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Hosting guests from a variety of backgrounds and experiences is one of the joys of owning a vacation rental. Unfortunately, troublesome guests can also be one of the biggest headaches that hosts face. Having a solid house rules manual in place is key to preventing mishaps before they have a chance to happen. Following Rental Recon’s tips is a great place to get started, and make sure to include these top 21 critical house rules in your next house manual!
What are the most important vacation rental house rules for hosts?
- Extra guests are NOT allowed
- Out-of-towners only
- No large unauthorized gatherings
- Key replacement fees strictly enforced
- Guests must not change any locks or codes
- All HOA rules apply to guests
- Restrictions on utility usage
- No drugs or prohibited items
- Shoes not allowed indoors
- No food or beverages outside of kitchen
- No furniture moving
- Smoking strictly prohibited
- Respect the host’s time
- Check in and check out times can be changed
- Security deposits apply, guest liable for extra fees
- Respect the garbage disposal
- Excessive noise not permitted
- Towel and bedding replacement fees apply
- Extra mess equals extra cleaning fees
- Pets not allowed (or restricted)
- Finally: Enjoy your stay!
Follow along as we discuss why these rules matter and how YOU should implement them in your vacation rental!
Rule #1: Extra Guests Are NOT Allowed
Unauthorized guests are one of the biggest and most persistent issues that vacation rental hosts face. For booking websites where guests pay per person, this means a lot of lost revenue for the host (as well as a lot of liability if something goes wrong). My best recommendation is to get a video doorbell. This will allow you to see who enters the home, when they enter, and what (or who) they enter with.
Just make sure you disclose that there is external video surveillance on the premises, as most rental websites and states require it. It is also just good practice, as most people don’t like to be recorded without their knowledge.
Wondering what else you’ll need to make your hosting experience as successful as possible? Check out my vacation rental essentials article for my top product recommendations!
Rule #2: Out-Of-Towners Only
To avoid guests looking for a convenient party venue, I recommend limiting or at least strictly screening your rental property from local renters. If a local person does try to rent your property, be sure to dig deep to find out why they feel the need to do that. This extra vetting will save you a lot in potential issues down the road.
Rule #3: No Large Unauthorized Gatherings
A lot of vacation rental hosts choose to write the straightforward “NO PARTIES” rule very clearly. This seems fine, but some untrustworthy guests might feel they can weasel around this rule and claim that they weren’t technically having a “party” after all. For this reason, I suggest explaining that you don’t allow gatherings, get togethers, group hangouts… you name it. Just be extra clear about how many extra guests you’ll allow on the property (if any) to avoid potential loopholes.
What if your guest decides to host a party anyways? Know your rights! Believe it or not, you may be limited to when and how you’re allowed to access your own property while it’s being rented.
Rental Recon Tip: Worried about sounding like a no-fun host? Don’t be! Most people understand why rules are in place, and people looking to get around these rules will often be deterred by a no-nonsense listing description.
Rule #4: Key Replacement Fees Strictly Enforced
Ever lost a key at a hotel room? You bet they didn’t replace it for free! Neither should you at your vacation rental. If you have to use keys at your property at all, make it very clear that they must be returned (in original condition) at the end of the booking time period of the guest will incur a fee.
Better yet, go keyless. An electronic code lock offers guests an easy way to enter the property and eliminates the possibility of lost keys. You can change the code in between rentals and don’t have to worry about copies of keys being made.
Rule #5: Guests Must Not Change Any Locks Or Codes
This might seem like it goes without saying, but it bears repeating anyways. Explicitly forbid guests from changing locks, making copies of keys, or altering the code to your locks in any way.
Rule #6: All HOA Rules Apply To Guests
Another obvious one, the rules of your homeowner’s association apply to any guests staying at your property. It is also worth it to list out these rules so guests don’t accidentally break them without knowing.
See also: What if guests do break the rules?
Rule #7: Restrictions On Utility Usage
This might seem a little stingy, but after you’ve had a guest leave the shower running overnight or run the washing machine 20 times in 2 days… you’ll get it. Set an allowance with a hard upper limit (X kilowatt hours per day) and outline how much extra they’ll be charged if this number is exceeded.
Rule #8: No Drugs Or Prohibited Items
Again, it shouldn’t need to be said but say it anyways. Since illegal substances vary by state and sometimes even city, giving explicit examples is helpful as well. Be sure to state that the presence of any of these substances or items is grounds for termination of the rental agreement effective immediately.
