A complete short-term rental agreement can save property owners and managers plenty of time and stress. For those starting in the vacation rental industry, there’s a long list of things to consider before welcoming any guests to your home. By having a clear outline in place, you’ll protect both your property and your guests.
For every guest who rents your house, apartment, chalet, or tree house, a vacation rental agreement signed by both parties – guest and host – is not an optional extra. Instead, this document will cover you and your guest in case of discrepancy or dispute and give you extra confidence when renting your second home to strangers.
Remember that implementing a solid vacation rental contract could make the difference between a positive guest experience and a vacation rental horror story. Why wouldn’t you add a short-term rental agreement to your list of essentials?
While we understand that all rentals are different, and therefore all terms and conditions vary from property to property, it can be difficult to know where to begin collecting all the necessary information you need to include in your document. But fear no more! We’ve created a free vacation rental agreement template to help all owners and managers get started, which you can download below:
Don’t see the form to download the Rental Agreement Template? Click here.
DISCLAIMER: This is a sample vacation rental agreement. Please ensure you seek the advice of an attorney before finalizing any legally binding document. Your short-term rental agreement should be revised and updated to adhere to changing local or state laws.
A short term rental agreement is a formal document between the host and their guests, where the property owner outlines the host’s and guest’s expectations and responsibilities. This contract is for both parties’ use and defines the purpose of the stay. For the guest: it’s tourism or leisure on a temporary basis, and for the host: the exchange of the property for economic compensation.
The vacation rental agreement legally binds the host and the guests, clarifying in writing an agreement that must be followed and fulfilled by both parties.
For this reason, a short-term rental contract is key in protecting both the host and the guests in case of any discrepancies or disputes and giving you extra security when renting your vacation home to complete strangers. If problems arise, a vacation rental contract can help you to demonstrate that guests knew the conditions and rules of use in advance.
Who is the short-term vacation rental agreement for?
The short-term rental agreement is intended for both parties, but in what way? The host and guest play different roles and have different sets of expectations when it comes to the holiday rental agreement, here’s how:
A vacation rental agreement lets guests know what is expected of them regarding property care, checking in and out, and overall responsibilities during their stay. This is especially important if you offer an alternative vacation rental, such as a yurt or tree house, that might require extra care or specific instructions for property use.
This agreement holds you, the host, accountable and responsible for your guests’ stay. A short-term rental agreement clarifies your role to your guests. For example, if there are only certain times they can reach you or if you have a special procedure for handling check-out, this should be made known to guests by the host in the agreement.
Different names for vacation rental agreements
It’s not easy keeping up with all the terms in the vacation rental industry. To avoid confusion, we’ve compiled a list of names that vacation rental agreements are known by:
Vacation rental short-term lease agreement
Short-term rental agreement
Short-term house rental contract
Vacation rental contract or short-term rental contract
Vacation lease agreement
Short-term residential lease agreement
Why do you need a vacation rental contract?
As cumbersome as it may sound, having a vacation rental agreement is essential for your business, your guests, and yourself. Most hosts shy away from diving too deep into the legality of a vacation rental agreement, as the paperwork can be tedious at best and time-consuming. Regardless of the initial effort required, the payout is well worth it.
Protect your property
“But what about my vacation house rules?” some hosts might wonder. Also essential, your house rules will keep your guests informed about how to treat your property, but it won’t bind them to anything. House rules are more of a guide and an outline of your expectations rather than a formal agreement.
The short-term rental contract is a formal agreement for guests to follow the rules and to cover for you even if they don’t. You have it in writing that they consented to your rules and expectations, so if they break that agreement, you have something to fall back on. This is especially important if you’re planning to file a claim through an OTA or third-party insurance, as they’ll want to see as much proof as possible.
Naturally, you want to be the best host possible for your guests. Nevertheless, misunderstandings and missed expectations happen. Every accommodation is different, and sometimes guests bring old standards into new spaces. Maybe in their last accommodation, they had room service or airport pick-up included, but what if that’s not the case at your property? Make things clear so they can have a bar set for your accommodation.
On the other hand, this also allows them to maximize their stay. If they didn’t previously know that check-out was at 2 o’clock, maybe they’ll be happy to get more out of their time at your property. Guiding guests through an outline of their stay with the short-term rental agreement will keep them satisfied.
The vacation rental agreement is intended to keep guests and hosts on the same page, so it can actually save you some serious headaches later on. Imagine something happens to your property during your guest’s stay. The vacation rental contract will give you some weight and legal standing for resolving the issue if it comes to it.
