When your home is looking great, your stunning website is up and running, your listing descriptions are polished, and you’ve gone over your checklists with a fine-tooth comb, you’re almost ready to begin receiving guests.
There’s just one crucial thing you have to take care of first – the vacation rental agreement. No matter whether visitors are staying for two days or two months, homeowners should be using this type of contract for each and every guest they accept.
Let’s take a look at the main reasons you need a vacation rental agreement, before thinking about the elements you must include in yours!
Why do I need a vacation rental agreement?
This type of agreement is legally binding between homeowner and guest, and clarifies in writing any arrangements that have been made between the two parties. It is also the perfect place to reiterate house rules that are in place, and state any repercussions if these rules are to be broken. This will ensure both sides agree on what is and isn’t acceptable at your property.
Vacation rental agreements are especially useful in case of discrepancies between owner and guest when it comes to check-out time. It also helps lower the risk of renting your property out to unsuitable guests.
What do I need to include in my vacation rental agreement?
First things first, before you write up any legally binding agreement, you should always speak to your attorney.
Below you’ll find a list of the general questions you should aim to answer in your rental agreement. This will help you create a basic outline which you can then present to your attorney – they’ll be able to put what you want to include into the right legal terms for the document.
Not just who are you, but also, who is renting your home? The agreement should state your full name as a homeowner, alongside the names of all guests who will be staying at your property for the specified dates.
It’s also wise to include the maximum occupancy in this section – and clarify how many adults vs. child guests your property caters for. In the rare case of guests throwing wild parties, a clause like this will allow you to stop them immediately.
What amenities does your vacation rental include – what can guests expect to find in your home and in what condition? Think about things such as linens and towels, number of beds, kitchen contents, backyard furniture etc.
The rental agreement should specify the arrival and departure dates and times of your guests. If you don’t rely on in-person key handover and use an automated check-in system for your property, you can also specify whether or not you allow early check-in or late check-out.
If your calendar is often booked back-to-back, be sure to include details of any extra costs that will be incurred if guests fail to check-out on time.
An absolutely essential ingredient for this contract – the whereabouts of your vacation rental. As some cities and states have their own rules and regulations regarding vacation rentals, it’s highly important to include location details in your draft before showing it to your attorney.
Moving onto the part no rental owner or manager ever likes to think about: why would you have to remove guests from your property? In what circumstances?
In this section, lay out the house rules in plain language and make the consequences of breaking these rules clear as day. This can include anything from no smoking, no parties and no pets, to parking regulations for the neighborhood, noise pollution, and local trash and recycling rules.
Or rather, how much? Be sure to include details of any costs the guest will be paying. For example, total rental cost, deposit, security deposit, cleaning fee. You can also list any additional (and optional) paid services such as catering, pet fees, or hot tub usage.
Other things to include
7. Scam bookings and cancellation terms
Not only does including a section on scam bookings help deter untrustworthy renters in the first place, but it also protects you and your property in the event the booking was made under false pretenses (i.e. for throwing underage parties, exceeding maximum number of guests, etc.).
A few legally binding sentences outlining the circumstances under which you can cancel a guest’s stay will give you right to evict these bad-intentioned guests immediately.
8. Cleanliness and maintenance
Outline the expectations for both parties – how clean and tidy guests can expect to find your property, and equally how neat you hope them to leave it. Remember your guests are on vacation and be fair with these expectations – sure they’ll be happy to throw dirty towels (and maybe even sheets) in the wash basket before they leave, but a full spring clean before check-out is not their responsibility.
Equally, you should lay out any presumptions you have regarding maintenance issues such as how guests should contact you and emergency numbers if necessary.
9. Host access to the property
This seems like a strange one, but in the rare case of maintenance issues or emergencies, you’ll need to provide a clause that mentions you might require access to the property during a guest’s stay. Be sure to state the notice you will give guests before entering (e.g. two hours/24 hours). This is to avoid any disputes or formal complaints when the time comes and you need to enter your property.
10. Rental-specific requirements
Every property is different – and your vacation rental agreement should reflect that. You know your property and its area best, so you’ll need to ensure you include anything specific to your property that won’t already feature in a downloadable template. Whether that’s regarding your local climate (e.g. monsoon season, blizzards) or your property itself (not child-friendly, suitable for wheelchair users).
So there you have it – our starter list of the items you should think about including in your vacation rental agreement!
DISCLAIMER: These ideas are simply to help get you started. It’s important you always seek the legal advice of an attorney before finalizing any legally binding document. Ensure you review and update regularly in order to comply with changing local, state or federal laws.