Industry Insights

The 5 Emergency Response Stages in Short-Term Rental

April 06, 2017 |

The 5 Emergency Response Stages for Potential Problems

No matter how organized you might be, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. If an emergency were to happen, having a specialized strategy in place can help save valuable time. Whether you have a smart lock or a standard key, having a back-up should have already been sorted with your guests aware of what to do. But in the case of an emergency, things could work differently than expected so it’s best to be prepared.


Your guest should be instructed on how to report any problems. They will need to know how to reach you as well as Airbnb or the local authorities. Provide numbers, names and email addresses (if relevant) in your welcome guide and ensure that your guests have your contact details (and know the best way to reach you in an emergency). Depending on the place and your situation, it’s worth making clear to your guest if they should mention Airbnb or not when speaking to the authorities. Not everyone with a listing has the authority or permission to do so. Most guests are aware of this but in an emergency, you should be sure and try to cover all bases.


Emergency Response Stages:

  • Guests notify you of the problem: It’s probably a habit to check your messages regularly anyways so it shouldn’t take long for you to become aware of any problems. If checking messages frequently is not already muscle memory, you should set reminders to do so every so often (preferably a few times a day) so you can be on-call for anything your guests may need.
  • Understanding your guests’ needs: Your guests are on holiday and out of their comfort zone, so it’s your place as a host to be the understanding, helping hand they require.
  • Solving their needs asap: It’s never nice being locked out or not being able to get into where you’re meant to be staying, especially in an emergency situation. Put yourself in your guests’ shoes and try to solve their problems as soon as possible.
  • Understanding what happened: 9 times out of 10 it’s a mistake or an accident. Nobody intends to get themselves into an emergency situation. Try to be understanding and see if there’s a way to solve the problem.
  • Preventing future problems: Make a note of how the situation happened and how it was resolved – it could help in preventing future problems. Think about all the possible solutions considered and what actually worked so you can be better prepared.
  • Compensating the guest if needed: If there’s been a disruption to your guests rental then compensation may be in order. An apology should always be the first course of action but it may take more to make up for any problems.


Potential problems (and solutions):

The keys are not where they should be:

Firstly check that your guest is looking in the right place for the keys. If they’re not where they were meant to be, then respond asap and let your guests know where the back-up key is stored. If you’ve used a service such as Key Cafe, offer to buy them a beverage to apologize for any inconvenience. Try to store a spare key at a neighbor’s house if possible.

The door won’t open:

If you’ve got a problematic door and there’s a trick to getting it open, tell your guests in advance. Let them know if the door will be double locked or there’s more than one key needed – have them be aware of all the possible options before they start to panic and contact you. If it still won’t open then you have a choice as a host to try and sort the problem yourself or call the authorities.

The keys got stuck in the keyhole:

If your guest has tried and failed to remove the key from the keyhole then calling in the professionals is the next step. Start with a locksmith (preferably a 24 hour one) before considering more drastic action such as breaking the door. Have a number or two handy in case your emergency is at an awkward time and people aren’t available.

The guests locked themselves out:

Firstly try and have your guests locate the back-up key. If it’s not possible to retrieve then have a copy of your key sent to your listing to help get them inside.

If this happens more than once, it might be time to consider a smart lock that requires a code instead of keys.

The guests lost the keys:

If your guests have lost their keys, direct them to the back up key location. Should that not work, have a copy of the key sent to your guests. Services like Uber are great for this kind of situation. Be sure to make your guests aware of any ‘lost/replacement keys fee.’ A smart lock could help in the future should this situation happen repeatedly.

The code doesn’t work:

Most smart locks have features to allow the host to change the code remotely, which should be the first attempt at a solution. Speak to your guest, have them try the old code and change it if it doesn’t work while they’re on the phone. Keep them on the line while they try the new one to ensure the problem has been solved.

With smart locks, it’s best to have a physical key as a back-up plan in case your guests aren’t the best with technology. Most smart locks models come with a key or two as standard.

The lock is broken:

If you’re working with a smart lock that isn’t doing what it’s meant to, then have your guests use the spare key provided until you can get the lock fixed. However, if your door is a standard key lock then it’s time to call a locksmith. Have the details of a few places to turn to if the situation calls for it, just in case your go-to person isn’t available.

If it takes time to fix then it’s an idea to provide compensation to your guests (as well as apologizing) for any inconvenience.

Having a strategy as a quick solution to emergencies can be a life-saver in the right situation. It always helps to have a plan B and mix methods to find what works best for you and your guests. Our ‘Having a Key Strategy’ section has some great tips for setting out your plans and initiating a back-up plan.

Hopefully, you won’t be in an emergency situation where you need to react quickly and have to reassure your guests. On the off-chance that you are, try to have a plan in place and remember what helped you solve the problem. As well as hopefully preventing it from happening again, you could be quicker at finding a solution for other issues.

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