VRS133 – Getting Ready For My Vacation Rental Season

It’s that time of year again.

The cottage country tradition in Ontario has been part of the culture for generations, and in many areas the families that make the trip have been going to the same cottage for years. Then there’s the new Canadians – our most recently arrived immigrants who learn that the annual vacation to the lake is a rite of passage, and the first visit is often the catalyst to the cottage buying bug that impacts just about every one who experiences it.

Over the years, expectations have risen, and I have the conversation with every new owner about it, and say the same thing over and over.

This new generation of rental guests expect more. They don’t have tolerance for lower standards, and they have less self-reliance in terms of managing things that might go wrong. And, as owners, we have a much greater responsibility for their vacation satisfaction than we had in the past.

So here we are, just a few weeks away from the start of high season, and the culmination of months of marketing, promotions, cottage visits and new listings, will soon pay off with hundreds of happy families experiencing a fabulous summer vacation.

With over 200 properties in our rental management programme, it’s a priority for our management company to maintain standards for guests and we want to make sure no one drops a ball this summer.

To that end, each year we send out a newsletter before the start of the season as a reminder of all the things that could occur, and I thought it would be helpful to share that list since many of the items on it could impact anyone who rents out their property.

Pre-season preparation

  • Appliances in working order – check every appliance for functionality – change fridge filters, clean out dryer vents, have AC serviced etc
  • Deep Clean
  • New pillows and freshly laundered bedspreads
  • Check all towels
  • Paper products and supplies bought and stored.
  • Adequate supply of light bulbs, batteries for remotes

Maintaining consistency

Inspect every aspect of the first impression & put a monitoring system in place to maintain standards all summer – try the Properly app so cleaning team has a consistent maintenance plan

Liability check – Don’t leave yourself open to any liability claims

  • Hot Tub checklist – don’t risk claims of hot tub folliculitis
  • Check all potential external hazards in decks, docks, campfires, & outdoor furniture
  • Welcome Book should address any hazards to avoid negligence claims such as submerged rocks & depth of water, uneven terrain, tree stumps, uneven & potentially slippery steps – older deck planks etc,

With up to 180 families checking in to properties every Saturday at 4pm, there are bound to be issues arising. Getting the check in right means the lesser likelihood of an unhappy guest when a problem arises.

  • Ensure all safety equipment is up to date – fire extinguishers, batteries in smoke detectors + note to caretakers to check batteries in smoke alarms on each changeover.

Get the check in right

The top 5 complaints are:

  1. Access – when a lockbox code is input incorrectly, or the batteries have failed on a keyless entry system.
  2. Wifi passcode is the first thing that guests look for on arrival. Make sure it is displayed prominently together with any instructions on download and usage restrictions.
  3. Cleanliness – the property must be spotlessly clean inside and out. Guests won’t tolerate inadequate housekeeping
  4. Too many remotes and too few instructions. If turning on the television is a frustrating exercise because there’s no step by step instructions and it requires 3 remote controls, there will be a problem.
  5. Something expected was missing – don’t risk a complaint because an item that showed on the listing is not there. Always replace any amenity that breaks or goes missing because that will be the one that will make or break their vacation.

Emergency Plan

Make sure everyone involved in running your rental smoothly knows what to do in case of an emergency.

Know who will deal with immediate issues – plumbing, electrical, and appliance breakdowns.

Make a list of all contacts for every eventuality and check their call-out routine i.e. how soon would they respond?

On site Information

To avoid the midnight call because guests can’t work out how to use the microwave to make popcorn……

  • Check all manuals are available.
  • Check the Welcome Book – does it have up to date instructions/numbers/ tourist info
  • Is it comprehensive?
  • Label any light switches that are not intuitively located.
  • Label anything you don’t want switched off or unplugged (water pump, sewage ejector switch etc)

Talk to the neighbours

  • Let them know who your guests are and what they should expect. Leave them your contact number.
  • Remind your guests to respect the neighbours


That’s about it.

When the sun is shining, the temperature is great and the water is cool, having fun usually overrides minor irritations. But, when the weather fails to co-operate and the longed for vacation begins to look like a washout, guests will often look for something to blame for their disappointment. You don’t want that something to be a shortfall in their accommodation.

Terry Whyte

Thx Heather.

Gary Troy Miller

Another great podcast, Learned a lot and gave me lots of things to think about.
Thank you Heather


Hi, I’ve owned two Vacation Rental Condos in CA since 2011 and have had a great experience. In fact, I’m in the process of pulling equity out of those condos to buy a third! No, I don’t have the third picked out yet. I’m hunting around for good deals in CA.

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