No matter whether you rent your home for just a few weekends a year, or it’s a year-round business – all owners and managers need to have vacation rental house rules in place for guests staying at their property.
House rules are a professional way of laying out the land for all guests that enter your property. They present you with an opportunity to clearly state: what you expect of them; what they can and can’t do; and what penalties will occur if these rules are broken.
It’s up to you how you write your house rules – maybe you prefer them formal rather than fun, serious rather than silly – but when it comes down to it, there are certain areas all hosts should address.
What to include in your vacation rental house rules
If you’ve never written Airbnb or vacation house rules before, you might not know where to begin.
We’ve created this step-by-step guide to help!
You can follow this house rules template to easily find out the most useful rules for your property.
If you want to succeed with keeping your house safe for your guests, we always recommend asking the experts –those who already have a long and proven experience in the rental market, who have seen many rules broken in their own properties.
That’s exactly what we did while writing this article. We got in contact with Alex Concepcion from Spire Vacation Rental Consulting, Evelyn from The Hosting Journey and Jasper Ribbers of Get Paid for Your Pad.
We asked them a few questions, to help you redact your own “house rules”.
Let’s get started!
Friendly welcome note and general rules
In order to set the tone for the rest of your vacation rental house rules, you need to open with a friendly welcome note which guests will read upon arrival. In this short introduction to your property, it’s important to highlight the general rules about your home.
This will help guests understand from the outset exactly what is expected of them.
Hello and welcome to our home!
We’re so happy you chose our property for your vacation.
Before you settle in and get comfortable, we would like to make you aware of the House Rules in place at our vacation rental. Understanding and complying with our house rules will make for a comfortable and fun stay for everybody!
Please read each of the rules carefully in order to avoid any danger or deductions from your security deposit upon check-out.
- Please treat our house with the same respect as you would your own home. We’ve put a lot of effort into making this into a lovely space to be enjoyed by our guests.
- Be sure to maintain a good level of cleanliness throughout your stay, this will make it much easier when check-out time comes!
- In case of any accidental damage, we’ll look into the issue internally to decide if and how much the deduction or repair cost will be.
- We hope you have lots of laughter and fun times during your vacation! However, we’d really appreciate it if you’re mindful and keep noise to a minimum during nighttime hours.
- Please ensure you read and fully understand the house rules at the beginning of your stay. If anything is unclear, please contact us so we can explain in further detail to avoid any misunderstandings.
- Have fun! This is your vacation time and we hope you make the most of our home, its amenities and your opportunity to relax and visit the surrounding area.
1. House map and rooms rules
Example: Here you can find a simple map of our home, where you can see the organization of each room and find out some details about their functions.
Information and special rules on specific parts of the house are written below, so you can easily understand where things are located and how to use them safely.
- The cupboard in the hallway is private and locked, please do not attempt to open it.
- Cleanliness is a priority, so please remove shoes before entering this room
- You will find the electric panel in the box next to the front door. Please only open in the unlikely case of a power outage.
- Open windows can interfere with our home alarm system. Please ensure all windows are closed and secure before activating the alarm.
- As this room borders with the neighboring house, please be especially conscientious about noise in here.
Ask the expert: what do you think it is the one, most important (but often overlooked) rule rental owners should give to their guests?
Alex Concepcion: I think the most overlooked thing with house rules is actually getting your guests to read them. How will you deliver the rules to the guest? Often when you have multiple guests, only the host will receive them on their app. Boring looking binders and signs will get overlooked. Make your guests want to read it.
Also, asking your guests to switch off cooling/heating equipment will save you on electricity bills.
If you’re an urban area, you should give your guests an easy way to be able to find their way back to your home. Sometimes their phone will die on them and they will forget how to return. Something like a business card with the home address would help.
Evelyn: I think one of the biggest challenges is differentiating between something that should be included in a list of house rules and something that should go into a house manual. It’s important to remember that there is a difference between the two (aka, a house rule is something that, if broken, can be used to evict a guest).
For example, here is the definition from Queenie, a member of The Hosting Journey Facebook group:
Break a House rule, and I’m telling you to get out! Ignore the House Manual, and I may be irritated.
