Sooner or later, every growing vacation rental management company will be forced to standardize their housekeeping department policy and procedure, or suffer the consequences. Attempting to juggle the endless duties involved in vacation rental management without some sort of structured system in place can easily cause the entire management process to fail. And today the stakes are higher than ever. With the advent of online reviews, a pattern of negative comments from dis-satisfied customers can mean the difference between business success and failure. Most negative vacation rental company reviews are housekeeping related, and fully preventable
The hotel industry has adopted cleaning practices that best demonstrate the standard for hospitality housekeeping. However, the very things that make vacation rentals popular; unique property types, multiple locations and cooking facilities, present an additional challenge to vacation rental managers.
The goal of vacation rental managers is to provide a standard of cleaning that will translate to every property in their inventory. This starts with an understanding of the function of housekeeping in the management structure. A quote from a leading hospitality provider states it best:
“Efficiently managed housekeeping departments ensure the cleanliness, maintenance, and aesthetic appeal of lodging properties to the highest industry standards. The housekeeping department not only prepares and cleans rental properties on a timely basis for arriving guests, it also performs mid-stay cleaning, linen change-outs, periodic deep cleans and regular inspections.”
According to the Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals, an industry association, the standards and practices of the housekeeping department are as follows:
• Pursue housekeeping excellence for their property owners and rental guests through the creation of professional certification programs for managers, front-line housekeepers, and quality assurance inspectors.
• Provide their housekeeping employees with an enjoyable working environment constantly stressing their important role in owner and guest satisfaction.
• Accurate, timely, and courteous response to all housekeeping issues of any owner or guest.
Comply with all local, state, and federal regulations that may apply to a housekeeping department.
• Inspect each unit prior to a guest or owner arrival to assure the unit is prepared to an acceptable standard and that the unit is safe and secure.
• All housekeeping staff members will be trained in proper and safe cleaning techniques and in unit security and in the OSHA Hazard Communication program.
• No member company will allow any employee to smoke at any time in or around a rental unit.
• The safety and security of its owners and rental guests will always be of paramount importance to members and thus when cleaning bathrooms, a germicide will be used in every instance.
• Managers will keep accurate Lost and Found records and items found in units will be retained in a secure location.
• Owner and guest linens will be laundered in a manner that minimizes the potential for growth of harmful bacteria.
• Each property has a set of departure cleaning guidelines that are readily available to any owner or rental guest.
For vacation rental managers, there are ways to ensure that your properties are up to the standards of your guests. This involves preparation, inspection, policy and procedure.
Your housekeepers must be aware of your expectations and fully understand the importance that the housekeeping department has within the business structure. Your rental properties are your product and must be presented in the best possible condition.
New employees are to be trained by a senior housekeeper or property manager and policy and procedure checklists shall be distributed to each employee. Housekeepers must arrive to work on-time, dressed in clean uniforms or company approved clothing, and ready for a full day’s work.
Upon arrival to work, each housekeeper will receive a worksheet with the day’s property assignments. Housekeepers shall review their worksheet with their supervisor and make note of any special directives (gift baskets, flowers, special guest requests). Keys, lockbox combinations and access codes shall be readied for each property. Linens and towel sets for each property should be matched to the bed count and type for each property. Clean linens must be inspected for tears and stains prior to leaving the office.
Cleaning supplies should be placed in cleaning supply caddy’s along with linens, towels, vacuums, brooms, mops, brushes squeegees, cloths, etc., and placed in vehicles.
Housekeeping service vehicles shall be maintained in top condition; clean, fueled and ready for the day’s work.
Each property is inspected twice during the reservation cycle. The pre-arrival inspection is usually performed by a supervisor or head housekeeper with the purpose of confirming that the property is ready for the incoming guest. They shall perform a “wall-walking” inspection, keeping within arm’s length of the wall, starting from the entry and following the wall of each room, from right to left, around the interior of the property, arriving back at the entry.
Inspectors are checking for:
• Lights working correctly
• TV’s, electronics, remotes and appliances clean and working
• Personal belongings or trash under furniture and behind cushions
• Closets and drawers empty and clean
• Beds properly made
• Towels displayed properly
• Soaps, shampoos, and toiletries in place
• Clean floors, walls and window coverings
• Unpleasant odors
An exterior inspection is to be performed by walking around the building exterior and then walking the property fence line, looking for trash or personal belongs. Jacuzzi’s, spas and pools should be clean and chemicals balanced. Spa covers and pool enclosures must be closed and locked if vacant or un-locked for guest use. Any repairs or cleaning must be immediately reported to the maintenance department.
The post-departure inspection follows the same “wall-walking” procedure with the emphasis is on the property condition after guest departure.
• Furniture in original position
• Excessive wear and tear
• Missing items
• Damage to property or contents
• Excessive cleaning required
• Personal belongings (chargers in wall sockets)
• Pet stains or hair
Any damage, excessive cleaning or personal belongings must be immediately reported to the office. All post-departure inspections are to be completed within 12 hours of check-out. An inspection checklist must be completed for each property and returned to the supervisor.
Policy and Procedure
The housekeeping department policy and procedure is a clearly defined set of rules and steps that ensure each property will be maintained in the best condition possible and that guests will have an enjoyable, worry-free vacation experience. Attached is a policy and procedure manual from a large hospitality provider for use as a reference.
The main points of housekeeping policy and procedure are:
• Housekeepers will arrive to work on time, neatly dressed, and ready for a full day’s work.
• Cleaning supplies readied and placed in vehicle. Vacuums working correctly, dirt bins empty.
• Obtain keys, access codes and worksheet with cleaning assignments before leaving the office.
• Upon arrival to the unit, an initial walk-thru is performed, checking for damage or personal property (under beds and furniture, behind drapes).
• Immediately report any problems to supervisor.
• Linens and trash removed from the unit.
• Food in refrigerator and cupboards (belonging to the guest) is discarded or returned to office.
• Crew members shall divide cleaning responsibilities between kitchen and bathrooms (wet person) and dusting, vacuuming and making beds (dry person).
• Always start at the highest point (light fixtures, ceiling fans) and work your way down.
• Use appropriate cleaning solution for the surface to be cleaned.
• Sanitize bathroom showers, baths, and toilets.
• Start dusting in closets and work your way around the room.
• Polish furniture and fixtures to a spotless shine.
• Sweep and mop floors from farthest point outward to carpet or entry door.
• Vacuum from the farthest point in the room and work towards the entry door.
• Clean decks, outside furniture and BBQ’s.
• Replace towels, toilet paper, paper towels, trash liners and guest amenities.
• Check guest book and property instructions.
• Set clocks and clock radios to correct time.
• Check lights for bulb replacement.
• Set thermostat.
• Lock windows and doors, set alarm.
• Call office to report property clean and move to next assignment.
• At the end of the work day the housekeepers shall return any unused sheets and cleaning supplies to the office and prepare supplies and equipment for the next shift.
When vacation rental managers follow standard housekeeping procedures, guess work and frustration becomes rare and business owners can focus on marketing and business development. Every manager’s goal should be to have controls in place so they can work on their business, not in it.