Laying Down the Law: Writing Airbnb House Rules that Guests Actually Read

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Nobody likes to be the bad guy.

Doling out a list of regulations is not the most rewarding part of owning or managing a vacation rental, but it’s a necessary one. And even after you’ve set your house rules, it’s a crapshoot as to whether your Airbnb guests will actually heed them.

It goes without saying that to get guests to follow your rules, you need to make sure they read them. Let’s be honest: most guests’ eyes gloss over when they’re handed a list of things they’re not allowed to do. House rules should be laid out in the property listing and also reinforced in the house manual.

So how do you get potential and registered guests to pay attention to your do’s and do not’s? Here are five ways we’ve found to be effective when writing Airbnb house rules.

Give them personality.

Who says your reader needs to yawn their way through your house rules? Believe it or not, your brand voice can shine when you’re laying down the law—and we recommend letting it.

Not only does employing your brand voice make your house rules far more interesting, it also makes them more human. Guests are likely to have more respect for rules if they seem like requests from an actual person.

If you’ve taken a playful approach to your other copy, there’s no reason you can’t throw a few jokes into your Airbnb house rules. Which of these sample house rules is more memorable?

“The front door must be shut at all times to keep animals out.”

or

“Please keep the front door shut. If you don’t, you may find that the local bird population will be joining you for your stay.”

By using the latter, you’re not only helping the rule to stick out in guests’ minds, but also showing them what kind of host you are—one that’s warm, friendly, and invested in their good time.

Explain why.

It’s natural instinct: when we’re given a rule, we want to know why we need to follow it.

Show your guests you’re not just on a power trip by giving a reason for the house rules that govern your Airbnb listing. You don’t need to write a thesis—just a quick phrase will do.

Explain that you’ve set quiet hours because you want all of your neighbors to enjoy a good nights’ sleep. Or that guests aren’t allowed to bring a pet because you want to be able to comfortably host any future guests with allergies. Or unregistered guests are not covered by insurance in case anything happens.

Write your rules to take the focus off the restriction they’re setting, and put it on the courtesy that they provide instead.

Make them readable.

No matter how much personality you put into your rules, they’re still that: rules. Make it easy for guests to breeze through them, get the information they need, and move along.

We recommend a one page maximum bulleted list with no more than two short sentences per rule. If you find yourself exceeding those limits, think about how you can state your rules more simply. For example, instead of saying:

“Please keep shoes off the bed, sofas, chairs, coffee table, hardwood floors, and bathroom tile to prevent any staining or scratching.”

You might say:

“We like to keep our floors and furniture scuff-free, so please leave your shoes at the door.”

One more tip for legibility: to make extra important information stand out, use bold text, but use it sparingly. Too much can give the impression of yelling.

Present your house rules at the right time.

Start telling your potential guests your Airbnb house rules too early, and they’ll pass you by for another more laidback competitor. Tell them your rules too late, and you’re setting yourself up for a lot of headaches. So when is the right time to fill them in?

Your listing description is where you make guests fall in love with your rental. Unless you have rules that could be a total deal-breaker for many guests—like that you don’t accept any children under the age of 18—the listing description is not where you lay down the law.

If you have pretty strict rules by most guests’ standards, and you don’t use instant booking, you may consider attaching them to your first booking email. Otherwise, attaching them to a booking confirmation gives guests plenty of notice—and the chance to cancel immediately, should they decide that your rental isn’t a good fit.

You’ll also want to have a physical or digital copy of your house rules easily available in your rental, so that guests will never have a question about what’s allowed during their stay.

Test your reader.

Earlier this year we wrote a blog post about Natalie Vowell’s $29/night Airbnb that became a five-star sensation. Her properties have wear and tear and are located in neighborhoods that some may consider rough, so it’s vital to her that guests read her entire listing before booking.

So how did she ensure that guests read every word? She placed a sentence with a code word halfway through her description and instructed those inquiring to use that word in their booking request.

And it worked. Not one of her reviews indicates that guests were unpleasantly surprised by the rental they showed up to.

We don’t recommend this trick for every vacation rental—but it’s an especially effective method if your home has a strict set of rules. It’s a simple way to hold guests accountable and ensure they understand what they’ve signed up for.

Craft your list of rules.

You’ve read through our rules for writing your own readable rules and are ready to put pen to paper. But what rules do you include? The exact rules depend on the rental, but here are some general categories that most Airbnb hosts use when crafting their own rules. We’ve also included some house rules examples to get you started.