Jasper Ribbers: I think what most hosts either forget or more often aren’t clear about is the areas that guests have access to and to what extent. This applies mostly to hosts who share their space. I think the reason they aren’t clear about it, is because they are not completely sure. For example, they want to allow their guests to use the kitchen, but at the same time, they don’t want them in there all night.
Example: At our vacation rental, we like to provide our guests with some useful supplies as a starter pack, which can they can use during their stay. You can find the complete inventory for the property in our Welcome Book. Here are a few rules to follow with regard to the items you’ll find in and around our home.
- Tap water isn’t safe to drink. There are a couple of bottles in the kitchen for you, but we recommend stocking up on bottled mineral water from the local store.
- We’ve provided dish soap for your use. If you run out, please buy the same brand as it’s eco-friendly and will cause less harm to our local water supply.
- There are some canned goods and other imperishable foods in the kitchen pantry which you are free to use as you wish. Always check the expiry date before eating anything. We always make sure not to leave expired food in the house, but oversights may happen.
- The candle lanterns on the balcony are for outdoor use only. Please be careful when lighting them and never light them inside the house.
- Please don’t take any kitchen cutlery outside to avoid misplacing or losing it.
As a rental owner or property manager, the last thing you want is for your guests to destroy the relationships you’ve spent time building with the residents of neighboring properties. So use this as an opportunity to highlight rules regarding anti-social behavior such as excessive noise late at night.
Your neighbors will be grateful if your guests don’t disrupt their peaceful night’s sleep.
Example: Just like our vacation rental, our neighborhood is important to us. Most of the residents live here full-time, though there may be some other short-term guests staying occasionally.
Please be sure to respect the community and try to keep noise levels to a minimum, especially after dark. By respecting the people and property around, your vacation will be more enjoyable.
- Please try to avoid making any loud noise between 11 pm and 8 am to allow neighbors a peaceful night’s sleep.
- If any neighboring residents report excessive noise or unruly behavior, we may have to evict you from our property and terminate the vacation rental agreement. This could result in loss of security deposit and rental amount.
- In case of any disputes or neighbor complaints, it’s your duty to notify us as soon as reasonably practicable.
- There are designated recycling and trash disposal areas. Please refrain from throwing any trash, such as bottle caps or cigarette butts into neighboring properties.
- While we know there are some really cute pets nearby to our property, their owners would really appreciate if you don’t give them any food!
Example: We try to keep our vacation rental as child-friendly as possible. That said, parents always have the final responsibility of ensuring their children’s safety at all times. If you find anything to be unsafe or that requires revision at our property, please contact us at your earliest convenience so we can address the issue. To maintain our property kid-friendly, we ask that you:
- Never leave children unsupervised at our property without any adults.
- The backyard is a perfect, safe place for children to play. To avoid danger, please don’t let them play out front.
- Our vacation rental is suitable / not suitable for children under the age of …
- Guests are fully responsible for the safety and security of their children at all times, as well as any disturbance caused to other residents in the neighborhood.
- Please do not use glasses outside or in the children’s play area for safety reasons.
If your guests aren’t allowed any extra visitors at the property during their stay – make it known. Equally, if there are any limitations on how many guests they can invite to the rental, this should also be crystal clear.
You might be open to guests holding parties and other events at your rental, but there are a lot of owners who aren’t. If you have strict rules and regulations about gatherings and visitor numbers, be sure to point them out in your house rules.
Example: We want you to enjoy your vacation and time at our home to the maximum, but we do have to set some restrictions on visitor numbers for safety reasons. As part of our vacation rental agreement, we need the names and details of each member of your traveling party. In addition, please respect the maximum visitors and rules regarding visitors as set out below.
- Guests are allowed a maximum of … Visitors at any time during their stay.
- Guests are responsible for ensuring that any visitors comply with these House Rules.
- Any additional overnight Visitors must be approved in advance and are subject to an additional fee as noted in our rates.
- Parties and large gatherings of any kind are strictly prohibited at our home. Any small gathering must comply with our other house rules regarding noise, the neighborhood and visitor numbers.
- Guests are to allow homeowner or service access to the property for purposes of repair and inspection. The homeowner will exercise this right of access in a reasonable manner and advise beforehand where possible.
