Don’t be THAT Airbnb guest or host!

Are you an Airbnb fan? My husband and I stayed in our first Airbnb rental about four years ago. We loved having an entire place to ourselves that was located in a great neighborhood for a very reasonable price. It planted the seed for having a short term rental of our own in our basement. Fast forward a couple of years and that’s exactly what we did. It felt doable because we have a separate entrance our guests can use rather than having to go through our part of the house.

We’re in our third year of being hosts and we truly enjoy it. Many wonderful people from all around the world and the United States have stayed with us. Some we even invited upstairs to join us for dinner. Most of our guests have been very respectful, friendly and tidy. But, we had a couple of mishaps happen lately with some guests that prompted me to write some etiquette tips for guests and hosts. Let’s start with the dos and don’ts for guests.

When are you arriving?

My husband and I both work and even though I’m self-employed, I’m not always home at check in time. So, it’s important for our guests to let us know when they plan to arrive to our house. While we can put a key in a lockbox, we still need to give instructions on where to find and access the lockbox. We also prefer to meet our guests in person to show them the suite so we can go over the particulars of the rental and help our guest settle in and feel welcome.

Our last guest told us his girlfriend would be arriving at a certain time and my husband and I had planned to go workout at that time. So, we messaged the guest with the lockbox information to relay to his girlfriend. I asked him to confirm that he received the message so we were sure she would know how to get into the suite. He never did. So, we had to cancel our plans and stay home. Bummer!! It’s really important to let your hosts know approximately what time you plan to arrive. And, if your plans change or you’re running late, keep your host informed. They have lives outside of being hosts and need to be able to plan their day.

Read and follow the house rules

Airbnb does a good job of asking guests to agree to their hosts’ house rules. We help our guests understand our rules by posting them in the welcome message they receive from us. And, when we show guests the rental we go over the house rules once again. So, there really is no reason the guests would not be familiar with the rules. But, more often then we like, some of those rules are ignored. Our guidelines are not onerous or unreasonable – shoes off in the bedroom, turn the lights off and heat down when you leave for more than a few hours, no parties, no smoking. Guests need to realize that when you are staying in someone’s house you need to be a little more thoughtful and respectful of the space. That said, you should always be respectful of any space you stay in – hotel or someone’s home, but keep in mind short term rental hosts don’t have huge budgets to fix or pay for things. Act like you are a guest in someone’s home, because, you are!!

Communicate problems

If anything is not working, is missing, broken or not as it should be, it’s important to let the host know so he/she has an opportunity to fix it. Nothing is more maddening than having a guest stay mum about a problem that could easily be fixed and then mentioning the problem in the review of the rental. Sometimes, not mentioning the problem to the host leads to more serious problems. For example, one very nice guest noticed there was a slow drip from the toilet tank and instead of letting us know, put a piece of paper towel on the floor to catch the water. The problem is, the paper towel got saturated very quickly and the water traveled under the floor and ruined it. Had he let us know about it we could have fixed the leak and saved the floor.

Another guest spilled red wine on the light beige carpet in the bedroom and tried to clean it up. Unfortunately, he and his girlfriend didn’t have the cleaning products necessary to clean the spill and it ruined the carpet. Had they let us know when it happened we could have cleaned the spill with the correct cleaning products and prevented a stain. I would much rather have a guest be honest and tell us they broke or spilled something so that we can address it at the time rather than finding out after they have checked out when it might be too late to remedy the problem.

Be appreciative

While you are paying for the opportunity to stay in someone’s rental, it is still someone’s home. Express your appreciation for the rental and the host’s hospitality, unless of course, the place is a mess and the host is rude. We’ve had so many guests thank us for hosting them and even a few who left us thank you gifts or tips – both of which are completely unnecessary. But it is so thoughtful of people when they express their appreciation to us one way or another. And, this has the added benefit of making it more likely the host will write a positive review of you as a guest. Conversely, a demanding or snobby guest will not win any favors. I remember clearly two sisters who stayed with us. One sister was kind and courteous but the other had this better-than-you-house-rule-breaking attitude and unfortunately it led to a negative review.

