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Power Outage RIGHT NOW - what would you do?

We have a listing in the forest/mountains. Due to wildfires in the past, the utility is on hair trigger alert to cut the power as a proactive measure to avoid said wildfires (and being sued). They don’t do it often, but it happens more than zero times per year. Please, let’s not discuss this practice/fact AT ALL.

We clearly mention in our listing details that power outages can (and do) occur in this area. We also specifically mention that outages are outside of the host’s control and are not grounds for a refund of any kind.

Currently there is a proactive outage in the area affecting about 1,000 homes. It could last another 36 hours.

We have a 3-day reservation impacted by the outage that checked in this afternoon. 6 guests, $2,400 booking. When they arrived, they got to enjoy the home for 3ish hours and everything was perfect. So they know the home is fantastic. Right around the dinner hour, the power went out. And it will likely be out for the whole night. ETA unknown. They are scheduled to stay through Saturday 11AM.

I realize that I’m asking this question right at the bleeding edge of what might end up being a long fiasco.

The guests are taking my encouragement in an OK way. We have lanterns at the ready, additional heavy blankets, warm comforters on the beds by default. The power went out “as we were cooking our dinner” so dinner was ruined. They have been placated enough to stay the night. This was a MAJOR win because for a moment there, it looked like they may go home straight away.

What do we do now? What’s the best way to encourage them to hang on? It’s up to me to give them anything (money). But should I? Keep in mind that as a guest, if I were in there position, I would expect nothing. What about their food and possible spoilage? It can’t be set outside overnight (33 temps, so it’s cold enough to keep it) because of local wildlife could get to it. I thought to encourage them to store it in their cars - but that’s more work, frustration. I just don’t want to go too far. . .

I want to be the best host I can be and make this the best experience it can be in this awful situation. The guest know this isn’t my fault, and have mentioned that at least once, but they are clearly frustrated. Guidance?

It seems like it’s been upfront about this possibility so they have no claim. However, we like to see happy guests. Once the power is back on I might offer to pay for a meal. A basket of things to make dinner with might be the least expensive but welcome way to do this. Is there any other source of heat such as a fireplace?

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No gas or charcoal grill? No emergency generator?

At the very least, if you have a cooler, take it over there, with all the ice you have. If they don’t open the freezer, it will stay cold.

Regardless of the warning and no-refund policy, if you want to save this stay you need to be as pro-active as possible. If you have a grill, a cooking ring, anything they can cook with, that’s at least an attempt.

If I had a rental where the power could go out, I’d have a propane kitchen stove rather than electric.

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A power outage can happen anywhere anytime. I’m sure this is difficult.

Depending on your area-no food in cars, bears.

If you are provided with updates on how long it is anticipated the outage continue, I’m sure you will keep them posted.

Food for thought: If there isn’t any heat & no estimate of when power to be restored, as a guest, I would be packing up as soon as I could. If they do that, refund the nights they can’t use the house. If they stay in the area, let the know when power is restored.

You may wish to encourage them to stay to noon & see if power is restored.

This is a difficult situation for you & for the guests. Phone batteries aren’t going to last forever. I hope they have their car chargers or a backup battery.

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How close are you? Could they start their Thanksgiving meal prep at your house? Is there somewhere they can go to recharge phones?

Or did they bring the power up over night?

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Even though you warn of it in your listing, I don’t think every guest can come equipped for a power outage. As @NordlingHouse says, there are things you can have in place for this situation, that will change it from a disaster to an adventure.

I think it may be too late to save this booking, depending how things went for them overnight. Personally I would refund if they leave today. If they’re willing to tough it out, their $2400 should probably go toward making the place habitable without power.

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So, for $600 per day, do you supply everything a guest would need if there is a power outage? Candles or oil/kerosene lamps, lighter/matches, flashlights, gas range for cooking (that is functional without A/C power), a fireplace and wood or gas heating (that is functional without A/C power), etc. If not, I’d be livid and I’d be calling Airbnb, and you’d get a well-deserved thrashing in the review.

Honestly, for $600/day and a high likelihood of power outages, if you don’t provide a backup generator, I’m inclined to say you don’t belong in the hospitality business.

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So far no power restored and no legitimate ETA from the utility. It’s been awful for them I’m sure.
I have kept them posted, sent them ideas for this morning (places that are open, have power for breakfast) and even for today where Thanksgiving meals are being prepared (some at even no cost) in the community. No response from them yet.

It’s a perfect storm where we have not only an outage but some great local restaurants/venues that would normally be open on Thanksgiving aren’t open for the holiday. Such a nightmare.

The fact that it’s Thanksgiving probably isn’t exactly motivating the utility to send their $100/hour technicians (or more with overtime/holiday pay) to get the power back on line. . . This is affecting 1,000+ households of locals and tourists. It’s a bad outage and it’s been initiated voluntarily. So brutal.

This is at a minimum what we’ll do. Assuming the power is restored soon and they stay!

That’s correct. 100% electric house with no back up of any kind (beyond 5 emergency lanterns for lighting). We make this as clear as we can in the listing details but I still feel so bad for these guys. We considered getting kerosene heaters anticipating a situation like this. We opted out when we realized the safety/education it takes to operate such a dangerous piece of equipment. So instead of damage control in the event of an outage, we clearly state that “you are coming to the mountains and outages are what the mountains entail.” It scares away some bookings! But we feel we’re being as transparent as we can be.

Local STR message boards in the area are very firm in what they’re going to do. ZERO REFUNDS PERIOD. Even if they vacate early! I think this is harsh. I’d like to make this as good as we can for these guests which is why I asked you guys.

This is a great point and as a result of this we’re getting a battery backup for mobile phones in the home (we should have had this already now that we’re seeing how long this outage has lasted (now going on 12 hours).

