Thursday 29 December 2022

Welding repairs for holiday cottage

 I found a very useful tool for the owners of holiday rental cottages. It is a plastic welding kit. It is pretty effective, after practice, at repairing broken plastic household items when glue cannot fix the breakage.

This is the one I purchased from Amazon.:

And here's the link:  This is valid at the time of editing, but may change. There's a good variety of these devices. The deciding factor for me was 140Watt rating. 

So if you have a guest who cracks a wheelie bin or the cover for the hot tub, there is a good chance you can quickly fabricate a neat strong repair. There's loads of youtube videos demonstrating the repair process, so I'm not going to document the process.

Today, as a practice piece, I was able to restore the handles of some kitchen scissors. The next on the list is a the lid of a wheelie bin that became cracked about 18 months ago.

Tuesday 1 November 2022

Warmbrook Waterfall

 Last night, our current guest sent me a video of the local waterwall during heavy rain. I popped over to visit straight away, but by then the heavy rain had ceased and there was no waterfall.

This clip shows how useful photo's and video can be for us to help out our guests when they let us know there's an issue. The cottage is part of a small terrace of three cottages with a shared gutter system. A blockage in one part can effect others. Weather permitting, I'll pop over with the gutter vacuum system today to clean our gutters and the neighbouring ones. We have a 3.6 kW Predator with 32ft (10 metres) of poles to do that job safely with the busy road (B5023) outside of the cottages. Ladders are difficult due to the slope of the road and the danger from traffic. 

We purchased the system to deal with the gutters on our own Georgian house whose gutters regularly fill with autumn leaves and pine needles from nearby trees. We have a busy road outside, with sloping paths at the back of the property, which means ladders are best avoided. Some of the gutters are difficult to reach safely via ladders. We also have a pole camera system to allow us to inspect the gutters, before and after cleaning, from the ground. We found that it can be difficult to quickly obtain the services of a gutter cleaning company at short notice during stormy periods in the Autumn. We've used our system to maintain the gutters on a council owned local community centre situated on the edge of woodland.

Here, the morning following the "Waterfall", I was busy cleaning the gutters for the entire block of three terraced cottages, about 30 metres of gutter. The work took about two hours including setting up, vacuuming and then cleaning up after. Before starting work vacuuming, I took a video of the gutters. It turns out there were no blockages on our section of the gutter, but there were two in the neighbours' gutter system. The blockage was mostly cement debris from the roof tilings,some decaying leaves and a couple of rooted weed patches. Outside on the roadside pavement I'd laid out five traffic cones at the road edge to warn drivers of work in progress. During thirty minutes of working that section, two of the warning cones were knocked over by road traffic, but generally most drivers were considerate. I hate to think of what might have happened if I had been on an unprotected ladder.

Edit 2nd Nov 22
We've had heavy rain again this evening, and there are no reports of "waterfalls".

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Dogs on holiday

 One of the advantages of our cottage is that guests can bring their pet with them. It avoids the cost of boarding your dog whilst you are away from home. This greatly reduces the stress on the animal of staying with strangers in a strange place while owners have deserted it. Your dogs are not exposed to disease/injury from other dogs at the kennels/home. 

How's your dog when you are on holiday?

Most pets are well behaved and don't cause any significant problems. We have extra work during turn around cleaning at the end of the rental, but that tends not to be a major issue, so we don't charge extra on the rental fees for an accompanying pet.

There have been problems in the past:

