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How to be a Good Vacation Rental Guest

I have been a ‘cleaning person’ for many years and, in that time, I have managed a local vacation rental for some friends of mine as well as cleaned for other similar properties. I can truly say that I have just about seen it all and, to be honest, some people are horrible guests.

Not…a hotel

With the vacation rental boom, homeowners can make a little extra scratch by renting out all or a portion of their homes to travelers. Many cities, like the one I live in, now are scaling back or revising their rules on houses being used as short-term rentals. The owners must live on the property for at least half (or some other amount of time) of the year, only “one” per block, and so forth.

Vacation rentals offer, often costing far less than traditional lodging, flexibility that hotels cannot or do not. Kitchens to cook in rather than eat out every meal which can get pretty expensive and dull, yards for kiddos to play, separate bedrooms for family members…especially the sullen teenager. There are some that even allow pets.

What many seem to overlook is that vacation rentals…are not hotels.

Yes, you pay to stay, but these are not corporate businesses. Instead a family member or a co-host (usually a friend or neighbor) handles the property. Owners often do their own cleaning and maintenance. There is no chain of command, no hierarchy of managers to speak to. Just you…and them. Yet the demands and disgusting habits of some people make me wonder how they would feel if the tables were turned.

The Trouble I’ve Seen…

A few examples of the poorest behavior are:

· A homeless person (unbeknownst to me) booked a 3 week stay and invited ALL of her homeless friends to come crash, shower, and otherwise use the house. When her time was up, she refused to leave, and the police had to be called to remove her before our next guest. She took all the towels and the entire stock of toilet paper, half the flatware, and a couple of coffee table books in addition to causing a huge scene on the street.

· We ventured into longer term rentals for the winter month for a couple of seasons. A 4-month guest also refused to leave (but at least we didn’t have to call the police) and left the property in such shambles that it took over 14 hours to clean the under 1000 square foot house, including the yard where their little dog pooped everywhere. We quit allowing pets after that.

· Numerous times pets have been smuggled in. They think they’re being clever…but you cannot eradicate the signs of animals in one day. And every single one of them caused some sort of damage. And…every single one of them swore they didn’t bring a pet. 🙄

· A bridal party rented a different house I managed for a time. The owner insisted on using white towels to be “like a hotel”. To his grave dismay, there was so much makeup left on the washcloths that they couldn’t be saved. This group also partied so hard that they left 3 of the bath towels in the tub soaked in vomit. Good times.

When I attempt to discuss these transgressions with the guests, all of them come back with, “That’s what the cleaning fee is for.” 😐

Let’s be clear here… if you don’t think hotels charge a cleaning fee, you are sadly mistaken. In fact, hotels have your credit card on file and will not hesitate to charge that card for even the smallest misdemeanor. You sign off on that, when you check in, authorizing them to do so…even if you don’t remember.

Do Unto Others…

I’m going to climb onto a soap box here for a moment. Because you pay for a product or service (especially a service!), it does not give you the right to berate, belittle, cuss-out, or otherwise abuse the provider of that service. Nor does it give license for complete disregard for the property and time of the person(s) involved. I truly lament the demise of good old-fashioned manners in this world.

(steps down)

Vacation rentals are someone’s home, and a "small business". If you had some of the guests I mentioned above in your home…and had to clean up after them, you’d be pretty upset, I imagine.

So, as you set out for your adventures, remember these tips:

  • Don’t assume your every need will be provided for. Ask questions before you book. Many owners will be happy to accommodate if you ask rather than expect.

  • READ the profile of the rental you’re looking at. Quirks of the property should be listed (the kitchen faucet drips, we have old plumbing, the back door lock requires extra jiggling, etc.)

  • If you are asked not to use a particular part of the property, then don’t.

  • Most vacation rentals have a list of chores for you to do before you check out. Please help out. Often another guest is arriving the same day and there is still laundry to do, beds to make, toilets and tubs to clean, and tidying up. New pandemic rules on most reputable platforms also require everything be sanitized as well. It takes time. The cleaning fee is to cover the cost of water and cleaning supplies (and sometimes a cleaning person). Trust me when I tell you, sometimes that fee is insufficient.

  • Please don’t let your children run amok. Clean up their messes, spills, and candy wrappers.

  • If the property has a recycling bin, please honor that. Our planet is in enough trouble.

After guests leave, some platforms have place to review owners and guests. Be aware, if an owner thinks you were a bad guest, there’s a chance you may be flagged. Owners don’t have to rent to you based on the appraisals you’ve received. We read them too. If you get enough bad reviews, like any other business, you may be out of luck for your next trip.

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