Rule #9: Shoes Not Allowed Indoors
A simple “No shoes allowed past this point” sign near the entrance will keep your vacation rental so much cleaner. While a little hard to enforce, it’s still a common courtesy issue.
Rule #10: No Food Or Beverages Outside Of Kitchen
It’s up to you where you want to allow food or drink to travel within your rental, but I would strongly suggest prohibiting them from the bedroom at least. Make sure to clarify that guests will be responsible for the cost of replaced linens or carpet (more on this below).
Check Out Our Other Articles on Rental Recon:
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- 27 Airbnb Themes that Will Wow Your Guests
- [Airbnb Guests Asking for Discount] 2021: Should You Accept a Lower Price?
- 39 Extra Airbnb Amenities That Will Win Over Guests 
- How Much Does Airbnb Photography Cost? Find Out If It’s Worth It!
- What Is A Typical Airbnb Check Out Time? 
Rule #11: No Furniture Moving
This mainly applies to indoor furniture, which would leave scratches on hardwood floors or snags in the carpet if moved. Outdoor furniture is typically fine to move, and obviously rollaway beds or cots are an exception as well.
Rule #12: Smoking Strictly Prohibited
In my rentals, I write that there will be a daily fee incurred if there is any trace of cigarette smoke found on the premise. This includes sight (smoke stains, cigarette butts) as well as smell. I also state that I use a state of the art cigarette monitor that notifies me immediately if smoke is detected. Truthfully, this device doesn’t exist in the US, but I find that it deters even the most determined smoker.
Rule #13: Respect The Host’s Time
This pertains to checking in and out on time. My time as a host is valuable, and so is yours. Guests should show respect for the amount of time and effort it takes to provide a top-notch vacation experience by arriving and departing on time. Most booking websites allow you to charge late check out and early check in fees if you so choose.
Rule #14: Check In And Check Out Times Can Be Changed
That being said, things do happen and sometimes guests are more than willing to pay the extra fees if it means they can begin their vacation earlier (or end it later). Just make sure you clarify how the fee is charged (for example, hourly, every 30 minutes, an entire day fee, etc.) and request that guests notify you well in advance if they anticipate needing a different schedule.
Rule #15: Security Deposits Apply, Guest Liable For Extra Fees
While many booking websites allow you to charge a security deposit, sometimes an extremely raucous guest can create damages that exceed the fee they’ve put down. In this case, make it known that you will be charging them any fees in excess of the security deposit that they incur.
Rule #16: Respect The Garbage Disposal
Not all guests are familiar with garbage disposals, so I find it helpful to clarify that they are to be used for small food scraps only, not an entire plate’s worth of food. Kindly point out an accessible trash can or compost bin for and larger amounts of waste. On this note, be sure to keep track of all your cookware and ensure that guests know they are responsible for replacing any lost or damaged items.
Rule #17: Excessive Noise Not Permitted
It’s a good idea to set reasonable “noise making” hours, for example from 9am until 9pm. If it helps, put the “blame” on neighbors and state that they don’t appreciate being disturbed before or after these set times. It never hurts to reiterate that parties and large gatherings are prohibited as well.
Rule #18: Towel And Bedding Replacement Fees Apply
Makeup is the scourge of white linens. I cannot tell you how many times I begrudgingly replaced a bedsheet or bath towel before I realized that the cost should fall on the offending guest, not me! This allows me to keep my prices lower instead of building in fees with the expectation of having to constantly replace things.
I provide dedicated makeup washcloths (usually black), and specify that other towels are not for this use. Defining the fees can help as well. For example, I charge $20 per item (towel, washcloth, or bedsheet) that is damaged or stained beyond reasonable repair.
Rule #19: Extra Mess Equals Extra Cleaning Fees
If my cleaner or I have to take extra time to clean up after an especially sloppy guest, it makes sense that the guest should have to pay for it! Pro tip: wait until after the guest has left a review for you (if applicable) and then request the extra money from them.
Rule #20: Pets Not Allowed (Or Restricted)
Some people feel very strongly about this one, but I don’t allow pets at my vacation rentals. If you choose to do so, you might consider increasing your security deposit (significantly) or placing size restrictions on the type of pets you allow. Requiring documentation for service animals never hurts either, just be sure to be respectful of your guest’s medical privacy.
Rule #21: Finally: Enjoy Your Stay!
Rules aren’t the most exciting part of a vacation, of course, but they are a necessary evil. Overall, being on vacation should be a great experience for your guests. Do everything that you can to make it the best stay that they’ve ever had!