Staying safe at Christmas
The Christmas period can be a risky time both for your property and contents and for the property of your guests. Bill Lumley assesses the seasonal risks.
Many of the guests staying with you this month will have brought with them gifts they intend to give to friends or relatives whom they may be seeing over the Christmas season, and of course they will want these to remain safe throughout the period of their stay before being presented to their intended recipients.
Whilst you do not wish to imply that your B&B is not safe, it is advisable to make your guests aware of the importance of taking care of their belongings wherever they are.
Meanwhile if the value of the stock in your bar or wine cellar or a collection rises at this time of year with vintage festive premium spirits that sell well over Christmas, you are advised to make sure the sum insured on your stock under particular type of combined insurance cover you have is adequate.
From a risk management point of view, prevention is better than cure. At the end of the day anyone would rather prevent a loss from a fire or theft from occurring to having to suffer the loss and make a claim.
As discussed in the feature on safe keeping (page 36), it is important you make sure that the security of your property has been checked out and is adequate. Many B&Bs – perhaps even your own – do not have locks on some or all the guest room doors. Especially at this time of year you might wish to remind your guests to take care of their property if there is something valuable in their room, because as the proprietor you cannot be held liable if something valuable that has not been safely stored disappears into the hands of an opportunistic thief.
If your guestroom doors cannot indeed be locked for whatever reason, and if you do not have safes in the rooms for guests to use, then you may make it known there is a safe place in which they may store their valuables, but on the understanding of course that if anything goes wrong it is not your fault fo example if someone manages to break into that safe space and steal those valuables.
It is also wise during the festive season to ensure your guests don’t leave lit candles in the bedroom or high energy devices left switched on such as phone chargers left on next to flammable items.
If you are unsure about your insurance arrangements, check your cover is up-to-date and that the premium has been paid. You really do not want to suffer a nasty loss and submit a claim, only to find the insurance company coming back to you and saying your policy is not officially valid, and that does happen.
Former head of the British Insurance Brokers Association Mike Williams tells Luxury Bed & Breakfast he once fought a case in which a luxury rural country B&B owner had a couple of guests visiting from overseas who turned up and proceeded to load up their car with the full contents of the bar, which cost thousands of pounds, before disappearing without even staying one night.
He adds that it is important to make sure the financial arrangements you have with your guests are secure and safe. “Risks do not have to involve an accident, a fire, flood or physical theft,” he says. “If you are providing accommodation and a guest abuses your bank account it can result in a huge expense for you because their credit card turns out not to be valid or they do a runner. A good risk management measure to take is to tighten up on your payment procedure,” he concludes.