Example: No doubt one of the biggest advantages of staying in our vacation rentals is our fully furnished kitchen. It’s perfect for rustling up tasty breakfasts, leisurely lunches and delicious dinners for all the family to enjoy.
We provide the basics such as cooking oil, simple seasoning and some condiments. Please treat our kitchen with the love and respect you would your own to keep it in great condition for other guests.
- Please be sure to ventilate the kitchen after cooking anything that could leave a strong smell behind.
- Be careful not to wash food remains down the drain. Please throw any kitchen scraps into the container under the sink for organic waste.
- To help the environment, please only switch on the dishwasher when it’s full and use the eco-program where possible.
- To simplify the inventory process, please return any kitchen items back to where you originally found them.
- Kitchen cleaning products are under the sink. If any products run out during your stay, please let us know so we can replace them for the next guests.
Ask the expert: what is your opinion on giving guests a list of house rules? Is it only a positive thing, or could it annoy guests and lead to bad reviews/online reputation?
Alex Concepcion: The trick is to strike a balance between communicating that you’re operating a serious business while communicating your desire to provide an amazing experience for your guests.
You don’t want to come off as a strict authoritarian by putting NO in all caps in front of everything you don’t want happening. This will subtly poison the guest experience. Nobody wants to spend their vacation afraid of getting into a fight over broken plates.
On the other side, not laying down basic rules will leave you vulnerable to exploitation. Parties, loud music, unwanted pets, etc. Given enough sets of guests, you will likely encounter the occasional rotten apples. Proper instructions will help you deal with them in the case of a dispute.
I believe the solution is to communicate your house rules with good faith. This means giving guests the benefit of the doubt they will respect your property. I think the optimal tone of voice is 70% warm and inviting, and 30% firm. Try to have some fun with it. Make guests feel like they’re visiting an old friend.
Evelyn: In my opinion, house rules are necessary and should not be avoided. A guest has to know what is allowed in our homes, from smoking to the number do you the total number of people allowed in my home at any given time. In addition, Airbnb will not support a claim without very clearly written, specific rules.
Jasper Ribbers: Instead of giving them a list, I would much rather go over the rules in person at check-in. The French say ¨c’est la tongue qui fait la music¨ which means it’s not what you communicate, it’s how you communicate it. In other words, a piece of paper with a list of house rules can come across as unwelcoming, but if you explain the situation in person with a smile then guests will be more understanding. If you´re a remote host, I’d record a video – that´s a lot more personal than a list.
Example: You’ll find all the electrical appliances you need for a comfortable stay at our home. Please use them responsibly and ask other members of your party to do the same. This means adhering to the few rules we outline below.
- Please only use the washer/dryer during daytime hours between 9 am and 7 pm. This will help reduce disruption to neighboring properties to a minimum.
- Please do not overload or underload the washer/dryer. Be sure to separate colors and whites, and wash on a low temperature (90°F) where possible.
- The optimum temperature for the thermostat is between 75-80°F in summer (for air conditioning) and 68-72°F in winter (for heating).
- Please make sure you switch off lights, fans or any other small electrical appliances when you go out. The same applies to air-con and heating – we’re an eco-friendly home!
- In the unlikely case of a power outage, please call us before touching the control panel.
- No compensation will be given for any temporary outage of electricity, gas, water, cable, satellite or telephone service.
Can guests bring their own vehicles? Where can they park? What is the maximum number of vehicles allowed? Let guests know this information before they arrive by sending a copy of your vacation rental house rules – then you can guarantee there won’t be any issues when it comes to parking.
Example: We have parking space on our property for up to two large vehicles. There is also the possibility for additional cars to park along our quiet, residential street, provided they do not block any neighbors’ property access.
- Please park your vehicles in the designated driveway space, ensuring cars do not block the sidewalk.
- Please do not exceed 30 mph on approach to our home.
- In case you or a member of your party has to park on-street, please be conscientious and do not block access to other properties.
- The garage is off-limits for guests’ vehicles.
Guests choose vacation rentals for the “home away from home” experience. That means, on the whole, they’re expecting to have to do at least some chores on their vacation.
Stacking the dishwasher after a delicious meal is one thing – but what about taking out the trash? Include details of how to dispose of garbage and how guests should recycle if you don’t want to be met with a stinking pile of trash on check-out day.
