No vacation rental is perfect, though there are many things owners can do to get as close to perfection as possible. One of the most important of those? Making sure each and every guest experience earns you a top review.

Nobody ever wants to receive negative reviews, so what if we told you there are steps you can follow to stop them from happening in the first place? When you understand what riles renters the most, you can work on fixing all those potential frustrations before they even have a chance to materialize. Read on to find out more.

Why do guests complain and leave negative reviews?

Complaints tend to arise whenever the guest experience fails to live up to expectations. Remember that each and every guest will have different standards on what five-star service means. For some travelers, this may be a bit of dust that got missed behind in cleaning and for others, it’s a lumpy mattress or the lack of air-con.

That’s why owners need to cover all bases and do everything in their power to anticipate any opportunity for disappointment, long before check-in. You want your guests to have a great experience from the minute they touch down on your vacation rental website to when they are home from their vacation, typing up their review about your home.

What are the most common reasons why guests leave negative reviews?

In order to preempt unpleasant reviews from happening, it’s beneficial to look into what dissatisfies guests the most – so you can avoid doing the same and learn how to respond to every Airbnb guest review.

These are the top complaints you need to consider (featuring real reviews from HomeAway, TripAdvisor and Vacasa listings).

1. Inaccurate or misleading listing description

More often than not, a misleading description which paints an inaccurate picture of your home will only come back to haunt you in the form of a negative review. So take note: the only surprises guests will like are free welcome packs or added amenities, not inhospitable conditions.

While you don’t need to go over the top, honesty really is the best policy when it comes to pleasing guests. Just take a look at this recent Guest Hook article about how a $29/night Airbnb in a rough neighborhood managed to get five-star reviews!

2. Poor communications with the host

Imagine you’re a guest. You’ve booked your flights, your accommodation, your activities for the week, yet check-in day is approaching and you’ve still not heard a peep from your host. You begin to worry and stress that you’ve been scammed… or worse! Yet these situations can be avoided so easily.

Communicating with your guests should be second nature to any host. You should aim to provide them with the most information possible leading up to their stay (including directions from local airports and stations, instructions for check-in/check-out, and perhaps most importantly, your telephone number or your property manager’s) in case of emergency or if any issues arise. Knowing you’re at the end of the phone in case anything goes wrong will be a huge relief to guests, and help you achieve a top star rating for communication.

3. Uncomfortable beds and/or noisy sleeping conditions

Some of the most valuable rooms in your vacation rental will undoubtedly be the bedrooms, so it’s worth investing in good quality furniture – in particular, mattresses – that will last for years to come.

Some of the main reasons people go on vacation include to relax, de-stress and explore a new place. So don’t ruin this for your visitors by providing uncomfortable, rock-hard beds to rest their heads after a busy day. Equally, ensure guests can actually get a good night’s sleep and aren’t going to be disturbed or constantly woken by neighborhood noises by having the right insulation, and extras like double glazed windows for extra soundproofing protection.

4. Lack of cleanliness

To get five stars for your vacation rental, you have to treat it no differently than if it were a luxury five-star hotel – particularly when it comes to cleaning. Any kind of dirt, grime, stains or even a few hairs left behind in sensitive areas (especially beds, toilets, showers and kitchens), will make guests squirm and will likely affect their review of your place.

Whether you clean your home yourself or contract somebody else to, make sure high standards are set from the very beginning and fulfilled every time a guest departs.

5. Terrible/no WiFi

Besides from a few guests who might be looking for a technology-free vacation, most have come to expect good WiFi as a given in any rental property – and to keep guests truly happy, that means throughout the entire home. If you’re worried about the security issues that may surface from letting guests connect to your WiFi network, take a look at this article about ensuring guests don’t misuse your WiFi.

6. Location deception

The photos you upload of your property and its surrounding area are the most basic element that helps persuade guests your home is right for them. Photos that show nearby resorts as though that’s where the property is located (when in reality it’s not) are not going to help earn you positive reviews.

Don’t be afraid to add captions to your images to describe what the photograph depicts and how far it is from your property – a “20-minute walk from XXX” and a “one-hour drive from XXX” will make all the difference. Plus, guests won’t feel cheated when they arrive as they’ll know distances in advance.