  • A dog trader from Ireland rented the cottage and used it as a base to sell dogs to people in the region. We didn't find out immediately, but when we did he was immediately banned from any further rental.
  • At one time this dog trader brought a dog cage into the kitchen to stop the dog causing damage when left alone, but rust engrained itself into the kitchen floor tiles. We had to use hyrochloric acid to remove that stain.
  • There's been several "accidents" when dogs went to toilet inside the house. In this case, guests always clean up, but sometimes they are not successful and we have to take action to fix the stain  before the next guest arrive. On one notable occasion we had to have carpet professionally cleaned to remove the stain just a few weeks after an earlier cleaning..
  • One dog brought a flea infestation to our cottage. The fleas migrated to the carpet and we discovered flea bites on our ankles after cleaning the cottage. Fortunately there hadn't been a follow-on guest that week, so we immediately returned and treated the house with insecticide and UV-C light. Checking a few days later showed no flea further activity, but we recleaned all of the carpets. 
  • We were showing a new set of guests around the cottage at the start of the rental and their labrador dog lifted his leg inside the cottage and pee'd on the settee leg in front of me. They'd travelled a long distance to get to the cottage and hadn't taken their dog for a relief walk on arrival. We always have appropriate biocide/deodouriser and cleaning cloths on hand, so I was able to clean up without a fuss.
  • One set of guests left a pile of dog poo on the carpet in the bedroom to greet us after their departure.
  • Some guests have not bother to clean dog mess from the garden, so that is on our checklist.
  • We've had a few guests shower their pets in the bathroom shower cubicle. We can always tell when this has happened as the shower drain gets clogged with a clot of dog hair.
  • Some guests have used our expensive fluffy white cotton bath towels to dry off their muddy dogs. We leave dog towels in the pet cupboard in the kitchen for that purpose. In one case they returned the towels folded to the linen cupboard without laundry.
  • We've had furniture chewed, door paint scratched by anxious dogs left alone in the house by the guests.
Our latest excitement is a Houdini dog. We have a fence around the garden, but she is really good at escape. As we find the escape routes we take action to close them. Most recently the bitch has found that by climbing a four foot drystone wall, she can wriggle through a bush onto the higher level garden. There's free range chickens that she likes to investigate.  Today I'm awaiting delivery of a roll of 6 foot high wire mesh fencing. We'll not be beaten!

Monday 21 March 2022

Things are looking up

 Wow, it is refreshing to be away from the uncertainty of  bookings via Sykes.  After a winter break we've increased returns by 25% and yet seen some good quality holiday rental bookings. Apart from a couple of days we're already booked out into the summer, and we've turned people away. We've been able to assess the guests prior to accepting their bookings. With the Sykes regime booking would come from a wide range of third party sites with virtually no checking of the guests other than that they possess a credit card. No more anonymous guests who think they can play the system.

Now we are sure that the guests have proper prior documentation and a clear route for contact in respect of the booking and any issues arising. Taking payment via credit/debit card is straight forward and not all that expensive. Its card payment provider automatically links into our accounting system (Xero) giving us a clear up to date record of income/expenditure.

Thursday 3 March 2022

Sykes should have better control

 We've now left the Sykes Holiday Cottage family where they had been appointed by us to act as our agents for self-catering rental of our holiday cottage. I won't go into details of our reasons why we decided to drop them. We have informed Sykes as to the underlying issues and have completed the agreed notice period. Meanwhile we're launching our own website to advertise for rental as before. 

One of the exercises were having to undertake is to clean up the mess left on the internet by the Sykes advertising of our cottage for rental.  They promptly removed details of the cottage at our request when the contract was terminated by us. The problem is however, that it appears that Sykes has allowed a network of third party companies to copy from the Sykes web servers, their pictures and description of our cottage. This even extends to the third parties being able to take bookings, presumably for financial benefits, using the Sykes bookings and vacancy process. We not sure of the exact mechanisms/ permissions in place, but the impact is that there are many sites appearing to advertise our cottage for rental, or saying the cottage is no longer available for rental. This is in effect misrepresentation by the third parties. This is damaging for our business, and we're having to pursue the third party website owners to remove the false entries. 

If Sykes are permitting third-party organisations to advertise an owner's cottage for rental (via Sykes) they should have a mechanism in place to control access to the cottage and its booking details. Sykes should be able to restrict access to third-parties who no longer have permission to access those details.  There are easy technology solutions to provide this level of access control. For those without permission, Sykes has legal remedies to prevent unauthorised display.

Normally there's no incentive for a rental agency to stop the ghosting of retired property details. In fact it can be used to generate business for the agency, along the lines of: "You enquired about cottage xxx, but it is no longer available. You may wish to consider these alternatives." This is of course sharp practice, and if we detect Sykes doing this will complain.  Another tool in our armoury is that we have registered the cottage name as a trademark. People advertising the cottage without our permission can be accused of infringing the trademark and also passing off. Both of these can have legal consequences, including damages.

We'll be writing to Sykes to express our concerns about the internet traces left by their activities. Hopefully they'll take notice and change their procedures to avoid inadvertent ghosting of cottage owners. We tried to warn other cottage owners of this issue on the Facebook Sykes Cottage Owners forum, but the moderator blocked the story on the grounds that it might upset other group members.

Edit 6th Mar 2022

I came across a useful wording for others facing this situation:

You are reminded that by continuing to advertise a property you have no ability or authority to let, you are in breach of the ASA CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3. By advertising my property as 'unavailable to book' you are impeding my ability to receive bookings. Furthermore anyone googling my property name can be misdirected to your affiliates, whereupon potential guests may look no further and are mislead into thinking it could be booked for the next two years.