How to handle threats from Short Term Rentals guests

Dec 23, 2021

This week I want to share with you an experience I had with a recent short term rental guest.   Short term rentals or you may know it as vacation rentals are a great way to earn passive income or cashflow.  As with any investment there are risks and rewards.  

The communication with this guest went as usual with no hiccups during the reservation process. The reservation was made for 3 guests for 3 nights at Iron Horse Acres, a farm stay.  The guests had planned a 3 day golf excursion.

At check-in, 2 of the 3 guests had arrived and we greeted them to ensure they had gained proper access to the house. We talked for a bit and then left them to get settled in.

Within a short time frame, I got a message from the guest that they can’t figure out the WIFI password.  I immediately replied with the password

Within about an hour our security team notified me that 2 more guests had arrived. 

For 2 days there were no unexpected events and I believed all 4 guests were enjoying themselves.   

All was well, until the night before checkout when I received a message, I’m going to call it…

Let’s see what we can get away with

Hi Mechiel, two of us would like to take a shower if possible after golf tomorrow. We expect we would be done with showers by [2:15]ish. Is that possible? We could restrict ourselves to one bathroom if that helps.

My reply was Well checkout is tomorrow at 10am. My cleaner will be here at 11. Did you want to book another night?

Understood. We’ll find a shower elsewhere. Appreciate things otherwise.

I want a discount plan

I took the opportunity to disclose, I’d also like to take the time to notify you that my security team has identified a 4th person at check in, and per the house rules, there’s a charge of $10 per person per night for extra guests. 

Hi Mechiel, they are not even here tonight so what discount do we get for having less people one night?

4 people in 3 beds using 3 bathrooms versus 3 people using 3 beds and 3 bathrooms, no I do not understand an additional charge for that.

It was clear to me that he hadn’t read the rules, so I sent him a copy to his phone, through the App and let him know that there was a hard copy of the House Rules laying on the counter.  I presume he read them because he then stated.

Hi Mechiel, I was not aware of these rules which are very silly in this instance. I certainly could not have read them in your house prior to arrival. We would have been happy to notify you that there was an additional guest coming last minute, but I was not aware of it. Their presence will not cost you a penny in expenses as I pointed out.

Again, I pointed out Rule number 3 inside the app before you made your reservation states, “guests not registered during the initial booking will be charged $10 per day, per person” It’s common courtesy to notify a host of any changes.

The Diversion Plan.

I read the house rules and the stated motivation of not having unannounced people coming and going. We had two vehicles as planned. And no comings and goings that would not have happened without so and so being here with the 3rd guest.   Again, they are no longer here, driving back to their home. So, you will have even less comings and goings than we actually paid for.

Sir with all due respect that statement in the House Rules about comings and goings, has nothing to do with you and is not relevant to you or your friends. This has everything to do with other guests with very bad behavior. Clearly that’s NOT you or your friends. I have had no issues with you only that you didn’t communicate the extra person. That’s it.

Mechiel, I am sure you have people that have tried to abuse one or more rules and I can understand the point of rule but certainly not in this case. I suggest that since again it doesn’t cost you anything for So and so to join us and that we had no additional vehicles or comings and goings that we call it good.

Sir there absolutely are costs. Did this person take a shower? Did this person use the bathroom or any towels or soaps? Did they blow dry their hair or use electricity? 

It’s $20 and you wanted extra time tomorrow which you may not realize it’s difficult to find cleaners that want to work! My cleaner can only come tomorrow at 11. Typically, I must give them a weeks’ notice.

Hi Mechiel. Yes, so, and so used the same bathroom.  So and so presumably used an extra towel but they are not using any extra towels or anything tonight. So again, it is a wash. Your cleaning service is cleaning the house exactly as it would have been saved perhaps for one towel. Same cost to you. We are leaving at [7:45] in the morning and had no concerns about your lack of flexibility with the checkout time. Makes sense but we just asked. house rules explaining this $10 charge are on the App under more house rules and not on the front page and even then, the sentence is partially hidden to right on my phone. I simply did not see it and would appreciate your understanding given the spirit of the situation

Sir, I’m sorry but I have no control over the App only it’s content.  Have a great night and safe travels. 

The Threat

Thanks, Mechiel. I am rule follower but this one is not only difficult to find and therefore unknown to me. I will leave $20 in the house. I will also give this house a terrible review and will warn people about this arbitrary rule. Your harassment of me while I’m in on my vacation and will tell them to be careful with their car because the cats jump on your cars, scratch the paint and shit on the car – yes that did happen.

I replied, Thank you.

Mechiel, we left at [7:45] this am. I left the $20 inside. I hope you appreciate how rigid you are and if you were running a real business, this mindless following of capricious rules would ultimately result in failure. So good luck. You can be certain that in every other way we have been model guests and left the place as good as we found it.

