For-pay vacation hosting: How to get your house in safe shape

Laura Firszt

Make extra income from an empty rental apartment, a small studio, or possibly even a spare bedroom... and get to know people from around the globe? Sounds good to us. Vacation hosting for pay via websites like Airbnb or VRBO is becoming more and more popular lately.

You don't get anything for nothing, though. As a host, you will have the responsibility to provide visitors with accommodation that is comfortable, clean, and above all, safe. However, this needn't run to a major investment, and adding the safety measures you've taken to your profile will assure potential paying guests that you care about their wellbeing. Check out this list of basic upgrades to make for a safe, successful vacation hosting experience.

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

Protect your guests against inhaling two potentially deadly substances, smoke and carbon monoxide. Alarms are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. However, don't assume that the detectors which safeguard your living space will be sufficient for a guest room or apartment, even if it is adjacent to your home. Check your local statutes or consult a licensed electrician to find out the location and number of smoke or CO detectors required. Test the devices regularly and make sure they are stocked with fresh batteries.

More fire safety protection

As additional fire safety protection, clearly mark an emergency fire safety escape route. Post a list of first response telephone numbers (including any prefixes that must be dialed, for visitors who are not familiar with the local phone system), together with a map of your home, indicating the fire exit, in a prominent place within your guest quarters. Mount fire extinguishers accessibly, a maximum of 5 inches above the floor, with at least one per story of your house. It is highly advisable to have a fire extinguisher in your guest house or apartment, particularly if you allow cooking and/or smoking.

More Emergency Info

Here is more essential information to post for the benefit of your guests:

Your phone number(s)

Alternate contact info in caser you are not immediately available

Location and phone of the local 24-hour pharmacy

Number to call for taxi or car service

Nearest medical emergency treatment center and a list of documents to present

Heating and Cooling

Remember that out-of-towners may not be accustomed to your local weather conditions and what to you might seem like tolerably warm or cold weather might be unbearable for them. Make sure your guest accommodation is equipped with well-functioning heating and cooling equipment. Beware of space heaters, which can easily be knocked over; the wall-mounted type help prevent this danger. Print up an instruction sheet with directions for operating the HVAC -- and a reminder to turn it off before they leave!

Details, details

Carefully inspect the unit you'll be offering to guests and look for any other hazards. Attach easily-tippable furniture such as bookcases or clothes racks securely to the wall. Repair any loose steps, slippery flooring, dodgy electrical wiring, and the like. If you're willing to rent to parents with young children, take childproofing measures, like installing cupboard and toilet locks and removing poisonous houseplants.


Last but by no means least, before you begin merrily totting up your future profits, make sure that both you and your temporary guests will be insured. Check that your homeowner's insurance policy will cover short term, as well as long term, tenants in your house. As of January 2015, Airbnb is offering a Host Protection Insurance program in the US only, with up to $1,000,000 worth of protection in case of accident. Wherever you happen to live, you should also consider investing in an umbrella policy to extend your liability coverage beyond the minimum amount. Your insurance provider will have the information that applies to your individual situation.

Laura Firszt writes for