A Lake Havasu City vacation rental cleaner is behind an online petition calling on Gov. Doug Ducey to require a 24-hour buffer between bookings of vacation rental units.
Laura Clark, who started the petition, said she believes such a regulation from the Governor’s Office would help flatten the curve as the number of those infected has risen quickly both locally and around the state. The petition on change.org was started Wednesday morning and had received 157 signatures as of Saturday afternoon.
“A 24-hour booking buffer means no check-ins and check-outs same-day to allow the three hours before entry then to go in and properly ventilate by opening windows and doors and begin cleaning,” Clark said. “Washing all bedding and towels in hot water. Disinfecting all touched surfaces such as door knobs, light switches, remote controls, cabinet knobs, and then working from top to bottom cleaning and disinfecting every area.”
The vacation rental market has been particularly hot in Havasu since mid-May.
According to a recent report by AirDNA, which tracks online booking data from vacation rental websites, Lake Havasu City recently saw a large increase of short term rental bookings, with more than a 200 percent increase in bookings from mid-May to mid-June compared with the same time period in 2019. Clark said that has left staff with less time to perform cleanings, even as increased cleaning guidelines and procedures are recommended by the CDC, Airbnb, and other organizations.
“I have been doing this for a while and we’ve never had this craziness before,” Clark said. “We had that timeframe where we had the time to do laundry at two or three houses, then go in the next morning and clean everything so they are all ready to go… Now we have even more precautions on top of it.”
Her petition got some additional attention last week when the Lake Havasu City Covid-19 Task Force, a local grassroots advocacy group comprised primarily of local primary care physicians, announced it was supporting the petition and shared it on Facebook.
CDC guidelines for disinfecting buildings encourage using soap and water, then some sort of disinfectant, on all high touch surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks and more. It also recommends using soap and water on soft surfaces such as sofas, carpeted floors, rugs and drapes and to launder items if possible. The CDC also recommends cleaning all electronics such as remote controls, TVs, tablets and touch screens according to manufacturer’s instructions, or with an alcohol-based wipe or spray containing at least 70 percent alcohol.
Airbnb is also suggesting additional cleaning protocols for hosts that it says are “informed by recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” The recommendations were updated in June, and suggest leaving a buffer between 24 and 72 hours between bookings.
Clark said there are some guests who leave their vacation rental more or less in working order – such properties only take about two to three hours to clean – but she said that is the exception rather than the rule.
“Everyone is putting their money together, they are bringing their boats out together, and they are piling in to party it up,” she said. “And you can see it, I mean it’s all on the lake.”
Clark said the most important aspect to her, would be allowing at least three hours for rental houses to properly ventilate prior to the cleaning crews entering. She said many short term rental units in the city only allow three hours total to get the house ready for the next tenant.
“That is just not appropriate time, there is no way to clean a full household – with who knows how many people running around. There are so many things you have to sanitize and clean,” she said. “There is just no way to properly allow it, and you aren’t even supposed to enter for three hours. You are supposed to let it ventilate first.”
She cited a study published in March by The New England Journal of Medicine that found coronavirus can remain in the air up to three hours.
“While I understand the motivation behind the petition, the bigger picture is that we are inviting government oversight to regulating private property,” said Nicolle Stuhlberg, president of the Lake Havasu Association of Realtors. “As Realtors, we have fought and will continue fighting to preserve the individual rights of private property.”
“A requirement such as this would disrupt local business and likely create havoc with policing the policy,” she added.
Clark said she doesn’t want to see rental units close altogether, or even to encourage people to stay away. But she said she is worried that if steps aren’t taken to address the recent surge in coronavirus cases that might end up happening.
“I’m thinking of it as a whole. The economy is thriving, we are all doing great,” Clark said. “I know that Californians depend on this money for their homes, but I just feel like if nobody is taking these little precautions it could end up putting us in shutdown again. This is a way to keep us all running safely. How nice is it to know that when you check in at a home the house has been thoroughly gone through and everything is taken care of properly when you bring your family to visit another area.”
Stuhlberg said there are currently no standardized best practices regarding bookings or cleanings. Each local company and private owner is in charge of their own policies.
“It is just as important to them as it is to the general public that everyone stay safe while visiting Lake Havasu City,” Stuhlberg said. “This is an ever changing situation. Our realtor property managers are very adept at evaluating the situation to insure everyone involved in the short term rental process remains safe.”
Clark said she is fortunate that the owners of the properties she cleans do require a 24-hour buffer between bookings, but she said there are many rental properties in the city that have just three hours between checkout and check-in. She said in the last two months she turned down about 40 calls from other cleaners who asked for help in cleaning their properties because there wasn’t time to properly ventilate it.
In addition to starting a petition on change.org on Wednesday, Clark said she sent a letter to Gov. Ducey about three weeks ago. She said she received a call back from the Governor’s Office on Tuesday explaining that they have received lots of emails, but that they would include her comments in their notes and discuss what they might be able to do to help.
Gov. Ducey’s office did not respond to several requests for comment on Wednesday and Thursday.
Lake Havasu City Mayor Cal Sheehy said the city doesn’t have any hand in regulating schedules for vacation rentals, so any change in regulations or guidelines would have to come from the Arizona Department of Health Services.
“We haven’t been notified of any occupational risks due to cleaning of vacation rentals sooner than 24 hours,” Sheehy said. “So based on data and information, I don’t have any data that would support that waiting 24 hours does anything to impact the spread of the virus. But we certainly encourage strong sanitation and cleanliness standards. If folks that are cleaning vacation rentals believe that can be achieved by waiting 24 hours then that would be something I would encourage them to support.”
The petition can be found at https://tinyurl.com/VacationRentalPetition.