Only host suitable guests
Remember that the vacation rental contract is a guide for host expectations, but also the expectations of your guests. This provides a clear profile of what type of guest you’re looking for. If your property has a strict ‘no extra guests’ rule and bans parties, then a group of spring-breakers might not agree to your terms, and that’s okay!
Ultimately, you want to only host guests that are suitable for your property, to ensure that everyone has a good time, yourself included. By outlining the trip guidelines in the short-term rental contract, you help to make sure you’re only welcoming guests that are a good fit for your home, saving you from future headaches or negative reviews.
Collect fees and payments without issues
Many hosts choose to style their stays as more of an “a-la-carte” way of doing things. That’s to say that instead of including some extras in the stay, they become additional charges when the guest requests them.
Let’s say you offer an extra breakfast option for your guests. When you have your guests agree to the additional charges in the vacation rental contract, there’s no room for error. You’ll be able to collect payment more swiftly, as it’s written in the agreement that they agreed to the additional charges. This saves you the trouble of chasing down your guests to pay or justify the charges.
Is a short-term rental agreement mandatory?
We know it sounds like a hassle. You’ve already listed your vacation rental rules and, in a sense, had your guests agree to your terms when they hit “book,” so what’s the sake of having a short-term rental agreement on top of all the other necessary paperwork?
At the end of the day, it’s not mandatory to have your own short-term vacation rental agreement. However, this may vary depending on state and local laws, but there is no mandate for vacation rental agreements federally. An agreement may be mandatory if you’re booking through a third party. Many OTAs already have some type of agreement built into their platform. Nevertheless, it might not be mandatory, but it is highly recommended.
What to include in a vacation rental agreement
As previously mentioned, you should always speak to your attorney before you write up any legally binding agreement.
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 that you can then present to your attorney – they’ll be able to put what you want to include in the right legal terms for the document.
The most basic thing that should appear in any vacation rental contract is the property details that are going to be made available to guests. We’re talking about:
The exact location
The current condition of the property
We recommend that you always attach a sheet with the property’s inventory to the vacation rental contract, which includes furniture and appliances and their current condition, and have your guests sign it.
That way, you will ensure that no one can cause damage to your property without having agreed to take care of it.
The other information that should always appear in the vacation home rental contract is the personal data of the guests staying there. You might want to consider asking for:
First, middle, and last name
ID, passport, or driver’s license
Home or permanent address
It is vitally important that the contract includes the maximum capacity of the property. Some localities have occupancy restrictions, especially in areas that are strict about vacation rentals. Remember that when a guest breaks these rules, the penalty falls on you, so make sure you’re particularly clear about how many people can stay there.
Even if you do not exceed the legal limit, including the maximum capacity can be useful if you want to charge additional fees based on the number of guests.
Check-in and check-out times
Do you want to avoid problems with the neighbors of your accommodation? Make sure the vacation rental agreement includes the property’s entry and exit times so that your guests cannot arrive at your property at 1 a.m., dragging their bags across the sidewalk and waking everyone up in the neighborhood in the process.
Also, if your calendar is often booked back-to-back, include details of any extra costs incurred if guests fail to check out on time.
Minimum and maximum stay requirements
Many owners prefer to stipulate a minimum stay for their guests in order to ensure that the expense and effort of preparing the accommodation upon arrival and departure are worth it.
If this applies to you, this information must be included in the vacation rental contract. Keeping this in mind will prevent problems of high turnover or guests overstaying their welcome.
One of the most common concerns of vacation rental owners is what to do if they encounter troublesome guests or visitors who disrespect the property.
Save yourself from these fears by clarifying the house rules in your short-term rental agreement. Be as explicit as you need to be, as this will be the rule book for how guests treat your home.
Prices and fees
When there is money to be made, the best thing to do is to put everything in writing and clearly. Guests can be very sensitive about charges they feel were added without warning and reason. Avoid this issue by addressing it upfront.
You can dodge misunderstandings and complaints by including a breakdown of prices and fees in your vacation rental lease. Clearly specify what is in the price and what is its amount: cleaning costs, VAT, tourist tax, etc.
Do you ask your guests for a deposit? Make sure that the exact amount and the return conditions appear in the contract as well.
Accepted payment methods
What’s the use of showing a price if it doesn’t specify the conditions for payment? If you have a 3% credit card surcharge, guests might be angry to find out about the additional expense. A good short-term rental contract will contain the payment methods you accept at your accommodation and the charges accompanying them.
Our recommendation is that you stick to card payments, with a secure payment gateway, like Stripe or Payyo, in addition to those made through your website (if you have one) and OTA platforms such as Airbnb, Booking.com and Vrbo.