Example: We like to do our bit for the environment and we ask that our guests do the same! There are clearly labeled containers for separating and recycling different materials under the sink – along with the regular trash can for non-recyclables.
- Please dispose of garbage and recycling in the proper containers.
- You can leave garbage and recycling outside for collection on Monday evenings. If you check-out before Monday, please take garbage to the communal trash cans at the end of the street.
- Please do not flush any sanitary products down the toilet. We provide a bin for this in each bathroom.
- Any food waste should go into the organic recycling bin, take care to use the correct compostable bin liner when replacing.
Most guests won’t need a reminder to treat your place like their own home, but it’s always worth mentioning just in case. Point out that guests’ belongings are only safe and secure if they remember to close and lock all windows and doors when they leave the house.
You could also use this as an opportunity to remind guests about energy saving – e.g. don’t have the air conditioning on with windows open, don’t leave lights on when you go out.
Example: While we have taken the necessary measures to make our vacation rental safe for incoming guests, you also have a role to play in ensuring the safety and security of your party. There are actions you can follow to keep the house secure during your stay.
- Any time guests leave the vacation rental, it is their responsibility to ensure all windows and doors are closed and locked to maintain security and prevent rain and water damage.
- There is an alarm to which you must set every time you leave the property. The alarm code is 997450.
- We are not responsible for the loss of any personal belongings or valuables. In case you misplace something in the house, please let us know so we can look out for the item during the changeover and vacation rental cleaning.
- Parents must not leave children unattended at any time. Any guest injuries sustained inside the house are not covered by our vacation rental insurance.
If your guests are lucky enough to get to use your hot tub or swimming pool, make sure they know about any restrictions (such as time of day they can be used) or prohibited items (glass, sharp objects etc.). This will help you to have peace of mind and can save you from footing a very expensive pool cleaning bill.
Example: Our guests love using the swimming pool at our vacation rental! It’s a great way to spend summer days while staying at our home. There are a few things we ask you to bear in mind regarding the hot tub/swimming pool.
- The swimming pool is open from 9 am to 9 pm daily. Please respect these timings for our neighbors’ sake.
- Please avoid using glass tableware or glass bottles near the pool. You should use the plastic cups available for any poolside drinks.
- Guests must shower before entering the pool to rinse off any sunscreen.
Balconies are great when it comes to views over the grounds or the city, but they can also be a major hazard zone for little ones. That’s why you must include a line or two to describe any rules in place regarding the use of these spaces – especially where children are involved.
Example: Our balcony and deck area is available for you to kick back and relax with your family or friends. To keep this space in the best condition for future visitors to our vacation rental, please follow the guidelines as listed below.
- Please do not hang laundry off the balcony railings as it is not permitted by the local authorities.
- If you plan to eat lunch or dinner outside on the deck, please do not use glasses and instead use the plastic cups provided.
- In case of any bad weather (rain, storms etc.), please ensure you close the deck umbrellas and store them securely to avoid breakage.
Can guests smoke in your vacation rental? Or is it strictly prohibited? Avoid any smelly surprises when you lay out the law regarding smoking before guests arrive!
Example: Our vacation rental is a smoke-free zone inside. This is important to us in order to keep our property in the best condition possible. Guests can only smoke in outdoor areas such as the balcony or deck as long as you respect the rules we have in place.
- Smoking is not allowed anywhere inside the property.
- Guests can only smoke outdoors in the designated areas.
- Please do not throw cigarette butts onto the property lawn. You should instead dispose of them in the ashtray provided. Failure to do so will result in a deduction from the security deposit.
- Discovering guests have been smoking inside the property will also result in loss of the security deposit.
What can guests do with their pets when on vacation? If your property is pet-friendly, celebrate it! But if there are any restrictions, such as how many pets are allowed at one time, or if pets over a certain size are prohibited – your guests will need to know.
Example: Pets are welcome at our home! If you’re staying here with your furry friend, there are some things we’d like you to help us out with to ensure a smooth stay for everybody.
- We know you love your pet, but we ask that you please don’t let them up onto the furniture, especially sofas and beds.
