In this post, we’re going to talk about house rules. More specifically, we’re talking about house rules you may not have considered yet. The kind of stuff that you can’t anticipate until it happens at your property. Like a guest leaving a loaded handgun behind in a drawer. (Yep, it has happened!)
House rules are a delicate balancing act. Too many rules, and good guests will be turned off. Too few, and you might end up in a sticky situation with problematic guests who claim they didn’t know any better. We advise that tone has a lot to do with how guests react to your house rules.
Don’t forget to contextualize your policies and explain why you’ve put them in place. For example, “we don’t allow pets because we want to be sensitive to guests with pet allergies.” That reminds guests that you’re a human who just wants what’s best for your property and all of your guests.
With that in mind, there are likely some house rules that you haven’t considered yet, if you’re new to the industry—and that you might want to consider. Here are some to get you started.
Weapons and fireworks
It pays to have an explicit policy about guns, fireworks, and other dangerous devices that guests might bring to your rental. Of course, it’s your call whether or not you want legal guns—or legal fireworks—on your property. It’s perfectly reasonable to forbid guns; it’s also perfectly reasonable to allow them where concealed carry is legal and/or where hunters are plentiful. Either way, having a policy about them will protect you should they cause harm to people or property.
You should also include a line to make clear that if a firearm is left behind, you will call the authorities to retrieve it. It’s up to the guest who left the firearm, then, to figure out how to get their property back.
This protects you, your cleaners, and anyone else who may enter your property. If you allow guns, it’s also a good idea to roleplay this scenario with your cleaner—make sure they know not to touch the weapon but instead report it to you (or the police).
Filming and photoshoots
Owners of photogenic properties, beware! With the rise of Airbnb, many rentals have become the unwitting setting for films and photoshoots of all kinds. (Yes, all kinds.)
At the very least, hosts and owners should be getting paid extra if their properties are being used for someone else’s money-making venture. Include a policy that states that if the rental is used for a film or photoshoot, the guests will be charged a commercial fee.
You may decide to forbid all photoshoots and films by default. In a worst-case scenario, your property could end up being associated with a scene, cause, person or product that you would rather it not be associated with.
In a best case scenario, though, you can create a viable additional income stream at your property. Depending on your place and the size of the company who wants to rent it, you could get paid a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.
Google “residential location scout + your location” and start contacting various local scouts. Set up a meeting with them at your property so that they can photograph it and catalogue your home. This will get your home in their system and fresh on their mind.
One more note: Airbnb has its own policy about filming and photoshoots that you can mention in your house rules: if a guest films or photos at a property without express advance permission, they will be banned from the platform.
Did you know that if a guest downloads movies or other content illegally (i.e. pirated content) you could be on the hook to pay a fine to your internet provider? To protect yourself, include a clause that you are not liable for illegally downloaded content and any fines will be passed to the guest.
Likely you have a party policy already in place. But what about a situation that seems more innocent on its face: strangers at the property who aren’t part of the group’s initial reservation?
Some hosts are okay with this, as long as those guests don’t stay the night. But be sure to include a policy about not giving out keys or door codes to people outside of the reservation. (A Ring doorbell on the entry door is a good way to monitor comings and goings, too.)
As marijuana becomes legalized (or decriminalized) in several US states, you will want to consider your policy on this substance. If you already have “No Smoking” language at your property—and/or designated smoking areas—you’ll need to specify if these rules include cannabis. Otherwise, guests might take your silence on the subject to mean it’s fine to smoke marijuana anywhere in or on your property.
The smell of marijuana smoke does tend to fade faster than cigarette smoke. Still, you may not want to deal with the extra hassle of airing out your rental for the next guests, so keep your threshold in mind.
Don’t forget about accessibility
This one isn’t a house rule, but it’s certainly worth mentioning. After hosting guests at my Kauai property for many years, I have learned that for some guests, the number of stairs leading to her second-floor rental (25 stairs, to be exact) is a dealbreaker. So I now make it a point to alert all guests to this. While it’s not a house rule, per say, it’s a concern that I want to make clear at the outset to avoid unhappy guests.