General

Make it clear in your house rules the exact check in and check-out time to avoid any uncomfortable situations between guests if one comes too soon or doesn’t leave soon enough. Something like this offers the reason why this rule is important: “Please don’t check-in before 4 p.m. and be sure to be checked out by 10 a.m. so that we can have plenty of time to assure each guest has a clean and fresh space to enjoy.”

Provide extra incentive to your guests to not lose their keys by spelling out the cost for a lost key right in the house rules.

Depending on its location, the parking situation for some Airbnb rentals can be a little sticky. Offer plenty of information of where parking is located, how many vehicles guests can park there and any other details on the parking situation.

You may have certain areas of your rental that are off-limits to guests. While it may seem like a good idea to not even mention these areas, out-of-sight doesn’t always mean out-of-mind. Try keeping it light but firm: “Please respect our off-limits areas. You know what it’s like to have your mother-in-law snoop around your closets and junk drawers.”

Parties and extra guests

It may be your guest’s party but you might be the one crying if the celebration gets out of control. Better to be safe than sorry and completely ban parties or events of any size or type, as well as not allowing extra overnight visitors.

Even if you don’t allow parties, you will still want to enforce a noise curfew to keep the noise levels down and keep the peace with the neighbors. Something like “We like our neighbors and they like us, help us keep that way and please respect the noise curfew of 11 p.m.” lets guests know why this rule about quiet time is important.

When laying out the rules for extra guests, be precise about how many guests are included in the rental price and any additional fees for extra overnight guests.

Food and drink

Breakfast in bed is a nice gesture, but your guests should leave this act of kindness for their own homes. You may also want to ban food and drink from the living room and other living areas to avoid having to get salsa stains out of your sofa and extra cleaning for your housekeeping staff. Try saying it in a funny tone: “Please keep all food and drink in the kitchen otherwise we’ll have to put plastic covers on all the furniture. And no one wants to relive that interior design period.”

While doing dishes ranks high as one of the most-dreaded household chores, requiring your guests to do their dishes before they check out will save you time and money. Let guests know the clean up process whether it’s hand-washing or running the dishes through the dishwasher.

Housekeeping

Some owners prefer to avoid any smoking-related issues and ban smoking completely on the property. If you do decide to allow smoking outdoors or in certain areas, be sure to be very clear about what areas are allowed. Keep it simple but specific: “Please do not smoke anywhere except the outside patio and please dispose of all cigarette butts in the provided containers.” This might be a good place for using bold to make your point.

Equipping your rental with a washer and dryer can bring in more renters but also means potential damage to another expensive appliance so provide clear instructions on using them. If you do offer guests access to the washer and dryer, you can ask that they wash their own towels and bedding to save you housekeeping time and money.

You may offer pantry items, condiments, cleaning supplies or other staples for guests to use, so it’s helpful to explain these offerings to guests and any rules regarding them. “Murphy’s law of traveling says you will forget something, so please help yourself to any of the toiletry items in the bathroom closet” lets your guests know you’ve thought of everything.

When removing garbage and/or recycling falls on your guests, be specific on the process and provide all the necessities (like trash can, trash bags, etc.) to make it easy for guests to follow through on this rule.

It’s also helpful to tell guests the extra cleaning fee upfront to deter any thoughts of treating your rental like a frat house.

Kids and Pets

If your property is pet-friendly, spell out the guidelines for bringing furry friends clearly in the house rules. The same goes for children. If you do not allow children at all or only those of a certain age, make that clear up front.

“We love kids but our rental isn’t set up to accommodate their adorable way of life. Feel free to bring them back when they turn 15!” is a funny way to say no kids. Or, you can be to the point (and a little tongue-in-cheek): “We do not allow kids under the age of 15, enjoy the peace while it lasts!”

Quirky Rules

Sometimes you have a unique rental situation that calls for a unique set of rules. While they may seem wacky to guests, these quirky rules can go a long way to help you avoid expensive and time-consuming issues.

Fake tanning and makeup products can wreak havoc on towels and sheets. You can save money by asking guests to please remove any makeup or product before using any of the home’s linens.

Guests who move the furniture around can damage the floors and the furniture itself so you might want to make a rule banning the moving of furniture. “We like it when our carpet gets those furniture divots so please do not move our furniture during your stay.”

Help save a little money on your utility bills and ask guests to turn down the air-conditioner or heater when they leave the rental for extended periods of time.

Need some help crafting your list of Airbnb house rules? Guest Hook specializes in writing for vacation rentals. We help you establish a brand voice and use it to make all your communications personalized and engaging. Get in touch with us today.

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