With cybersecurity threats at an all-time high, property management companies (PMCs) need to keep their guard up. After all, damage related to cybercrime is projected to hit $6 trillion annually by 2021, according to data security company Varonis. If you’re not careful, gaps in your security measures will leave your business exposed to harmful risks. These risks are augmented by the fact that vacation rentals are reliant on the sharing economy, a model dependent on mutual trust and respect.
While profitable, hosting strangers is risky business. Accepting the wrong reservation can destroy your reputation and run your operations into the ground. On top of guest-related threats, there are business risks that threaten the foundation of your company. To cover all the bases, every PMC needs to ensure their security measures are up-to-date.
Understanding the risks
For experienced property managers in the vacation rental space, the risks may seem obvious. Bad guests, particularly those who throw parties, can damage your properties and disturb your community. Beyond late-night noise complaints, PMCs deal with identity theft and fraud. Without a security plan, these incidents can wreak havoc on your company’s reputation.
To properly safeguard your operations against these threats, it’s important to acknowledge the risks you face as a business. Cyberthreats continue to evolve, with new threats emerging all the time. To improve your company’s resilience, you need to track these threats and prepare a proper defense.
Emphasize the importance of cybersecurity with your team by putting education and training at the center of your business. Meet with your employees regularly to go over your security procedures, making sure everyone’s accounts and devices are protected. Teach your team, especially your customer service employees, about the current threats they face from fraudsters and hackers. Educate yourself by becoming immersed in the cybersecurity landscape. This could include subscribing to the best cybersecurity blogs.
Reviewing your company policies
The best way to keep your team on high-alert is to ingrain security into your company culture. Make sure your security measures are up-to-date by reviewing your policies. For your vacation rental operations, nail down your house rules, guest-screening procedures and emergency protocols. While these are important for protecting your properties and revenue, they’re also important for guest safety.
Before listing your property online, outline your house rules with your team so that everyone is on the same page. Setting clear house rules is a great way to determine your risk tolerance. What level of risk are you comfortable with when it comes to accepting reservations? This could be as simple as stating whether or not you allow additional guests or one-night stays. After solidifying your house rules, develop a process for guest screening. This is the best way to confirm your guests are exactly who they say they are. Consider using a tool like Autohost, which combines behavioral analysis and Airbnb background checks to verify guests.
In preparation for worst-case scenarios, draft a plan for handling emergencies, whether that be natural disasters or troublesome guests who have slipped through the cracks. Even with top-notch security procedures, it’s always smart to have a backup plan.
If you don’t have one already, address online threats with a cybersecurity policy. Teach effective password management, how to detect phishing and other scams and the importance of managing personally identifiable information (PII).
Working with the right management tools
If you’re a seasoned property manager, you’re likely already working with a property management system (PMS). But to ensure you’re covered from a security standpoint, it may be time to do another needs assessment.
Make sure that your PMS easily integrates other tools. Be it home automation systems or smart locks, you want to be able to connect the best security software. Choosing a PMS like Hostfully will give you the freedom to connect the tools you need to protect your properties and grow your business.
Check that your PMS offers features and flexibility that can be tailored to your security policies. For instance, you may want a PMS with customizable automated messaging features so you can set up rules-based messaging. Using this function, you can communicate and explain your house rules to your guests.
An efficient PMS will also allow you to manage roles and access permissions, adding an extra layer of security to your company. Keep your information secure by only allowing access to the employees who need it. For example, give your customer service agents access to the inbox and properties, but maybe limit their access to accounting and analytics.
Updating your security technologies
As mentioned above, one of the most important elements of a PMS is its ability to integrate with other software. Set your company up for success by equipping yourself with the right security tools—ones that will help you grow your company and scale your operations.
For example, tools like RemoteLock allow you to secure your property from anywhere, at any time. With this type of technology, you have complete control over who enters your property, whether it’s guests, vendors or employees. To keep tabs on your operations, analyze usage reports to see when entry codes are used.
Look after your assets by investing in a home automation platform. Tools like Lynx handle emergencies proactively by detecting leaks, smoke and carbon monoxide, allowing you to identify issues before they get out of hand. In addition to protecting your guests, you can avoid taking your property off the market for repairs, saving you a whole lot of time and money.
Maintaining security, even as you scale
When expanding your business, don’t forget to update your security measures at regular intervals. Maximize protection by making sure they accurately reflect today’s security landscape. You can do this by setting a yearly reminder to read up on the latest cybersecurity risks associated with your company’s technologies (i.e. wifi, smart devices, speakers and voice assistants). Once in a while, the companies that manufacture these devices come out with a patch or update that shuts down any possible cybersecurity risks. Keeping up-to-date can be as simple as googling ‘cybersecurity’ plus the name of your devices. Similarly, you can google ‘patch or update’ plus the name of the devices to quickly find if there is an update.
As your portfolio of properties grows, you’re exposed to more threats. To close security gaps, stay in the know. Research often to make sure you’re using the best tools and technology in the market. After all, better tools offer better protection.
Wrapping things up
Remember that education is key to proactive operating. Learn about the threats associated with the vacation rental industry and figure out how to avoid them. Start at the foundation and work your way out. When you focus on your core security policies, the effects will resonate throughout your company, defending you against any and all security threats.