Florida Short Term Vacation Rentals and Coronavirus COVID-19

Mar 9, 2020

Florida Rental Owners Dealing with Coronavirus

Florida Short-Term Vacation Rentals and Coronavirus COVID-19

Much speculation has arisen from the recent outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and travel to the State of Florida leaving thousands of vacation rental managers, hosts and owners wondering how to manage this situation professionally and with compassion. We've put together an informative article with resources for all vacation rental owners to use during this time.

How to Respond to Florida Travelers with Concerns about the Coronavirus

Firstly it's important to educate yourself as well as your guests and travelers concerned about the coronavirus situation in Florida and wondering if they should cancel their trip. We've put together a glossary on the verbiage, and resources to help both Florida travelers staying in a vacation rental and Florida vacation rental owners.

1. Stay Aware of the Current Situation

Florida Health is a government department reporting the current number of cases of Coronavirus infected patients in the state of Florida. This website details where the Florida patients contracted the virus as well as how many tests taken have been reported negative or positive.

Florida Health Department Current Coronavirus Cases

On January 30, 2020, WHO (World Health Organization) first declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) for the current outbreak of coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19

2. Understand What the Coronavirus Terms Mean

Below are the terms used by the Florida Health Department to describe the different conditions of Coronavirus COVID-19. 

"People Under Public Health Monitoring": These are the number of people under public health monitoring including those at risk of having been exposed to COVID-19 who are monitoring their health under the supervision of public health officials.

"Florida Cases Repatriated": The United States Department of State officially coordinated the return of Florida residents back to the United States. Those persons are isolated at a federally designated site until healthy. A repatriated case is when the United States Department of State officially coordinates the return of a Florida resident to the United States. 

"Presumptive Positive": A Presumptive Positive is when a state health lab has a positive test without the Center for Disease and Control confirmation. Presuming that a patient has tested positive before that confirmation has been received.

"Confirmed": A Confirmed status is given when the Presumptive Positive sample is then confirmed by the Center for Disease and Control.

"Center for Disease and Control": The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also referred to as the CDC, is the leading national public health institute of the United States. It is a U.S. federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services and is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.

"WHO": The World Health Organization": The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations concerned with world public health. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

3. What is the State of Emergency Declared by Florida Governor De Santis?

On March 1, 2020, Governor De Santis declared the State of Emergency "which directed Surgeon General Rivkees to declare a public health emergency to better equip Florida with the resources needed to handle this public health threat." At the time of this publication, there is no ban on travel to the state of Florida. 

There are currently NO CDC or US Department of State: Consular Affairs travel notifications in regard to coronavirus (covid-19) in the USA.

"State of Emergency": is an Executive Order issued by the Governor of Florida. There are various declarations for the State of Emergency so it is important to read each one carefully. It is used to access Federal funding for various reasons such as hurricanes, coronavirus, and other natural disasters.

4. Understand which Vacation Rental Site the Reservation Originates From

Each booking site platform has its own policy in relation to the Coronavirus and cancellations. More on each online travel agency's policies below. Advertising on a rental site requires each user to adhere to and apply the listing site's terms and conditions. Each owner is required to follow the booking site policies.

If a Florida vacation rental owner has direct bookings as a host, they'll have to manage each case to decide on a fair course of action. We suggest educating yourself on the coronavirus and it impacts both locally as well as where the traveler is originating from with the transportation they will require to stay at the short-term rental. Also, consider the industry's policies including what the OTAs are doing.

5. Stay Alert to all Online Travel Agency Cancellation Policies (Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, etc..)

Depending on where your guests' reservation originated from helps you conform to the company's current cancellation policy.

VRBO Coronavirus Cancellation Policy

At the time of publication of this article, VRBO was reporting that travelers may proceed to cancel their reservation and apply to get their traveler fee back. The current cancellation policies remain in effect for each property. Their Book with Confidence Guarantee is designed to protect consumers from fraudulent listings and misrepresentation and does not cover cancellations due to travel advisories from force majeure. Be careful to comply with the VRBO's full terms and conditions. For updates to the VRBO policy press here.

VRBO is suggesting that concerned travelers do the following (excerpt from VRBO):

  • What you can do after booking

    • If you are currently on vacation in an area affected by travel restrictions, please check your trip details for safety information and local emergency numbers, and follow recommendations from local authorities.
    • If you need to cancel an upcoming reservation due to travel restrictions, you can do so within your traveler account. If you are making changes outside the cancellation policy window, please contact the property owner or manager to discuss their cancellation and refund policies.
    • If you purchased travel insurance, contact the insurance company directly with any questions or claims processing.
    • If you booked through a credit card, contact your financial institution to see if travel insurance is provided.

VRBO Owners take Note!

"While it is reasonable for you to protect yourself and your property, please be as respectful as possible if you ask travelers questions about prior travels to areas currently impacted by the virus. If you cancel based on the country of origin of the traveler, we will remove your listing from our marketplace, consistent with the principles of our inclusion statement."

Airbnb Coronavirus Cancellation Policy 

At the time of publication of this article, Airbnb was reporting that eligible reservations can be canceled including the following circumstances (see excerpt below). For updates to the Airbnb policy press here. Excerpt from Airbnb provided below:

What happens when a reservation that falls under our extenuating circumstances policy is canceled?

