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As the vacation rental industry continues to flourish, so do the horror stories. You might have heard about the Canadian family who discovered more than $50,000 worth of damage after returning to their rental property, or the British couple whose apartment was trashed during a New Year’s Eve party. Thankfully these are rare occurrences, but as a brand new host, you still need to increase security before you welcome your first guest. Whether you want to rent a room or your entire home, here are eight vacation rental security tips to get you started.

1. Lock Up Your Valuables

While most short term rentals run smoothly, theft is among the top concerns for homeowners. Items to take into consideration are jewelry, artwork, important documents like passports or financial statements, family photos, and collectibles. Tuck these valuables away in a secure place, such as a locked closet or basement. Removing belongings from your property all-together, and keeping them in a safe location – a secure self-storage unit, for example – means you won’t have to worry about your prized possessions.

2. Collect Payments via Booking Platforms

Always carry out transactions on a booking platform such as Airbnb, HomeAway, or VRBO, to increase your safety when dealing with guests. On Airbnb, for example, guests verify their IDs and confirm their personal details, and hosts are protected for up to $1,000,000 with the Airbnb Host Guarantee. If prospective guests ask to pay outside of the Airbnb platform, this request should sound alarm bells. “Airbnb will never ask you to pay off-site or through email,” the company warns hosts on its website. “If someone messages you on Airbnb and asks you to contact them off-site to arrange payment details, don’t respond. Report it to us instead.”

3. Take Out Insurance

Don’t solely rely on one platform’s host guarantee, however, and search for a good insurance policy, too. Some companies, like HomeAway, don’t provide options for compensation beyond the optional security deposit (see tip #7) and vacation rental insurance can offer a safety-net should anything happen. The best short term vacation rental policies include building contents, income, liability, and more. Also, keep in mind, your homeowners’ insurance often won’t cover costs and claims related to your rental.

4. Ask for a Security Deposit

Asking your guests for a security deposit is a great idea, especially if you want to safeguard against small accidental incidents, like pet damage or a broken item. In 2014, Airbnb let hosts add a security deposit to their listings, and the feature has proved popular. Hosts who need to make a claim to recover funds from a security deposit can only do so within two weeks of the checkout date or prior to a new guest arriving at the property. Through the resolution center, Airbnb acts as a mediator, if needed, and a host can submit to the Airhost Guarantee if the total amount exceeds the requested deposit. On HomeAway, hosts are free to charge what they like for a deposit, but the platform won’t get involved if you need to make a claim that tops the deposit amount.

5. Update Your House Manual

Thirty percent of intruders enter a home through an unlocked door or window, a shocking statistic for homeowners. Update your house manual with a check-out reminder that guests should close and lock all windows and doors before they vacate your property. If you have a digital manual, quickly add this new house rule to the guide.

6. Use a Smart Lock

Smart locks will not only make your home safer, they’ll make your life as a host, easier. Here at Pillow, we’ve teamed up with August Smart Locks, one of the leading providers of this must-have tech. These digital, keyless locks provide remote access to your property: They monitor visitors who enter and exit your home, generate a unique key code for every guest, and give you complete control over who enters your home. You won’t have to bother with key exchange, ever again. August provides partners like Pillow with secure home access and safeguards the security of your property. The August app is available on iOS and Android.

7. Leave a Spare Key with a Neighbor

Just like unlocked doors and windows, perennially popular key hiding spots, for example, under a plant pot or beneath a door mat, aren’t safe. Research suggests that 6,000 burglaries in the United Kingdom in 2014 involved burglars using keys to access a property, rather than smashing a window or a door to gain entry. A burglary happens every 15 seconds in the United States, with the average break-in costing $2,230. If you want to improve home security, leave a spare key with a trusted neighbor, instead.

8. Install Fire Detectors

There were nearly 370,000 house fires in the United States in 2013, which caused $2.2 billion worth of damage. It’s important to equip rental homes with a smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, and fire extinguisher to ensure guest safety and help prevent accidents. On Airbnb, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are mandatory if you want to qualify for Business Travel Ready status, though the platform is giving 25,000 free detectors to hosts on a first-come, first-served basis throughout 2016.

As a first-time host, security is most likely one of your biggest concerns. Using common sense, staying smart, and knowing your options are the best ways to prevent and overcome security and safety issues. Asking for a security deposit, taking out insurance, and locking up your valuables provides you with peace of mind, while installing fire and carbon monoxide detectors and a smart lock ensures guest and home safety.

For more short term rental tips for first-time hosts, follow Pillow on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, or subscribe to our blog.

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