The past few weeks have been nuts but things are beginning to slow down a little so I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a little of what my day job entails and what I’ve learnt from a summer of rentals.
We are blessed in our part of Canada to live amongst thousands of lakes and many, many miles of river. The cottage vacation is a traditional part of the family summer with cottage ownership being a major ambition amongst those who haven’t been fortunate enough to inherit their little piece of paradise, but this ownership comes at a price. Maintenance & upkeep of properties that live through the extremes of our hot & humid summers and icebound, snowy winters is costly so many owners rent to cover the maintenance costs. For those who prefer not to manage their own rentals there are several excellent agencies that look after marketing, advertising, enquiries and paperwork, and handle all the money. I am part-owner of one of these agencies – CottageLINK Rental Management, and with 150 properties to manage, it keeps us on our toes throughout the high season.
Much of what I write about here is drawn from the 10 years experience I have of over 1200 rentals each year, and growing. At one time I also owned several cottages but have now whittled that down to one – Osprey Cottage – which is a great renter achieving maximum occupancy through the high season and a considerable number of low season rentals too.
In our busy season with 100 or more families in our properties every week, we have to maintain a fine balance between addressing the issues raised by our owners and those experienced by guests, and often this brings us into a challenging area where we have to assess a situation based on two very differing accounts. This might be a cleanliness situation where standards vary; at other times it might be minor damage that an owner is convinced was caused by the rental guest while the renter claims it was done before they arrived but hadn’t noticed it. Our job is to evaluate each situation and make a detached judgment based on the evidence supplied. Of course, one party is invariably unhappy as we either charge a damage deposit or tell an owner they need to absorb the cost because there is insufficient proof of when the damage occurred.
On a personal level, with my own property, I fully accept that doing this business comes with risks, and occasional damage and wear and tear are part of those risks. Only on very rare occasions would I ever consider making a claim on a damage deposit and even then would err on the side of leniency. We don’t often come across anything that amounts to ‘wilful damage’ so most situations are entirely accidental. However, there have been a couple of examples of sheer stupidity such as the holes punched in a stainless steel fridge door by the guest trying to crush a bag of ice against it, and the upturned canoe split by several people sitting on it. Both of these resulted in costly claims that were quickly settled.
On the other hand, complaints from rental guests occupy a considerable amount of time too, and most of these could be prevented by attention to detail and a healthy respect for the consumers for whom the accommodation is supplied. Because of the diversity of cottage locations we do not provide property management – changeover and cleaning services – so rely on our owners or their caretaking staff to ready the cottages for the next guests. Our standards are high, but occasionally we are disappointed to learn that the expectations of guests for pristine accommodation have not been met.
Lastly, this year has brought forth a startling increase in what we term, ‘serial complainers’. This comes partly from the media who encourage consumers to look for refunds for anything and everything almost as a god-given right, and partly from what seems to be a growing sense of entitlement to getting money back for every minor detail, however accidental, that may impact on them having their expected experience.
I don’t want any of my readers to get the wrong impression. I love this business – I really do. It’s just sometimes frustrating that kindness, respect, understanding and flexibility seem to be forgotten in the pursuit of wanting to be right.