I wish so much we were in the area and could help them. We reside over 100 miles away and really can’t offer any help. . . Even if they vacated early, I don’t even know if we could turn the place as our crew needs electric to run the W/D, vacuum, etc. Its awful.

I think you’re right. The sad reality is that to make this massive place prepared for any prolonged outage would cost in the $10-15K range at a minimum. And the maintenance of this infrastructure is another $1-2K per year. The home needs 400A of power on standby and the draw is massive to keep everything going (HVAC, kitchen, hot tub, EVERYTHING is electric). So even if we put this massive investment into play, it may only give us a 24 hour stay of execution if folks are hammering the power the whole time (which they likely would).

LOL! Then I just better pack up and leave!

No, but seriously, thanks for your thoughts

I think there are generator systems that won’t power the whole house, but would keep the refrigerator, water heater, and a few outlets on. Maybe you could look into that type of thing for the future. I assume there is no fireplace?

This. Power goes out in my area occasionally, quite a bit in the summer storms. Electric company will also do line repairs with no warning, so suddenly there can be no power for several hours.

Most stoves and water heaters here in Mexico are propane. And while I don’t have a generator, plenty of people do.

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Brian is one of the smartest yet most understated members of the forum. His advice is always thoughtful and you are well advised to consider it. Not leaving the hospitality business, but upgrading your amenities, to be clear.

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You are correct about the fridge/outlets part. But the hot water heater is also (sadly) electric. And electric water heaters require a huge amount of power. . .

The local message boards speak of “Travel Insurance” and how that’s supposed to be the responsibly of the traveler. I think this emboldens the hosts up here (more than it should). But I don’t want to ignore that aspect.

Does anyone know anything about this at all? I know almost nothing about it. . .

We often say that guest want the hosts to be their travel insurance. And we think it would be great for Airbnb to offer it and to stop giving refunds left and right for things outside our control. But until they do, as long as you list your property on Airbnb you are stuck with their policy.

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Yep. . . That’s what I pretty much thought too. . . It sucks being in this position.

But beyond this, folks can get Travel Insurance or use a CC for the transaction that includes some measure of Travel Insurance, right? Again, I’m only reading these other ramblings about this possible fact. I don’t even know if these other hosts know what they’re talking about.

Having owned vacation cabins in the Sierra Foothills, a Generac is an expensive investment, but almost necessary. I’ll bet you’re in So CA where the Santa Ana’s are blowing right now and Calif Edison and PGE are trigger happy (and for good reason).

For the future, maybe consider, if allowed in your neighborhood, renting/buying a propane tank and converting the water heater to that. Take it slow so that you’re not crashing your bank ““would cost in the $10-15K range at a minimum””

Add a propane BBQ on the deck. Keep an extra tank in the garage.

If I think of more diy ideas for your future guests, I’ll add to this.

Reconsider this. That’s about a 2 hour drive. Easy to go & return this afternoon.

If your guests answer ask them what they need & take it to them.

If your guests aren’t answering consider taking: Phone battery back up, cooler with ice, a couple of subway sandwiches (one all veggies with cheese on side), chips, cookies, thermos of coffee with some creamer & sugar packets & a few bottles of water.

Get in your car & check on your guests & rental. If they are there this outreach will speak volumes.

If they are gone, your trip will not be wasted. You can drain water lines so they won’t freeze. You can check status of the cabin. The bad guys love times like this when properties become easy targets so make sure all is locked & secure.

The food won’t go to waste. You can eat it.

Hosting is a job. If you don’t take steps to keep guests happy & safe to protect your business, who will?

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Me being pissy-I’m frustrated by Airbnb hosts complaining about this. As hosts we signed up to comply with Airbnb policies. Don’t like the policies—go to another platform (maybe VRBO).

Airbnb doesn’t offer travel insurance. The extenuating circumstances policy & cancellation policies make it clear the responsibility lies on the host to bear the burden of refunds.

We as hosts have 3 choices:

  1. Do nothing & just follow Airbnb policies

  2. Educate guests when they make their reservation they may wish to find & purchase travel insurance or use a travel credit card to refund them if they must cancel.

  3. We can get business interruption insurance but it would have to be a huge interruption to be worth the premium.

Keep in mind—Airbnb’s policy refunds 100% if the rental isn’t habitable or 50% for days an amenity like water or heat isn’t available.

If the guest booked through Airbnb, the host MUST comply with the policies. We can’t just decide not to refund. Airbnb can & will override the host.

At one time Airbnb mentioned providing a travel insurance option. Here’s what they say about it now.

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We are also having a “psps” Planned power outtage here for the same reason, a high wind event. Just yesterday Edison was handing out goodie bags with some useful stuff like rechargeable light and phone charger candy etc + 50 bucks food gift cards! BUT we do not have any guests:)

We have 2 generators and can power our home and the trailer str if need be. The bigger one runs on propane which is nice. All cooking on property is propane, no electrcity required. The only thing guests would loose is hot water as that takes a charge bigger than the generator. If they need a hot shower in our lovely bath suite it is right nearby. But still, if any guests become uncomfortable, we do not want them around and we would negotiate a refund with them.

I would invest in a generator for your rental and have someone nearby that will be available to set it up when needed. They will soon pay for themselves! A type of cooker that is not electric, even a camping stove will be a good item to have around also.

You may not need a huge system, just the basics. Our generators are moveable and can be plugged to refrigerator lights and computers, there may be some things its just not feasible to power with a reasonably priced moveable generat

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How awful! What a tough situation, and we hope that it resolves very quickly.
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As others noted, it is perhaps time to consider a long-term solution, as this WILL happen again and your stay is a Premium. With a rustic cabin at $100-150 a night, “stuff happens”.
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At your price point, I would consider the options and pick something that is a reasonable investment.

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