  • The guest will receive a full refund (including any fees)
  • Hosts won’t incur any cancellation fees
  • Airbnb will refund all fees
  • Hosts can accept new reservations for those dates
  • Superhost status will not be affected

Reservations made on or before March 14, 2020

Existing reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences with a check-in date of April 14, 2020, or earlier, and with at least one night occurring between March 14, 2020, and April 14, 2020, are covered. This means that guests who cancel will receive a full refund, hosts will be able to cancel without charge or impact to their Superhost status, and Airbnb will refund all service fees.

Existing reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences with a check-in date after April 14, 2020, will not be covered under our extenuating circumstances policy except where the guest or host has contracted COVID-19. The host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual.

Reservations made after March 14, 2020

Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made after March 14, 2020, will not be covered under our extenuating circumstances policy except where the guest or host has contracted COVID-19. The host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual.

Please remember to carefully review the listing’s cancellation policy set by the host when booking and consider choosing an option that provides flexibility.

More on documentation required and guidelines for Airbnb's Emergency and Unavoidable Cancellation policy can be found here:

6. What Florida Short-Term Hosts Can Do About Their Own Cancellation Policy

Below is a list of resources to help all Florida Vacation Rental Owners and Hosts for guidance and necessary precautions when hosting their home to guests and travelers from around the world. Use the resources below and read on for further details on how to manage your own cancellation policy in relation to the coronavirus outbreak.

Look to any local and state government resources for travel and health advisories. 

Executive Orders by the Governor of the state of Florida for 2020 - travel and state advisories

Florida Health Department - health advisories.

United States Government - Travel Advisories - to determine which countries have low to high-level travel advisories. This will help Florida vacation rental owners understand their foreign guest's concerns that are traveling to Florida by plane.

U.S. Travel Association - to determine state travel advisories within the United States

Center for Biocides - List of Coronavirus Fighting Cleaning Products

Coronavirus Outbreak Realtime Map - John Hopkins University 

7. Understand a Guest's Itinerary Before Ignoring a Cancellation Request

Each guest's case is different and taking the time to understand a guest's reasons for cancellation could turn into a Win-Win situation for each party. Being empathetic and understanding can result in future referrals, and repeat visitors. Although a Florida vacation rental owner's cancellation policy may be straight forward before ignoring a guests' cancellation request consider understanding their motives for a cancellation first. You might be able to re-book the property to a local traveler instead.

Large Gathering Example: A guest attending a conference or large gathering has been canceled or postponed. In this situation, it may be worthwhile to postpone, defer or even cancel that guest's reservation.

High-Risk Guest Example: If a guest is at High-Risk of contracting Coronavirus. For example; if they are older adults, have chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, or a low immune system.

Guests Traveling from Afar - Long Plane Flights: If a guest is asking for a cancellation or refund that has to take long plane flights a Florida vacation rental owner may want to consider the risk for that traveler and proceed with a postponement, or full refund.

Taking the time to understand and assess the risks for a guest will help reduce the Coronavirus outbreak and keep a vacation rental virus free.

8. What Florida Vacation Rental Owners Can Do to Prevent Coronavirus Spread

  • Follow proper sanitary house cleaning protocols, including the EPA's list of Coronavirus fighting products here.
  • Have cleaning teams clean the entire bed on turnovers including comforters, quilts, and pillow shams
  • Provide hand sanitizer within the home
  • Show travelers your Florida rental is prepared by informing them of the extra steps you as a host are taking
  • Offer virtual Check-in as opposed to face-to-face meetings (punch code entries, email documents)
  • Update your Check-in and House manuals to include a list of local hospitals and clinics for your guests 
  • Proceed with more understanding and lenient cancellation and deferral policies

9. What Can Florida Vacation Rental Owners Do About Replacing Canceled Bookings

  • List your Florida vacation rental on multiple listing sites including Florida Rental By Owners - FLARBO to gain more bookings
  • Market and advertise your Florida short-term rental to local and nearby state travelers where there is no outbreak
  • Market and advertise your Florida short-term rental as an alternative option to a busy hotel setting where there are large groups of travelers
  • If needed offer discounts or promotion packages to attract guests to your safe Florida vacation rental.

10. Proceeding with Future Reservation Bookings

Do follow up with each guest to urge to purchase their own travel insurance in order to protect their entire Florida vacation including their flights, car rentals, home rental, etc...

The state of Florida has always been a favorite destination for holiday travelers and although the media is largely reporting the Coronavirus topic as a Florida vacation rental owner it's important to educate yourself and your guests. Take the necessary precautions within your home as well as with your guest's safety as you regularly do. Follow the state of Florida travel and health advisories in order to avoid the Coronavirus disrupting your Florida vacation rental business. Take control and be the best host you can be!

About Florida Rental By Owners - FLARBO

Florida Rental By Owners (FLARBO) is a fair and reasonable vacation rental advertising marketplace specifically focused on helping Florida property owners. A vacation rental listing site "Built By Owners - For Owners" to connect directly with Florida travelers. Allowing vacation rental homeowners and property managers the luxury to:

  • Communicate Directly with Travelers
  • No Traveler Booking Fees
  • Take Control of the Entire Booking Process
  • No Cancellation Penalties or Imposed Policies
  • Use Your Own Booking Software and Save Money
  • Keep All Traveler Contact Information for Your Marketing
  • Enjoy the Freedom of Hosting on Your Own Terms

If you'd like further details you can contact the customer service team at Florida Rental By Owners (FLARBO) here. Click the highlighted blue text to read the full terms and conditions as well as the privacy policy of listing your property on Florida rental by owners.

Florida Rental By Owners List Your Property