- Guests are responsible for cleaning up after their pets. Please ensure you clean the spending area daily and hose down with water if necessary.
- Pets must not be outside of the property fence without a leash.
- It is forbidden for pets to be in the outside areas of the property during nighttime hours (e.g. 11 pm to 8 am).
Spending the summer at a vacation rental is all about the great outdoors: relaxing, cooking and eating outside whenever you can. So if your property boasts a barbecue for those evening cookouts, be sure to leave instructions and rules on how to use (and clean!) it properly.
Example: Is there anything better than tucking into a barbecue on a sunny afternoon? We don’t think so! We provide all the necessary equipment to cook up a storm, please just be sure to follow the instructions below.
- Please use the designated barbecue utensils and not the regular kitchen tongs.
- Be sure to clean the barbecue after use, it’s much more difficult to clean the next day!
- There is a bag of coal in the outdoor garden shed. If you run out during your stay, it’s your responsibility to buy a refill.
- Please only use the barbecue until 10 pm to keep noise and smells to a minimum for our neighbors.
We all know that accidents happen sometimes, but rather than scare your guests into thinking they’ll lose their whole deposit for the sake of one broken plate, simply make it clear in your house rules that breakages must be reported.
Example: While we know our guests won’t intentionally break anything at our vacation rental, we understand accidents can happen sometimes. Here is what you need to know about accidental damages or breakages during your stay.
- Always report any accidental damages or breakages in a timely manner, especially before check-out.
- Please do not move any furniture from one room to another without agreeing to it with us first.
- Please don’t take any bath towels with you to the beach. There are beach towels for that!
- In case any damage to the property or its appliances is not covered by our insurance, the guest will pay for the repair costs from the security deposit.
Compliance and final agreement
The final section will likely summarize the conditions of the house rules and what will happen in the case of a breach.
Example: We’ve set out these house rules so that every guest visiting our property has a safe, secure and most importantly, fun stay at our place. Compliance with these rules is essential for every member of the traveling party. We hope you have a great time and find everything you need at
- Breach of any of these house rules is a breach of the terms and conditions of occupancy, as per the rental agreement you have signed.
- We reserve the right to evict any guests or visitors from the property who refuse to follow these house rules.
- In any case, please use common sense while staying in our house. If you’re unsure about any of the house rules and require further clarification, please give us a call.
Alex Concepcion: A good friend of mine in the industry had a group of guests arrive a day early by accident. The booking guest didn’t read the dates correctly and showed up to an occupied house with her co-guests while there were guests staying at the property. Things got very confusing for everyone involved. Luckily there was an emergency option nearby which saved the day. But sometimes things you can’t predict will derail your plans.
Jasper Ribbers: My worst experience was when a couple from Canada emailed me the night after they arrived that they wanted to leave as they argued my apartment was “completely unacceptable” and threatened to call Airbnb and have me de-listed. This was after I hosted over 100 groups and had predominantly five-star ratings. I ended up refunding the guests and they checked into the Marriot.
The funniest story was when a past guest told me he lost a bunch of cash in my apartment, but he couldn’t remember where he put it. Eventually, my cleaning lady found the money in one of the kitchen cabinets.
Evelyn: I always like to tell my avocado story. This story isn’t about house rules, but it is about boundaries and how to enforce them. I live with my Airbnb guests, and I provide breakfast items, which live in the same refrigerator as my own food. Well, my guest thought my beautifully ripe avocado was part of his breakfast as well. Yeah, no. Not the avocado. Now I make sure I’m clear on my house tour, but I don’t have as a house rule, “don’t touch my avocado,” even though I want to…
Of course, I love this differentiation from another Facebook Group member, Maggie Eng:
House manual: there are avocados on the counter.
House rule: DO NOT EAT THE AVOCADOS.
Vacation rental house rules are really important for your rental business
Not only can house rules save you lots of time by eliminating the need to have to repeat things over and over again, but they also help you to reduce guest damage and avoid accidents.
When your guests are all on the same wavelength with a clear picture of what they can and can’t do, it will help you to feel a lot more in control!
Still not sure where to begin? Download our template to write your own rules! We’ve prepared a handy file which includes all of these examples you can easily edit. Simply fill in the gaps to personalize it to your property.