You’ve probably seen the slogan, maybe even on a billboard somewhere:
In this blog we will explore the importance of your house rules for your short term rental hosting, and by the end I hope you will understand why it’s very important that you have a set of comprehensive house rules which are crystal clear, and which address all areas of guest behavior and guest use of your house, which are important to you.
The mistake that is too often made by those who are new to hosting, often those who are new to renting out property, is that they start out with a very erroneous presumption. That presumption is that everyone else in the world has the same psychology, values and view on life that you do. So new hosts will not have house rules, but will simply say, “Be respectful” or “Be cool”, as if such statements meant anything at all. These are useless statements, for the simple reason that not everyone in the world has the same viewpoint, values, or ideas of what is respectful or cool, that you do. And even if they did, how would they know if “being respectful” means they can bring their pet or bring visitors over? So please don’t have a one sentence list of house rules which invites your guests to treat your house the same way they treat their home. I guarantee you that some people treat their home quite badly, and you wont’ want them to treat your home the way they treat theirs!
Some hosts figure that they can simply have a few primary house rules such as “no smoking in the house” ,”no pets”, and “please clean up after yourself” and then address other issues as they arise. Such hosts may not realize that when a guest books a stay at your home, they are entering into a business contract. A great many hosts are, unfortunately, individuals who either have no previous experience renting out property, or no experience running their own business, and therefore lack an understanding of the nature of a business contract.
When you have someone book a reservation at your home, the terms of that reservation are those which are written in your Airbnb listing combined with your house rules. Those are the terms the guest is required to abide by, and you are not permitted to add terms to that later on. You can’t change the business contract that both parties have agreed to, after the contract is “signed”, which is in effect what happens when the guest books. This means that if you don’t want the guest to have overnight visitors, this is something you have to state ahead of time, and have in your house rules — you can’t just change the rules in the middle of the guests’ reservation. As well, it makes things awkward if the guest arrives to your home expecting to be able to do something (such as have a party with 10 of their friends over) and then you tell them they can’t. You really want the guest to be able to fully understand what he or she can do at your home, and what is not permitted, and the only way to make this crystal clear before the guest books, is to have adequate house rules.
However, having a robust set of house rules doesn’t do much good if you aren’t prepared to enforce them. A very sizeable number of people who begin doing short term rental hosting, are not prepared for the unpleasant task of having to confront someone who is in their home abusing their hospitality or violating their house rules — sometimes with a broad smile on their face, dismissing the host who takes issue with the violation, and saying, “It’s not a problem, really.” If you let your guest violate your house rules with impunity, because you are afraid to confront them or put down your foot, or find that too unpleasant, dont’ think that this is only your problem. No, by not confronting your guest’s disrespectful behavior, you may unwittingly be creating a problem for other hosts who accept this guest in the future. You are teaching this individual that you don’t really mean what you say in your rules, and so the guest is free to ignore them or blow them off, and if they get away with this at your place, why wouldn’t they continue this behavior at the next place they stay, and the one after that, until someone finally lays down the law?
So in consideration of other hosts and the host community you are a part of, it is valuable for you to be able to put a stop to any rule violations that occur with guests. By standing up to guests who violate house rules, you will also feel better and be less likely to burn out as a host or feel like a depleted doormat.
Some of the primary areas you may want to cover in house rules:
- Smoking in house: allowed or not
- Pets: allowed or not
- Parties: permitted or not? Define what a party is — eg max # of guests permitted.
- Additional guests — do guests have to let you know if additional guests will be staying, beyond those they paid for? I suggest you only allow in your home those guests who have been named and paid for in advance.
- Guest visitors: permitted or not, any limit on number of visitors or number of visits, day time only visits or overnight visits allowed
- Cleaning up after using kitchen or bathroom: may need to specify what “cleaning up” means — eg, has guest cleaned up if they have washed their dishes but left food crumbs all over counters and grease splattered all over stove?
- Quiet hours — do you have any ?
- Shoes — on or off in house?
