave ice melt at the home in a convenient location so the renters can spread it if necessary.
  • Those cameras you placed in your living room to monitor for break-ins can expose you to privacy lawsuits with renters. Remove cameras before renting or disclose their location(s) in the rental agreement.
  • Drain hot tubs. You might think a hot tub makes your rental more attractive, but it only increases the chances of a liability claim. What if your renter is intoxicated and slips and falls in the hot tub? Who will clean the hot tub and ensure the water’s pH balance is maintained so your renters don’t contract skin infections?
  • Maintain your systems. Have your boiler, hot water heater, and appliances checked on an annual basis.
  • Turn the hot water down. Hot water heaters are typically set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit by default; yet, adjusting the temperature to 120 degrees will still kill bacteria while reducing the chances of scalding.
  • Replace batteries in the smoke detectors and CO2 detectors yearly. Replace the entire units every 10 years.
  • Make sure all small appliances—coffee pots, clothes irons, toaster ovens—have auto shut-offs.
  • Check out each renter. While each short-term rental site (Airbnb, VRBO, etc.) will perform a minimal check to make sure renters are actual humans with valid email addresses, you will want to perform your own background check to make sure the person or people staying in your home are up to snuff. Google their names, check them out on social media, and ask for references to determine whether they are quality renters.

Protect your assets.

  • Theft coverage is limited or sometimes not covered at all, so if you are renting out your entire house, consider removing your personal items from the premises or placing items you don’t want the renters to use into a locked owner’s closet.
  • Everyone at Mason & Mason loves pets. However, as an insurance agency, we know that some pets aren’t as well trained as others and you could have issues with dog bites or destruction of your property. Does your policy cover this?
  • Create and share a clear set of house rules. Spell out whether or not you allow smoking and where, how many guests can be in the house at one time, when noise should be kept to a minimum, etc.
  • Hire a trusted cleaning company. Not only will they keep your property looking good, but they’ll also let you know immediately when something is amiss or missing.

More Questions to Ask Your Insurer

If your renter knocks over a candle and a small fire causes smoke damage, what happens next? Does your insurance cover the cost to professionally clean your furniture? Does it cover the cost to professionally clean your renter’s personal belongings? What if the renter has to stay elsewhere for a few days to allow repairs to be made? Who covers the cost of a hotel? Ask your insurer detailed questions about different scenarios so you can understand what is and isn’t covered before an incident occurs.

Renting your vacation home can be an effective way to offset costs and make extra money; it can also expose you to liability. Contact us before you hand the keys to your house over to someone else. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have or explore insurance alternatives that will protect you in case something goes wrong.