Vacation Rental House Rules: How to Set the Right Expectations (+Template)
Protect your property and ensure your guests have a safe stay with our list of the most important vacation rental house rules.
December 6, 2023
You’ve probably heard some hosting horror stories like guests throwing parties that get out of hand or clogging up the plumbing and causing thousands of dollars in damage. While there are certainly some disrespectful guests out there, we believe that most people are considerate and will take good care of your property when asked.
To set the right expectations, you need to create comprehensive vacation rental house rules that ensure you and your guests are aligned. While house rules vary from property to property, there are some main categories every host or property manager should include in their guidelines.
To help you write your house rules, this article explains what house rules are, why they’re so important for vacation rentals, and what to include in your house rules. We then provide you with a customizable template so you can get started creating your own house rules in minutes.
What are vacation rental house rules?
Vacation rental house rules are a set of guidelines hosts and property managers create to keep their guests and properties safe. They’re often shared before or upon check-in, informing the guests of rules about details like:
Check-in and check-out times
Noise levels and extra guests policy
Why are house rules important for vacation rentals?
While you may assume it’s common sense for guests not to throw parties or smoke in your unit, you can’t make any assumptions when it comes to guest behavior. “When people go on holiday, they tend to leave their common sense at home, so it’s important to remind them in a firm but friendly way what’s expected of them,” says Daniela Derin, Holiday Rental Manager at Skol Apartments Marbella.
Even if their actions aren’t malicious, some of the guests you host may have little experience staying in short-term rentals, so being transparent about your house rules can help you prevent misunderstandings and preventable issues.
House rules are so important for vacation rental properties because:
They protect your property. From specific guidelines for using the jacuzzi to rules about maximum occupancy and parties, house rules help save your property from reckless and unintentionally harmful behavior.
They protect your guests. Danielle, an Airbnb Superhost in Pensacola, Florida, states that her top house rules are “anything related to safety.” House rules can help protect your guests and neighbors from dangerous behavior and physical harm.
They protect your homeowners. When you manage units for homeowners, they want to know their properties are in good hands. Having vacation rental house rules reassures them you have things under control.
They protect you in the case of a guest dispute. You can’t claim your guests broke your house rules if you don’t have any. So if a guest throws an unauthorized party and you have proof, you can leverage your house rules to receive fair compensation to cover the damages and extra cleaning fees.
What to include in your house rules
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to vacation rental house rules, and what you specify in your guidelines will be influenced by factors like property type, location, appliances, and amenities.
To write your house rules, “start with the basics, take a look at your competitors' rules, and tweak them as needed,” recommends Dawn, a Superhost in Sierra Vista, Arizona. “I find it’s just best to be straightforward and firm in my delivery.”
With that in mind, here are five basic categories every host should include in their Airbnb house rules.
Pro tip: Mike and Jane, Superhosts from England, “suggest you search for similar listings to yours in the locality and see what others feel are needed” to help inspire your house rules.
Check-in and check-out time
“It’s very important to clearly specify check-in and check-out times—over the years, we’ve had some guests expecting to check out at midnight,” says Daniela. So, make your check-in and check-out policies clear within your house rules to maximize transparency.
That way, you avoid misunderstandings and guests showing up to a property before it’s ready or a cleaner showing up to a unit that’s still full. Here’s an example of what you can say (including a possible upsell):
Please note that check-in is after 3 p.m. and check-out is before 11 a.m. If you want to arrive early or need more time to get things together before leaving, reach out to us in advance to see if we can accommodate you.
Rules about noise levels and parties
Misty, a Superhost in Burbank, California, lists noise levels as her top house rule. Depending on where your unit is located, you could face serious fines if guests get out of hand, not to mention disgruntled neighbors.
“I received a $1,000 fine for just 6 guests talking too loud on a balcony at night,” says Misty. “Since then I had to make signs reminding guests of quiet hours. Double ask them [at the time of] booking that they realize how serious not being loud at night is…Noise is top priority.”
This ties right into guests hosting parties, which will almost inevitably lead to a noise issue. So be sure to include a line such as the following one in your house rules to make sure guests understand why they need to keep noise levels to a minimum:
Don’t forget, we have neighbors! So please be respectful and keep the noise to a minimum, especially at night. Out of respect for neighbors and our property, we also ask that you don’t throw parties or organize unauthorized gatherings.
Pro tip: Even if you include guidelines about noise levels and parties in your house rules, this doesn’t guarantee guests will comply. To keep an eye on what’s going on at your units, use a noise monitor like the Minut sensor.
And let your guests know! If you inform guests within your house rules that you use a privacy-safe noise and occupancy monitor to ensure neighbors aren’t disturbed, they’re far less likely to create a problem.
Rules about occupancy
Be explicit about your occupancy rules to make sure guests are on the same page as you. There are a few details you should list when stating your occupancy rules to make sure guests understand what is and isn’t allowed.
Huma, a Superhost in London, UK, states that her number one house rule is “no visitors without prior permission.” Guests may assume they can invite friends over during the day, but that may not be okay with you, so be transparent.
Additionally, emphasize that only the number of guests who are included in the reservation are allowed to stay overnight at the property. Here’s an example of what you can say to make sure guests fully understand your maximum occupancy rules:
Remember, only the amount of guests you’ve listed in your reservation are allowed to stay overnight at the property. If you want to invite other visitors during the day, please check with us ahead of time. This helps us adhere to local ordinances and ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable stay.