- Amount of belongings guests may bring — do you have any limits? Beware that a few of us as hosts have had the experience of guests moving to our area and trying to bring all their worldly belongings into our home. I suggest limiting guests to 2 or 3 suitcases, and not permitting guests to bring furniture or appliances into your home.
- Showers and laundry — any hours when these aren’t permitted? Can guests do laundry at 2am? Take showers at 3am?
- Areas off limits — do you have any areas of your house off limits to guests?
- Mail — guests often ask about receiving mail at hosts’ home. Will you allow this? I suggest you make this very simple and state that guests may not receive any mail at your home, to avoid problems such as guest getting on numerous mailing lists and ending up having mail for them come to your home long after they have left. One package from Amazon is generally okay, but problems can arise when guest asks for “one package from Amazon” and then takes the liberty to order more packages from companies that will put them on a mailing list.
- Guest doing business at your home, having clients over — will you allow this?
- Guest storing their items in your common areas — will you allow guest to leave their things randomly around your house? Do you have designated storage areas?
- Guest borrowing your belongings — can they borrow your things?
- Guest use of your kitchen and your food.
Having a good set of house rules is a difficult project, and an ongoing project. It is a constant learning process and we are always seeking a balance between having too few house rules so that we forget to cover something essential, versus having too many so that we are off-putting to prospective guests. Sometimes hosts ask me “what is the most important house rule?” The most important house rule is the one that you forgot to include! So make sure you are thorough.
A surprisingly common house-rules related problem that arises, occurs when hosts have as a guest, an individual who is also a host. Unfortunately, too many hosts make the assumption (which I state above to try to be aware of and avoid!) that everyone else either DOES think the way they do, or SHOULD think the way they do. Hence we have hosts who go to stay at another hosts’ home, who say they agree to this host’s house rules, but inwardly, they really don’t. Honestly, they believe that all hosts should have the same house rules that they do, and that they are doing something wrong if they dont’. This dishonest and arrogant attitude can cause awkwardness, for instance, when the guest who is also a host, fails to depart by check out time, and then presumes to lecture the host who is prompting them to go, that “When I have guests over at my house, I always let them have a leisurely day — I don’t push them out.” It is particularly galling when the host doing such arrogant lecturing is a twenty-two year old student, who rents out a room in her apartment, and yet has the nerve to be scolding a 5o or 60 year old host who owns their own home and has over a dozen years experience with renters. But unfortunately one will find this in the world of short term rentals — individuals who are “hosting” with someone else’s property, are now lecturing long time property owners about the property rental business.
Finally — it may not hurt to state in your house rules, that you will not make any exceptions to your house rules. I have fairly strict house rules, but I literally cannot count the number of times that I have been asked if I would permit a guest to have an “exception” to the rules, or do something which is not only not allowed, but which I state quite forcefully, “will not be allowed under any circumstances.” I have a house rule in which I make it abundantly clear that I do not allow guests to have visitors/friends over at any time, for any amount of time. I also am very clear that my rooms are single occupancy only. I recently had a guest book a stay at my house, and before she arrived, she asked for an exception to the house rules, wanting to have a friend come over not just as a day visitor, but to stay overnight with her for two weeks! I was flabbergasted that she would even ask for such a huge exception which would be so totally contrary to my rules. After I said no and told her to please not ask me for any exceptions to my house rules, she then wrote back a week later, asking if she could have mail delivered to my house — she wanted to get a driver’s license and give my address to the DMV !! I was quite appalled not only that she was asking for another exception, but that she would have such poor judgement as to think it would be permissible that someone who doesn’t want to be bothered with receiving guest mail, would think that putting in my address as her official address with the DMV would be remotely possible. This all just goes to show, that sometimes even strict house rules aren’t quite enough, for some guests who are incredibly lacking in good judgement. I got on the phone with this young woman and gave her a piece of my mind and I think she understood after hearing my annoyance in my voice, how out of line she was. But I shrink at the thought of what would have happened with her, had I not had these rules at all. Likely she would have gone ahead and signed herself up with the DMV with my address and it would be hell to get out of that….visualize the host standing in the long line at the DMV trying to wipe someone else’s name off her address….