In such a competitive industry, you’re always thinking of ways to separate yourself from the crowd. One of the more obvious ways of doing so is highlighting the many amenities your property has to offer. With summer at its hottest, promoting a pool can certainly set you apart but what you may not think of right away is the risk associated with this particular amenity. Amenities such as a pool require particular attention to ensure safety for your guests.
Before we get into pool specifics, we need to discuss negligence as it pertains to vacation rentals and why it’s important to understand.
Simply put, negligence is the failure to “take care in doing something”. Once someone agrees to pay you for a service such as renting your home, you must take greater care in evaluating risks in your home. It’s “negligence” that puts you in a position where a renter and their lawyer may see an opportunity to prove that their injury was a result of your inattention to safety details.
When it comes to lawsuits in the U.S., you can be sued for just about anything, and there are endless opportunities for accidents in a vacation home. This is of course where insurance comes in. However, even insurance has its limitations, and if a guest can prove your negligence caused their injury, the more likely you are to exceed your insurance liability limits. On the other hand, the more you focus on safety in your home the less opportunity for negligence on your part. If there were an injury, this effort would not only increase your insurance company’s chances of winning the case but greatly reduce the potential payout ordered by a judge.
Why do pools pose such a high risk?
From an insurance perspective, claims due to injury at a pool are rather common, so anything you can do to reduce risk at this exposure is a great place to start. The truth is you simply don’t know who’s staying in your rental and their ability to swim may vary widely. Removing hazards such as diving boards, slides, and non-certified floatation devices can greatly reduce the chance of an accident. Many listings neglect to address these issues because it’s not a requirement or they don’t think they will get as many bookings without these features. Most simply don’t consider the risk.
Diving Boards and Slides
Diving boards and slides are fun features at city pools for children and adults, but there is a huge liability concern when it comes to offering these features to your short-term rental guests.
Unlike city pools, there will be no lifeguard on duty if someone were to be injured using the diving board. It’s also difficult to know the abilities of your guests, and whether they understand how to use these items safely. This opens your business up to unnecessary legal risks in the event of an injury. For these and other reasons, many insurance providers may require you to remove your diving board and slide to diminish the liability concern and potential for negligence on your part.
Depth markers are a safety measure you will notice at any public pool such as a city pool or at your local hotel. With depth markets on all four sides of the pool, families, and guests are warned and can judge their and their children’s swimming capabilities accordingly. The standard should be no different at your short-term rental.
Having “warnings” in place can greatly reduce your negligence if a guest were to be injured at your pool. In addition to the depth markers, you will often see a ‘no diving’ sign at the shallow end. These details are important safety reminders for your guests.
If there were an accident, your insurance carrier will have a better chance of succeeding on a verdict if a guest and their lawyer see an opportunity to claim their injury was due to your negligence.
Pool Toys and Floats
While it may seem tempting to include simple floatation devices like pool noodles with your rentals, it’s highly advised that you lock them away when guests are at your property. The reason is that by including them with your rental you are inadvertently encouraging those who may not be the best swimmers to go for a dip, which could ultimately result in drowning.
Some floatation devices, like many life vests, are certified by the U.S. coast guard and come with proper use instruction. These devices are okay to include as they are rated for safe use. Others are simply buoyant material that may pop or not support a floating guest. It’s best to keep these away from your rental.
Of course, you may always allow guests to bring their own, you’ll just want to make sure they’re removed from the property before the next guests arrive. Providing these pool toys or floaties is just asking for trouble.
Rescue equipment should also be a priority for your vacation rental guests. When you go to a Hilton and use their pool, you’ll notice all types of warnings, waivers, and equipment in the pool area. Rescue equipment such as a lifesaving pool ring or buoy is always posted on a surrounding wall or somewhere close at hand. You can bet the hotel is going to utilize all precautions to make sure their guests stay safe, and it should be no different for you as a short-term rental host.
We’ve already discussed that you don’t know the abilities of your guests, and providing rescue equipment could help your guests stay safe if there were to be an accident. Including these safety features will also help your insurance carrier battle a lawsuit if your guest were to be injured.
Peace of Mind Through Proper Underwriting
Adequate safety standards for pools (depth markers, rescue equipment, no diving board, etc.) are an underwriting requirement of many insurance carriers because they are a ‘known risk’, meaning they’ve seen a high number of lawsuits involving these items in the past. Underwriters may ask that you make changes to your property such as adding depth markers on all four sides of your pool in order to continue the insurance contract, however, if there was an injury at your property your liability insurance would respond.
While this requirement may seem like a barrier to entry, there is typically a grace period in which the underwriters will notify you of potential risks and give you an opportunity to correct the issue without a gap in coverage. Choosing a carrier with underwriters experienced with short-term rentals can be a huge help as they will review your property for potential risks. They’ve seen thousands of listings and hundreds of lawsuits making it easy for them to identify issues before an accident.
Ultimately, when accidents happen, you call your insurance carrier. If your property is underwritten and insured according to its use as a short-term rental you’ll have liability coverage. For this reason, it’s important to be open with your insurance carrier and ensure safety measures are appropriate for commercial use, not only your personal use.
Quote Your Short-Term Vacation Rental Today
Interested in a policy to protect you and your business from liability claims? Proper Insurance leads the Nation in short-term rental insurance, with over 40,000 policies written in all 50 states. Backed by Lloyd’s of London and exclusive endorsements from vacation rental leaders such as HomeAway and Vrbo, Proper Insurance is built on world-class insurance coverage. Proper’s policy covers vacation homes, townhouses, condos, duplexes, cabins, cottages, apartments, and more. With expert vacation rental underwriters, we can tailor a policy specific to your short-term rental property.