by Vicki Langhel
The debate around what constitutes normal wear and tear vs. guest damage is as old as the hospitality industry, and for homes on Hatteras Island, there's an extra challenge presented by our remote location and limited access to vendors that makes addressing both even tougher. Knowing the difference between the two, how to handle them when they happen, and how to prevent them from occurring in the first place will save vacation rental homeowners a lot of stress - and money - over the course of your rental seasons.
Normal Wear and Tear
Normal wear and tear is defined as the inevitable physical decline that occurs with normal, reasonable usage. It is only noticeable over time. In a vacation rental home, what constitutes "normal" usage is greatly heightened due to the sheer volume of occupants who will vacation in your home each year. Ordinary things like furniture, paint, kitchen appliances, blinds, and carpeting that have a pretty long lifespan in your primary residence will need replacing much sooner in your vacation rental. A good example is the refrigerator. In your vacation rental home your refrigerator is being used to cool a sudden influx of groceries (ahem, beer) for hundreds of guests each year. They open your refrigerator door, adjust settings, and open and close crisper bin drawers thousands of times. The same happens with drawers and cabinets every time a guest goes to look for something.
This kind of foot traffic will cause a great deal of wear and tear in your vacation rental home on everything from your flooring to your toilet seats, so plan ahead and budget for more frequent routine care. You can expect to replace things on a regular basis as part of the cost of doing business.
On the other hand, guest damage is damage beyond normal use in a vacation rental home. A little scuff on the wall near a pool table is normal wear and tear. A large hole in the wall is guest damage. Most guest damage in a vacation rental home is accidental in nature and not intentional or malicious. For instance, Aunt Liz spills red wine on the carpet when she gets excited during charades, a toddler accidentally knocks over a lamp and it breaks, the cousins spill nail polish on a comforter in their pillow fort. When people are on vacation, they tend not to be as careful as they are at home and things just happen. For that reason, vacation rental owners should make sure their property manager has a plan in place to handle them when they occur. At Outer Beaches, we have a program called the Accidental Damage Program built into every reservation, as well as an expert in-house maintenance team to assist with any needed repairs.
Slowing Wear and Tear and Preventing Guest Damage
Hope is not lost when it comes to protecting your vacation home from guest use. Year after year, we have found that homes that are treated better by their owners are treated better by their guests. If you walked into a hotel room or guest house yourself and found shabby curtains and bedding, lumpy mattresses, creaky furniture, cracked dishware, and rusty appliances, would you feel more or less inclined to take good care of that property during your stay? Probably less. On the contrary, guests who find a vacation home well maintained are more likely to keep it in top condition, whether they are conscious of it or not.
Set the example for your guests and treat your home with care by keeping your appliances and amenities in good condition, updating furniture before it reaches the end of its life, touching up paint in the off season, refreshing bedding as it gets tired, and other routine care. Additionally, limit the number of wear and tear touchpoints and opportunities for accidental damage by making a guest's stay as easy as possible. For example, label your cabinets and drawers so they know exactly where to go to find each item they need without hunting for it, place a reminder on the fridge about keeping the doors closed to help keep groceries cool, and consider tech tools like Outer Beaches' Smart Home System powered by PointCentral to alert guests when doors are left open so your AC doesn't work harder than it has to.
There's a fine line between normal wear and tear and guest damage. Gray areas, preventable issues, and unnecessary stress can all be reduced with a little preparation and clear communication with your property management company. Make sure you know what your property management company's policies are and what programs they have in place to support you.