Boil Water Advisories: What Investors Need to Know

If you own or manage short-term rental property, you of course want to do everything you can to help ensure your guests have a fantastic stay. Wonderful guest experiences can lead to glowing reviews, repeat business, and word-of-mouth marketing. Maybe you’ve already made sure your property offers the amenities vacationers are seeking and incorporated all kinds of special touches customized to your property type or location.

But what if something unpredictable happens that’s entirely beyond your control, with the potential to wreck a vacation and leave your renters with bad memories of their experience — and you with bad reviews? For example, what if a boil water advisory is issued for your rental property?

What exactly is a boil water advisory?

According to the CDC, these advisories are issued when an area’s water supply is compromised, generally by damaged pipes or decreased water pressure. Extreme weather, like that experienced in much of the country recently, can lead to widespread ordinances being issued.

During a boil water advisory, residents (or guests) in a certain geographic area are advised to boil and cool tap water before drinking it. That’s pretty much the extent of what many who’ve never experienced one themselves know, but of course there’s a bit more to it.

Bottled water is preferred for consuming and brushing teeth in these scenarios, but tap water can be used after boiling hard for at least one minute (three minutes if more than 6,500 feet above sea level) and cooling. It’s important to note that the vast majority of water filters (pitcher, refrigerator, etc.) do not filter out small enough particles to make their use a safe alternative to boiling. Handwashing and showering with tap water are generally considered safe in a boil water advisory, so long as no open wounds are present the water could get into.

Other water advisories that may be issued include “do not drink,” when even boiling water will not make it safe for consumption, and even more extreme, “do not use,” when it’s been determined that just leaving the water off altogether is safest. In either case, plenty of bottled water will be needed. Fortunately, you’re much less likely to encounter these unusual scenarios.

Minimizing the pain

You’ll want to ensure your vacation rental tenants would be informed quickly in the event of a boil water advisory. Make sure the utility department serving your rental has your current contact information to notify you if one goes into effect. You can usually do this online. It will then be important that you check your messages promptly. Many of us have been conditioned to assume calls from toll-free numbers are probably unimportant, but you’re likely to get an automated call from one of these numbers rather than a local number in the event of an advisory.

Aside from notifying guests promptly, there are a few things you can do to make the situation less unpleasant for them. If you equip the kitchen with a couple of large pots with lids, guests will be able to boil plenty of water easily. Some hosts also keep the refrigerator stocked with a few bottles of water for their guests, and that nice gesture could turn into a huge help if a boil water advisory is issued during their stay.

And while you’re certainly under no obligation to do this, delivering or arranging for the delivery of bottled water in the event of a boil water advisory could elevate you to rock-star host status in your guests’ eyes — and maybe in their reviews.

What if you’re the landlord of a long-term rental property? While it would be unreasonable to expect a guest at a vacation property to contact the local utility department so they can be notified directly of a water emergency during their stay, it’s perfectly reasonable for tenants of a long-term rental property to take care of this themselves. You can help by recommending they do so and providing the local utility’s website or contact information in a tenant welcome letter.

The Millionacres bottom line

While your goal is for every guest to have a delightful experience every time, unfortunately, events beyond your control that can interfere with the enjoyment of your property will probably happen at some point. If your property is included in a boil water advisory, you can lessen the pain for your guests by being prepared, responding to the situation quickly, and maybe even going above and beyond. This inconvenience, while considerable, doesn’t have to ruin your renters’ vacation. If handled properly, it could even boost your hosting reputation.

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