With the statewide ban on short-term property rentals lifted on June 8, Outer Cape vacationers and property owners must adjust to new safety guidelines. Massachusetts requires proprietors of lodgings — including unstaffed, short-term home and apartment rentals — to practice enhanced sanitation procedures.
One of the more controversial guidelines, that rental changeovers include a 24-hour vacancy period before new tenants move in, is not mandatory but only suggested.
Cleaners must disinfect all hard surfaces and launder all linens at a high temperature between guest stays. They must pay special care to “high-touch” surfaces, including doorknobs, bathroom facilities, light switches, and remote controls. They are also required to document their work in logs that include date, time, and scope of cleaning.
The state requires operators to “consider leaving guest rooms vacant for 24 hours as part of cleaning protocol.” Though Covid-19 has been proved to remain viable on surfaces like steel and plastic for up to 72 hours, the Centers for Disease Control says that touching a contaminated surface and then touching one’s face (so-called fomite transmission) is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
According to the Mass. safety standards, the suggested waiting period is meant to “allow for deep cleaning, disinfectant and cleaners to dry, and reasonable air exchange.” Though a 24-hour vacancy does not guarantee the complete expiration of viable virus particles, the New York Times reports that they decrease in amount “sharply” over a 72-hour period.
Housekeepers should enter guest lodgings only when the spaces are vacant, “except at the guest’s specific request.” Quality Cleaning Service, which provides changeover services from North Eastham to Provincetown, asks that tenants be absent even during mid-stay cleanings. The company also asks that guests’ personal belongings be removed from surfaces in need of disinfecting.
Jim Reese, COO of the vacation rental site WeNeedaVacation.com, told the Independent that changeover waiting periods are best set on a case-by-case basis. As the state has mandated no strict waiting period, he says these determinations should be made through clear communication between property owners and vacationers.
WeNeedaVacation.com and Quality Cleaning Service both suggest that home owners provide extra linens and sanitation products for tenants. They also recommend decluttering properties by removing unnecessary knick-knacks and reading materials.
The Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors has launched the website safesummer2020.com to provide comprehensive guidance for vacationers and property owners. To visitors, the site says that “It’s safe to come in,” and emphasizes the importance of seasonal travel to the local economy. Additional info from the Cape Cod Reopening Task Force can be found at reopeningcapecod.org.