Every self-respecting vacation rental contract must contain a section detailing the accommodation’s cancellation policy, especially in the age of unpredictable travel and changes. It should include the conditions under which the reservation amount (or a part) can be returned to the guests, in addition to those cases where the host reserves the right to cancel the reservation unilaterally.
Additionally, you can also include the term and method of returning the reservation (for example, 3 days and by bank transfer).
Last but not least, ensure that all parties’ signatures appear clearly in the contract, along with their name, the date of signing, and the contact information to use during the stay.
You might find it useful as well to have a small section for initialing every page of the vacation rental agreement to keep everyone on the same page.
Additional clauses to include in your vacation rental agreement
More is always better when it comes to your vacation rental agreement. There’s no detail too small because if you don’t say it, you risk a misunderstanding. Here are some extra things you might want to consider adding to your rental agreement if you want full clarity between you and your guests.
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 the 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 the right to evict these bad-intentioned guests immediately.
Cleanliness and maintenance
Outline the expectations for both parties – how clean and tidy guests can expect to find your property and how neat you hope they leave it. Remember, your guests are on vacation, so be fair with these expectations in the rental agreement. 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.
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 in your short-term rental agreement 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 or 24 hours). This is to avoid any disputes or formal complaints if you need to enter your property.
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 (not child-friendly, suitable for wheelchair users).
What our vacation rental agreement template covers
Our editable and free vacation rental agreement template covers all the basics you need to include in your vacation rental agreement. While it provides a great basis to start writing up your own agreement, we strongly advise you to have any legal documents verified by your business attorney before using them for your vacation rental.
As well as a one-page booking confirmation, providing at-a-glance information about the guest, their stay, and any money paid or still owed, in this downloadable template, you will find space to include:
Property information (address, amenities, owner, etc.)
Rental party details (including space to input their names)
Depending on the type of rental you have, it is highly likely you will need to add in other clauses that are specific to your individual property. This could include anything from weather-related particulars to the features of your vacation rental or even local laws and regulations.
Formatting options for your vacation rental contract
After understanding the importance of the short-term rental agreement, you might wonder how you will pass it on to your guests. If the material is so important, shouldn’t the delivery be equally valuable? How you choose to present the rental agreement will largely depend on your needs, your guests, and the nature of the property.
Ultimately, you can give the vacation rental agreement to your guests in more ways than one, so if you’re worried that one method won’t cut it, don’t be afraid to send it in different formats.
Vacation rental agreement in PDF
The benefit of having a PDF copy of the vacation rental agreement is that there are built-in features for signatures, initials, and printing names. If you require your guest to sign or initial each page, this might be the easiest way to deliver the short-term rental agreement.
Furthermore, our vacation rental agreement template is already formatted as a PDF copy, so all you have to do is press download and done! You’ve got the short-term rental agreement copy ready to use in PDF format.
Vacation rental agreement template on Word
The vacation property rental agreement template we provide is editable, but still, you might choose to transfer this to Word if that’s your preferred platform. You can do so by manually copying the content or using an online platform to do it for you.
Add or remove content if necessary to make the most of your printable short-term rental agreement. Remember that if you send a Word document to guests, the formatting and alignment might change as different users have different versions. Make sure the signatures align correctly, so the agreement is still accurate after signing.
Physical copy of your vacation rental contract
Some owners opt for a physical vacation rental agreement for their guests. The benefit of this is that you make sure everything is clear. Moreover, you’ll be ready to address any concerns about the document right there immediately.
If you’ve found it hard to chase down guests to sign the vacation rental agreement before their check-in or you prefer to meet in person for the signing, this might be the best option. Bear in mind that if you choose to deliver a physical copy of the contract, you risk having unaddressed check-in rules, as that will probably be when the physical copy of the vacation rental contract is signed.
Using a vacation rental agreement is going to protect you, your property and your guests. Whether you’re offering a camper van or a city apartment, an agreement is going to be needed to keep things running smoothly.
The initial effort is worth the long-term payout as you keep your business safe from any problems while also setting expectations for guests. Further, we’ve taken the guesswork out of what to put into your vacation rental contract by outlining every section needed.
So there you have it – our starter list of the items you should think about including in your vacation rental agreement! Download our vacation rental agreement template for free – all you have to do is customize it to fit your property needs and that’s it! A vacation rental contract in just a matter of minutes. Are you ready to start hosting with confidence?
Don’t see the form to download the Rental Agreement Template? Click here.
DISCLAIMER: This is a sample vacation rental agreement. Please ensure you seek the advice of an attorney before finalizing any legally binding document. Your agreement should be revised and updated in order to adhere to any changing local or state laws.
Ready to take more direct bookings?
No set up fees, no credit card details, no obligation. Try Lodgify free for 7 days.