A vacation is a time to relax and let down one’s hair. And that’s fine, until a guest becomes a little too laid back about the rules of the house, resulting in angry neighbors, property damage, security vulnerabilities, injuries, or just misunderstandings that can lead to bad reviews. The best prevention is to put some real thought into those house rules to begin with, and be sure they’re both comprehensive and crystal clear for your vacation rental guests.
You don’t have to come off as mean-spirited to accomplish this. While the rules should be firm, the presentation does not have to be unfriendly. Consider something like this to lead off:
Welcome – we’re so glad you’re here! We hope you will love this home as much as we do, and we want you to have a wonderful, memorable time. Remember that you can contact us at any time with questions or problems at (phone number). (Note to reader: see Guest App section below about a great way to communicate with guests.)
Below are our house rules, designed to make your stay safer and more secure, and to protect the property for those who will enjoy it in the future. Please read them over – then relax and make our house your home!
You might even ask guests to sign the rules, ensuring a degree of acknowledgment and responsibility on their part.
With the pleasant introduction out of the way, you can get down to the nitty gritty. Here are some of the areas you might want to cover. Of course, depending on the type of property and its surrounding, you’ll likely have unique language to add.
This is a nice place to start, since it shows you’re thinking about the guest first. You don’t want to scare them, but you do want them to take appropriate safety measures, which can differ widely depending on where the property is located. For example, in some areas it’s advisable to keep doors locked even during the day, and an alarm on at night. Be sure to recommend the appropriate level of security, and tell them exactly how to do it. If you feel your guidelines sound a bit alarmist, you can always use language such as “Though this is a generally safe neighborhood, we suggest that you . . . (etc.).
Make clear what your vacation rental guests should do upon leaving to secure the property, as you don’t want doors or windows left open, particularly if nobody will arrive to clean and check on things for a long period of time.
Though there are bigger issues to consider in your house rules, this is one that should never be forgotten if yours is a non-smoking property. Cigarette and cigar smoke are hard to eradicate, and can make the guests who come afterwards very unhappy. Don’t hesitate to specify a large penalty for smoking in a non-smoking property.
Do you allow pets or don’t you? If so, what type, how many, and what size? Are there restrictions on which rooms they can enter or sleep in, where they can be fed, etc.? If it’s a dog that barks at night, do you request that guests keep the dog inside to avoid disturbing neighbors?
Good luck with this one if you’re renting to a house full of frat boys on spring break! In any case it’s important to maintain a good relationship with neighbors. Particularly at night, and particularly if the property shares walls with others, noise and general mayhem is unwelcome in any neighborhood.
Extra guests and parties
It happens: you rent a property to a young couple, and one evening get a call that there’s an all-night rave party going on with 50 revelers. Be clear about your guest policy, and about whether (and how many) extra people are allowed to stay overnight at the property. A dozen people crammed into a one-bedroom apartment can put a strain on the facilities and cause a real ruckus.
Cleanliness and order
Be specific about the condition you would like the property to be left in. Do you expect the garbage to be taken out? The dishes rinsed and put in the dishwasher? The barbecue grill cleaned? If you charge a cleaning fee regardless of the condition the apartment is left in, make this clear, as you don’t want guests deep-cleaning in expectation that they’ll not be charged. Some guests move furniture around (for example, beds from one room to another). If you don’t allow this (for example, if the property has wood floors and you don’t want them scratched), spell it out. If there’s a fireplace, let them know whether they can use it or not (particularly if it hasn’t been checked out for use!), understanding that cleaning a fireplace takes extra time on the part of cleaning staff.
Is there a designated or preferred parking space? How many cars are allowed? If it’s a neighborhood rather than a property with designated spaces, is street parking hard to get and are there neighbors to consider?
Hot tubs, swimming pools
The main thing to consider here is glass items – a broken wine glass in or beside a pool or hot tub can become a real disaster. Guests might think they’ve found all the shards – but a later guest finds out the hard way that they didn’t. Specify that no glass items are to be used around the pool or hot tub (provide plastic cups and wine glasses) – and that in case of breakage, you must be notified immediately to prevent injuries to future guests.
You probably don’t charge guests for an occasional broken coffee cup, but you should request that they let you know if anything is accidentally damaged. If it’s an expensive item, you’ll want to know about it and get it resolved before the guests have gone on down the road. Some services such as Airbnb have insurance in place to cover property owners.
Checkout details (door locks and keys, cleaning expectations, etc.) are generally included in the regular correspondence, but it never hurts to include them in the house rules as well.
You’ll want to spell out the penalties for breaches of rules that lead to physical damage or other problems. This can include monetary penalties, eviction (in case of disturbances), etc. Your policy regarding the return of missing items (and outright theft) should be covered here as well.
“Just so there are no misunderstandings”: The Kigo Guest App
The best way to avoid problems over rules is to COMMUNICATE. And that’s what the Kigo Guest App is all about.
You probably already deliver information to guests via email. But when they’re on the road or arrive at the property, their computer might not be handy. And even if it is, they need wi-fi to get online.
Yes, they can dig through emails and text messages on their phone to find what they need. But why not make life easy on them and put everything in one convenient app?
With the Guest App, vacation rental guests can:
- Review property rules and instructions
- Contact you with questions or high-priority issues 24/7
- Send you pictures of any issues at the property
- Get door and Wi-Fi codes
- Check in and check out
- Receive notifications via email or text
- View recommendations on local points of interest, restaurants, activities, etc.
- Print parking passes
- Receive personalized coupons for local area attractions and businesses
- Receive discounts for extended stays (so you can book those “dead” nights)
There is also a “Contracts” feature for including rental agreements and more specific house rules.
If guests and staff need to get in touch, they can do so from within the Guest App via voice, text or email. You can even schedule push notifications to arrive at a particular time.
In addition to providing a clear line of communications, the Guest App lets you offer guests something extra:
- Recommend local points of interest, restaurants, activities, etc.
- Communicate highlights of your properties not revealed in listings
- Partner with local vendors to offer tours, tickets and coupons
- Offer extended stay discounts to increase revenue
Learn more about the Kigo Guest App.
That’s an overview of items to include in house rules, and a handy app to ensure not only that these rules are accessible, but that any problems or questions can be addressed easily and promptly. When it comes to rules, good communication is the key to a great experience for both guests and owners!