Simplifying Check-in: Keys and Locks

So you wrote an inviting welcome letter and a quick list of safety precautions and expectations for your new guests. You even prepared a welcome basket with a bottle of wine and several brochures for neighborhood attractions.

Good work, but did you sit down and think about how you’re going to let your guests into your vacation rental?

Checking in guests to a vacation rental is different from hotels as rental owners have a little more freedom as to how to they give their guests access to the home. If you live relatively close to your property, the easiest option is most likely to meet your guests at the door, give them a tour of the property, and make their transition to “vacation time” a little easier.

For the other owners who are not in the vicinity or simply do not have the time to check in guests, they have to figure out the best way to get keys (or codes) to the vacationers.

What are the options?

  • Mail the keys!

If your home uses a standard key lock, you may opt to send guests a copy of the key through the mail. Seems simple enough, but is it worth the risk of being lost in the mail? How about damaged upon arrival? Or better yet, arriving at the wrong address or just too late? After all of these considerations, you will still have to determine how the keys are returned to you.

Of course these are not guaranteed risks, but as a rental property owner, would you have the time (and patience) to deal with mistakes that are out of your hands?

  • Lock the keys up!

Snail mail out of the question? Then you can lock up copies of your key in a lock box on your property. You can easily find many inexpensive options online and go with a key storage box that has many positive reviews and fits your tastes. Leave keys to the rental in the box before the guest arrives and simply tell them the combo to open it. However, the downside to the lock box is that you will have manually change the combination after each guest for security.

When using physical keys for your rental property, there is always the possibility that an unscrupulous vacationer may make copies of the keys. The keys can be stamped with “Do Not Duplicate” to tell locksmiths to not make copies, but there are some key cutters who may not pay attention to this at all.

  • Get rid of keys entirely!

Why not remove keys from the equation and install a keypad for your home? The perks of using a key-less system include being able to store many multiples of codes that can be recycled, changed, etc. for every group of travelers. If the guest forgets the combination, they can easily call or email you for the combination without needing to wait for keys to arrive in the mail or for you or another authorized person to show up and let them into the house.

You will need to carefully research your choice in keypads. While some may store multiple codes, you may have to physically change them on location. More hi-tech, and generally more expensive, keypads have remote-access options which gives you the ability to change codes using your computer and set up dates for automatic code changes around your vacationer schedules. Depending on your computer savvy level, the programs could take some time for adjustment and setting up.

What then, is the best option for you?

Think about your level of availability for your travelers. A good rental property owner can be reached at most times if emergencies or other problems arrive. However, you can’t always guarantee that you will physically available for issues. Compare the costs of each key option and determine whether or not you can deal with a recurring cost – mailing keys – or a fixed cost – keypad installation.

The check-in process should be simple enough for guests, but definitely consider your own needs and limits in order to save yourself from unnecessary headaches.

Short-term Rentals: Addressing their Regulations & Restrictions

With the rise in popularity of vacation rentals, a more watchful eye has been placed on short-term rentals and their impact on the local community. New York City in particular has been a focus of news sources for the city’s regulations governing this type of property. However, regulation issues are prevalent throughout the rental industry. Increased attention coupled with a general lack of knowledge regarding these regulations has prompted the formation of the Short Term Rental Advocacy Center, or STRAC. This group was created by FlipKey & TripAdvisor, HomeAway, and Airbnb to help empower and engage the short-term rental community in its crusade with policymakers for smarter regulations.

STRAC logo

First, you may be asking yourself, “Well, what exactly qualifies as a ‘short-term rental’?”

This type of property is a residence that is rented out for less than 30 consecutive days.

Now, you’re probably wondering, “Okay, well then what are the issues surrounding this rental market?”

This is a multi-faceted question, but some of the main issues are overly broad regulations, complicated and unclear restrictions, licensing fees regardless of how often a property is rented, and a lack of understanding by policymakers of the benefits these rentals provide to the community. All of these limitations have made it increasingly difficult to successfully operate a short-term rental.

So, what’s the solution?

Well, a good place to start is by visiting STRAC’s website, This is a great resource for finding a local chapter of the organization, learning about how these regulations have impacted U.S. cities and short-term rental owners, and providing guidelines on how to approach your local government about these issues in a well-informed manner. It is important that your voice is heard when these regulations are being drafted and enacted. It is your property, your community, and your livelihood. STRAC is here to help, but it is up to short-term rental owners to make themselves heard. Here are some tools to get started!

Currently, there are local chapters in the following cities:

Ashland, OR Marin County, CA
Austin, TX Maui, HI
Coachella Valley, CA Miami, FL
Myrtle Beach, SC San Francisco, CA
New York City, NY Santa Fe, NM

The STRAC website also provides a synopsis of each city’s current short-term rental regulations and how to contact them directly. Once you register with your local chapter, you can receive email updates on short-term rental regulations and meetings that are happening in your area.  These updates provide opportunities to get involved and share your story with others affected by these regulations.

Visit STRAC today, and get started on making a positive impact on your short-term rental community!

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