7. Too many rules

While owners need a set of house rules in place for worst-case scenarios and horror story guests, these should be made very clear from the listing – that is, before any booking has been made. If guests can only access a certain part of the house, tell them. If they can only use the washer/dryer mid-week, let them know. If trash only gets collected once a week, they’re not mind readers!

When guests are bombarded with a rule book upon arrival, it’s never going to go down well. Reassess your property and what you define as rules that need to be stated clearly, and be sure to communicate this from the very first contact.

8. Lack of privacy

This is more common for hosts who share their home whilst they are living in it, but a lack of privacy will get on any visitors’ nerves. Respect your guests’ boundaries. While you may be perfectly fine if guests walk into your room without knocking, they might not feel the same way. The same goes for loudness – keep noise to a minimum when you’re home the same time as your guests in order to help them feel comfortable, relaxed and able to have a nap after a busy day if needed.

9. Broken/worn out amenities

It can’t be stressed enough that all the bits and pieces which help make staying at your vacation rental such an enjoyable experience need to be checked every so often for damage. Remembering to replace any items that are showing signs of wear and tear will keep the guest experience positive time and time again.

The price you’ll have to pay to repair a bad review will be far more than replacing a few pots, pans and other essentials now and then.

10. Not enough…

Most guests will understand why you haven’t done a full weekly shop before they arrive, but they will likely have some expectations of what will have been left for their use. This usually includes basic vacation rental amenities such as toilet paper, towels, cleaning products, shower gels and kitchen essentials like oils and spices.

If, for example, you’re not going to provide enough toilet roll for the entire duration of the stay, be sure to note this in your listing and reiterate it again in your pre-departure email. Guests will appreciate the honesty so they can plan ahead, rather than run out of essential items in the middle of the night!

Offer a five-star guest experience at your vacation rental

Recognizing any potential issues or pain points before they have chance to disappoint your guests will certainly help you on your way to receiving a full set of five-star reviews.

Now that you know why guests may complain, make sure you offer them the best guest experience possible. After all, your vacation rental business wouldn’t be anything without your guests, that’s why their opinions are so valuable for your core strategy!

What do you think about this article?

(5) Comments
  1. Debi Hertert Reply

    We also leave a “help us do it better” form. Because we don’t live in the area of our rentals, we rely on our guests and housekeepers to keep us updated on certain things. If a guest has complaints, it’s likely something that can be easily fixed. We get the direct communication and the guests then don’t feel the need to mark down their review of us.

  2. Ellen Lanser Reply

    Thanks for this informative post, I read it with all my attention. I always try to improve our performance, but my experiences are a bit different. These situations, as described above, are quite clear. They’re almost all quite horrifying, and you don’t want to be in a situation like that.
    But I have experienced that, whatever you do, some guests do not read well, and come with wrong expectations, allthough you have written down every thing as good as you can. You can eliminate most “crimes” like these, but what do you do about a group of people who do not read well, and therefore will start to complain about things that are evidently well described on your site or in your ad?

  3. Nancy Reply

    My most common complaint is the weather! Our units are on the gulf in Mississippi
    and guests fail to realize that sometimes it might rain!
    I have compiled a notebook on what to do on rainy days – space center, seafood
    museum, railroad museum, art, mardi gras and Katrina museums 12 casinos, free trolley rides, visitors center and shopping malls, What guests want is to be by the pool or on the beach. Guess I can’t blame them.

  4. Rob Reply

    Despite being informed that the closest shop was 10 miles away and the town 30 miles away, he complained that the Kitchen was poorly equipped, which considering how well the kitchen is equipped, I assumed poorly stocked. My reply “It’s difficult to comment on “kitchen poorly equipped especially as you are a long way from the shops and restaurants.” Therefore, I can only assume you mean poorly stocked, and because the website description states the closest shop is 10 miles away, it sounds like you expect the kitchen to be stocked with food! This score is not in line with our other scores. The score before this review is a 9 and the score after this review is a 10. Speaks for itself.”

  5. Carmella Reply

    All of the comments have good merit.
    I think the best suggestion is to communicate with the traveler before booking.
    My experiences tell me that some folks don’t read all of the nearby ammenities, they want you to do the work for them, which at times is ok however, when you’re really busy it can get frustrating. Also questions like; is the pool heated or how many bedrooms is just lazy on their part.

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