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Snow storm/power outage during guest stay?

Hey there,
We have a new listing that’s a small cottage here in upstate NY. The forecast looks like we might get a good amount of snow + wind and I’m a bit concerned about what to do if the electricity goes out there.

We have emergency flashlights and plenty of blankets- but how do folks in snowy climates handle these type of issues when guests are staying? No power = no heat, and I just want to be prepared with if guests can receive a full refund or…?

Thanks for your advice!

I put in a whole house generator that powers all 3 buildings on my property last summer. For the first time last week I was in my office, the lights went out then 3 seconds later they went back on. Seven hours later when power was restored the generator turned itself off.

I have one ordered for my house now!

You can expect to be refunding for missing amenities if the guests are left in the dark.

RR

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You’re going to get people arguing for both sides and the logical conclusion is that there is no right answer. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Some people will ask for a refund and some won’t.

The most important thing is some heat. Will the cottage have a woodburner or fireplace?

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We have plenty of outages but for a different reason. We’re in hurricane territory but we lose power even during tropical storms or if we’re on the edge of the hurricane. So I can’t help with the heating because it’s an AC problem for us here.

It’s good that you’ve got plenty of flashlights because you want to make sure that guests don’t use candles - or you might want to get some battery-powered candles. Because he host mostly couples, we have the powered ones for a romantic ambiance to make the outage more fun. :wink:

Make sure too that you have plenty of games, playing cards and books too to occupy the guests when they would otherwise be watching TV.

You or your co-host can contact the guests as soon as the outage starts and tell them that you’re getting in touch with your local power provider to get some idea of how long the outage will last. Make a note now of any useful numbers that you or the guest can use - local weather hotlines, local traffic info etc.

A lovely thing for you to do if there’s an outage is to call to see the guests with an emergency basket of goods - even more blankets, a couple of thermos flasks of hot soup, some cookies, sandwiches etc. Take a look at Amazon too and see what solar products are available - we have solar chargers so that guests can charge their phones or laptops. Make sure that the guests know where the first aid kit is in the house as they are more likely to hurt themselves with no lighting.

Sorry that I can’t help with heating - in our emergency packs I take ice!

Be sure to leave a message in the platform’s system too reiterating the lot.

I’ve never given a refund for power outages because they’re not my fault. When people travel, they should really keep an eye on the weather. I’ve found that guests quite like the ‘excitement’ of power outages as long as they’re treated with helpful concern.

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We had an awful storm and our guests lost electricity for over 24 hours. I simply extended their stay to make up for the 24 hour blackout and they were happy with that arrangement.

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Sadly no wood burner! Everyone was booked for the season for install by the time we closed- I guess with the pandemic everyone wanted to get cozy at home

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Excellent advice @jaquo! A drop off of warm goodies is a great idea, and we’ll get some battery operated candles for ambiance :heartpulse:

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I apply WWHD. What would a hotel do? Gift basket, wine, refund not likely, maybe free night on future stay.

I had a water shut off twice in one guest stay. Provided bottled water to drink and gallon jugs for the toilet and a basket of local goodies. No refund.

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I try and use that as a guideline as well and I would never offer a refund for something like this. That being said I think Air would refund due to lack of a listed amenity. I have read of refunds for lack of wifi…

RR

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Ditto. Pre-Covid. A guest called complaining the internet was out. The power had been out 4 hours!! No A/c in 90 degrees & miserable humidity and the complaint is no internet!

I checked with power company. Estimated time to repair <4 hours so I suggested they see if nearby Starbucks had power thus internet and maybe go get a beverage or snack until power back on.

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Might be a good idea to suggest to guests that they bring along a small charged up battery pack in winter months, so they can charge up their phones if the power goes out. I’ve used mine several times as we lose the electric in summer hurricane season.

You could provide one, but it seems like the sort of thing that might easily walk.

Am I the only one to think that if power goes out, in a wintry environment, it may just be best for everyone to “stay put?” You know, avoid the roads - guest and host alike.

I like the suggestions of providing battery operated lighting at the very least but a whole house generator seems like a good investment. When we lived north we had a portable generator for our own property. And yes, if your guests are left without simple things like electricity and heat in the middle of winter you should either refund their money or extend their stay.

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If anyone has a specific generator recommendation that would be easy for guests to use, please share! It’s only a small one bedroom cottage so we don’t need (or want!) a big expensive one.

I would have one installed that turns on automatically and that tests itself every month. Generac is probably the leading brand. This way you would also be covered when no one is at the property.

I would NOT want the liability of asking a tenant to know how to properly use a generator. You want one that runs on natural gas if that is available “from the street” or one that runs off propane (and get a tank installed on the property, not a little grill sized one). I wouldn’t want to have to store gas or diesel and I wouldn’t want to depend on renters knowing how to properly use and setup a generator.

Or you might consider a solar set up? There are big rebates for setting up solar. That would only work if your heat is NOT electric but all heating systems (except wood stoves) need some electricity to start and circulate the warm air and detect the temp.

Additionally you may want to consider ahead of time what your policy would be in regards to refunds if a booking had to cancel due to a present/impending storm that could affect their transportation to/from your STR as well as their ability to enjoy the stay.

ETA: I just checked the Generac site and it looks like the least expensive one is about $2k pus the cost of install. For a “cottage” it should be more than adequate. And you will likely need some other equipment (transfer switch). I would guess you can get it done quite reasonably as compared to frozen and burst pipes, water damage and lost revenue.

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What are you providing in terms of alternative heating @HudsonNY ??

Like I mentioned, if there’s no electricity, no heat.

Can you not use gas, paraffin, wood stove, etc?

Just because you don’t have electricity doesn’t mean you can’t provide heating @HudsonNY

Maybe next season, but all local installers are already booked and there’s no existing fireplace.

I have a Generac 22K for the cabins and a 18K ordered for home. I live in the mountains and all it takes is wet snow to bring a tree down and snap an line and no power. And now when its windy the power company shuts off the power to cut fire risks. Worth it where I live.

Some of them will only power certain circuits, the bigger ones will power everything. The one I have at the cabins runs 3 buildings, 2 electric hot water heaters a well pump and the electric gates, everything.

RR

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I would also recommend a few battery operated lanterns. They are much more convenient than trying to hold a flashlight and will provide enough light to maneuver about a room or sit on the table to play games, etc. We have three at our rental, along with flashlights. I assume you are not on a well and they will still have water.

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