Tips for Hosts

We have been Airbnb Superhosts the entire time we’ve been hosting (well, as soon as we were eligible to be evaluated by Airbnb). According to Airbnb, “Superhosts are experienced hosts who provide a shining example for other hosts, and extraordinary experiences for their guests.” We take pride in being the best hosts we can be and we’re happy our guests enjoy their rental experience with us. Some of the tips below are what contribute to making us Superhosts.

Communicate with your guests

Communication with both guests and hosts is really important so that people know what to expect and feel welcomed. The best hosts are those who respond promptly to inquiries and questions and who send a welcome message when a guest books. We send messages that welcome guests after they book with us, another that gives them check in information a couple of days before arriving and one the night before they leave with check-out information. We get five stars for our communication so I know guests appreciate how communicative we are.

Make your rental spotless

While we aren’t a hotel, we want our guests to have a four star hotel experience, so we make sure the rental is exceptionally clean. That means paying attention to even the smallest details – polishing the fixtures in the bathroom and kitchen, making sure there is plenty of soap in the dispensers, dusting everything, wiping out the refrigerator and microwave, etc. There is nothing worse than checking into a place and finding cobwebs, hair or crumbs on the counters. Even though guests are paying a lot less than high end hotels they expect the cleanliness of a highly rated hotel.

Check in with your guests

Even if you live in a separate dwelling and don’t interact with or see your guests, it is thoughtful and helpful to check in with your guests within 24 hours of their arrival. Send a quick message that asks them if they got settled in okay and if there is anything they need. We can see guests coming and going if we’re in the kitchen by the entrance into the rental so we always make a point of saying hello and asking them if they need anything. We also happily offer restaurant and sightseeing recommendations when asked.

Be friendly and helpful

If you have decided to have a short term rental it’s important to realize you are now in the hospitality industry whether you want that or not. That means, that even when you’re having a terrible-no-good-rotten day you still need to be cheerful and friendly with your guests. You need to treat them like friends visiting your house rather than dollar signs helping to pay your mortgage.  If you start resenting guests it might be time to close up shop. I’m not saying you can never feel frustrated or angry at a guest’s rude or thoughtless behavior, just don’t take it out on them or other guests. Which brings me to my next point.

Write accurate reviews

If a guest is challenging one way or another be sure you are honest in the review. Your review will help other hosts decide if this is a guest they want in their rental. An honest review also helps guests know what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. Here are some reasons for giving a less than perfect or negative review:

  • The guest doesn’t communicate well which inconveniences you – like the guest who didn’t reply that he had received our message about the lockbox instructions making it so we had to cancel our plans
  • The guest doesn’t follow your house rules
  • Your guest makes a mess or damages things without trying to fix or pay for it.
  • The guest steals something. Even if the item was small, it is not acceptable to take things that don’t belong to you.
  • Your guest is rude and/or demanding
  • The guest sneaks in additional guests without getting your approval

I’ll leave it at that. Thankfully, in our three years of hosting, we’ve had very few annoying guests. It’s not fun writing negative reviews, but I do it when it’s warranted because hosts should be informed of bad guests and visitors need to learn that bad behavior is not acceptable.

What tips would you add for short term rental hosts or guests?

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Kristen on November 12, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    Hi, I’m super discouraged after receiving a negative review from an Airbnb host. Her complaint was that I informed her about some issues with the house (the curtain rods had fallen down and I couldn’t put them back up, the washing machine leaked and flooded the hallway, and there were no directions for the fireplace remote). I assumed that as a guest this was what I was supposed to do. She sent the property manager out, who seemed very kind and addressed all the issues, but in her review she accused me of making up the issues and requiring her property manager to waste her time. I was caught completely off guard and now I’m worried about what other hosts will assume about me.

  2. Arden on November 12, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    Hi Kristen, that’s too bad. If you were truly justified in complaining about problems you should not have gotten a negative review. You can write a public response to the review to explain what happened. Use a courteous and respectful tone and don’t be defensive. Other hosts should be able to see that the host was being difficult. As a guest you have every right and should let the host know if there is a problem. Sorry this happened to you.

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