I replied, I appreciate your candor and the $20.00.  Have a great day.  Safe Travels. 

Upon checkout and after gaining access to the house, I realized even after he read the House Rules, he didn’t follow the rules on what to do with the linens.  In all fairness, they respected my house, and my overall assessment was good.  I would host them again.

I did find the $20.00 so I assume he will follow thru with his threat to write a terrible review and to that, I offer this to all my future guests. 

Welcome to Iron Horse Acres – home to friendly hosts and a lovely farmhouse to share with our guests

I thought I’d take the opportunity to share with future guests a little more about staying here on a farm, especially for those who may be travelling from the city.

This is a working horse farm; we have an injured rescue on site. She stays to herself, is well taken care of and you will see her only at feeding times 8am and 5pm.  We are often visited by other non-threatening wildlife in this rural area.  During the day, you will see Gopher Turtles.  They are protected by the State of Florida and the only thing you can do with them, is take a picture.  You may even get a laugh out of them, as they will often leave poo behind on the driveway, not to be mistaken for cat poo. You will never encounter cat poo, as cats bury their poo.  We also have a flock of 17 Turkeys – although they are large is size and can seem intimidating, they are only looking for seeds left behind from my bird feeders that are for the Cardinals, and the turkeys will scatter as quickly as they arrived.

In the evening when we are mostly all sleeping, there is one cute red fox, a 6pt buck and his doe.  We do have 2 tame cats onsite however, they are never left outside at night to roam, they are comfortably sleeping in their beds inside the barn.  However, we do have feral cats or untamed cats that roam the entire neighborhood at their leisure.  Good news is, we do not have Gators or Wild Hogs and all nocturnal creatures at night will not harm you, your children or chase you – they are all afraid of you and will run away.  We do leave the front door porch lights on until 10pm each night for late arrivals.  This can be changed to suit your needs. 

As with any Short-Term Rental stay, each host is allowed to write their own house rules.  Some of the main house rules are posted inside the App prior to booking online and once you book you will be a soft copy of the House Rules inside the app and given a hard copy of the House Rules inside the home for your review.  It is an advantage to you that you do read the rules, it contains helpful information such where to get more batteries for the remotes, WIFI setup information, Additional guest policy and what to do with your linens when you checkout.  Because hosts and guests alike, rely on reviews, this eliminates the need to communicate through an app to resolve a situation in a timely manner, that you may be able to resolve on your own. 

We do have camera’s onsite that are clearly defined in the house rules and not in personal designated areas.  In the event a situation occurs, the security team is instructed to review the content to validate a guest’s concern or owner’s concern.  To date, we have had no guest safety or personal property issues reported.

We also realize that plans can change, perhaps more guests are expected to come, perhaps you need to stay longer or even leave early.  The best thing you can do is reach out to us and we will help you to mitigate your circumstances.  If you’re bringing more guests, awesome!  We will stock the home appropriately to accommodate that need. 

If you need more time, well this one is a bit tricky.  Checkout daily is at 10am, our cleaners arrive at 11am.  Because of the COVID situation, it’s more difficult these days to find great cleaners that want to work.  We are fortunate to have a team that is dedicated to us, but because they are in high demand, their time can only be scheduled in advance.  If by chance, there is availability behind your scheduled checkout date you are welcome to extend your stay.

As we state in our House Rules, if we are around during your stay, we will gladly (in season) build a bonfire for you at our new outdoor wood firepit. 

Stay tuned for our future update! We will soon be opening a 4th bedroom!

As for the degrading attempt to “bring me down” where he stated, I hope you appreciate how rigid you are and if you were running a real business, this mindless following of capricious rules would ultimately result in failure.  

The House Rules were well thought out and not capricious and they have been tested for 2 years now without fail.  As for the feeble attempt to state that I ultimately will fail, I encourage everyone to read the Chapter Failure Is an Option from my book entitled “Why My J.O.B. Quit Me, jump-start your firing.

The takeaway here is that it’s very important to read the House Rules Reading the House Rules would have prevented this whole negative interaction.  However, as for me, this experience did the opposite of what my guest expected from me.  I was professional and factual in my delivery without emotion. This interaction has inspired me and taught me that you can’t always make everyone happy, all you can do is be the best host you possibly can, and I accept his negative review.

Some may say, Was it worth the $20.00 for a bad review?  It was to me, because I’m confident if I didn’t stand up for myself or my business, I would have given an inch and he would have taken a mile. I’ll recover from the bad review!

Have a great weekend everyone and I’ll see you back here next Thursday on the Fearless Innovator podcast.