Rules about cleanliness
While we definitely don’t recommend requiring your guests to vacuum and clean the property before they leave, it’s a good idea to include a few lines about your expectations around cleanliness.
For example, it’s fair to request they don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink or ask them to turn on the dishwasher before leaving. Additionally, depending on where your unit is located, local ordinances may have strict rules about separating trash and recycling, so make note of this to your guests and request that they sort their waste accordingly.
Here’s an example of what you can say to ensure guests meet your cleaning expectations:
Don’t worry about stripping the beds before you leave. We just ask that you clean any dirty dishes. Also, our local government is strict about separating trash from recycling. So please dispose of your organic waste, plastic, paper, and glass in the corresponding bins (they’re clearly labeled to make this as easy as possible for you).
Rules about smoking
We don’t have to remind you how much damage smoking can cause, so be upfront with your guests about what you do and don’t allow at your property. If smoking inside is strictly prohibited, maybe you can provide an outdoor area for guests to smoke if they please.
“We realised years ago stopping people from smoking is a problem, so what we did in my villas is create smoking areas outside, put a table and some chairs,” says Sudsrung, a Superhost in Rawai, Thailand. “All our villas have pools, and we let people smoke around the pool.”
So include a line or two like the following to make sure your guests are clear on your smoking policy:
Smoking inside the property is strictly prohibited, even with the windows open. We do, however, allow guests to smoke in the backyard. We just ask that you use the ashtrays provided and dispose of the ash in the trash can provided.
Pro tip: A guest breaking your house rules and smoking in your unit throughout the duration of their stay can mean serious damage and cleaning costs. Detect cigarette smoke the moment a guest lights up with the Minut sensor.
Other rules hosts and property managers often include
Your house rules will be unique to each property, so you may want to include more sections than the ones we listed above. Here are some other common house rules you can include:
Rules about pets: Be clear if you have a no-pets policy as this can cause allergies for guests during future bookings.
Rules about children: Not every property is child-friendly, so if there are hazards for small children at your unit, tell your guests up-front (and make sure they know before booking).
Rules about kitchen usage: Perhaps your stovetop needs to be wiped down with a certain product or your garbage disposal is finicky. Be sure to explain these things to your guests.
Rules about supplies usage: If you have a stock of cleaning supplies specifically set aside for your cleaners, make sure guests know not to use it (and explain to them where they can find the supplies they can use).
Rules about parking: Depending on where your property is located, guests parking incorrectly can result in disputes with neighbors or fines. So explain your parking guidelines clearly in your house rules.
Vacation rental house rules customizable template
House Rules for [Property name]
Welcome to your home away from home! We're thrilled to host you. To ensure you have an amazing stay, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with our house rules.
These guidelines are designed to make your experience comfortable, enjoyable, and safe. Thank you for being a fantastic guest and helping us maintain a safe and welcoming environment for your fellow travelers, our neighbors, and our next guests.
1. Check-in and Check-out Time:
Just a reminder, check-in is after [Specify Time] and check-out is before [Specify Time.]
If you want to arrive early or need more time to get things together before leaving, reach out to us to see if we can accommodate you.
To avoid fines and issues with neighbors, we ask that you park [Specify Parking Rules.] Please ensure that all vehicles are parked in designated areas from arrival to departure.
3. Noise Levels and Parties:
Don’t forget, we have neighbors! So please be respectful and keep the noise to a minimum, especially during quiet hours, from [Specify Hours] to [Specify Hours.]
Out of respect for neighbors and our property, we also ask that you don’t throw parties or organize large gatherings.
The maximum occupancy at this unit is [Specify Number.] Remember, only the amount of guests you’ve listed in your reservation are allowed to stay overnight at the property.
If you want to invite other visitors over during the day, please check with us ahead of time. This helps us follow local ordinances and ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable stay.
We are a pet-friendly vacation home, but guests with pets must adhere to the following rules. [Specify Pet Policy.]
We ask that you maintain a tidy space during your stay. Don’t worry about stripping the beds before you leave—we just ask that you clean any dirty dishes that were in the sink and turn on the dishwasher. You can refer to our check-out instructions, which you’ll find in our welcome book, for everything you need to know upon departure.
Also, our local government is pretty strict about separating trash from recycling. So please dispose of your organic waste, plastic, paper, and glass in the corresponding bins (they’re labeled).
We have a strict no-smoking policy inside the property, even if you have the windows open. If you break this rule, you may be charged an additional fee to cover cleaning costs.
We do, however, allow guests to smoke in the Specify Locations.] We just ask that you [Specify Guidelines.]
Take the right measures to keep your property safe
“What's in each property's house rules is less important than a requirement for the guests to read them and agree to them in some form BEFORE they book,” emphasizes Helen, a Superhost from Manchester, UK. So no matter what you ask of your guests, be sure your rules are clearly communicated and agreed upon well before check-in.
And while house rules can help you keep your property and your guests safe, you need to take robust preventative measures for full property protection. Security deposits and damage waivers are a good idea, but what if the damage goes beyond what they can cover? That’s where the Minut device can help.
With features like noise and occupancy monitoring and cigarette smoke detection, the Minut sensor instantly alerts you when a guest breaks one of your house rules. That way, you can address the situation before it gets out of hand or causes serious damage, serving as a backup plan if your house rules fail.