Today’s episode is about all about “Setting up your Airbnb House Rules and Boundaries.” What to do when a guest brings home a stranger, they get caught stealing… Or WORSE… They've eaten your avocado! Yes, your avocado.
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So, I was working on this podcast when a guest walked down to prep his breakfast. We said good morning, and then he said: “Oh, I ate the avocado.” Hmmm.
I had left half of a BEAUTIFULLY ripe avocado for breakfast… Normally, I have breakfast a tad late… I try to meditate first and have some ME time. So, I´m like WTF! I provide guests with eggs, bread, coffee, tea, milk, and cereal… But avocados? Those are mine!
I asked… any left? He said, No….
As I was processing my missing avocado I said, don’t worry. I held it together, and my guest had no clue I wanted to have his head for breakfast…
What To Do:
So, the question becomes… What do you do when your guests break your house rules, step on your boundaries, and disregard your personal space?
Sure, this time it was an innocent avocado, but what happens when:
- Is a party thrown in your house?
- Do they try to sneak in more guests?
- Or worse, they steal half of your belongings?
What to do when your guest eats YOUR avocado?
I love this quote from Brene Brown:
Are Your Rules Clear?
You’re opening your home to people from all over the world. You want them to feel welcomed, but you also want them to treat your home like it’s their own, to respect it, appreciate it, and love it as much as you do. This is why your house rules must not be vague. They must be crystal clear and concise.
If your house rules are open to interpretation, Such as “Mi casa, es su casa,” Don't be surprised if your guests suddenly turn your home into Animal House… Guests light up in your home… and I'm not talking cigarettes … or worse yet…. Eat your food.
That's why setting up house rules and boundaries for your vacation rental are just as important as your description, photos, and towels. Your guests need direction, information, and what’s allowed or not allowed in your home. It’s also a way for you to protect yourself when making a claim with Airbnb and other platforms. My house rules have changed through the years and will continue to evolve. And no… I’m not adding “don’t eat my avocados,” but I’ll be clear with what I provide in my House Manual and when I show space to my guests.
Shared Spaces vs Entire Homes:
Rules are different for shared spaces and entire homes. In a shared space, you can react to unacceptable behavior.
I once had a guest who kept leaving their half-eaten hard candy around the house… Yes, I know, beyond gross. I had to tell her, please don’t leave your half-eaten candy around the house. I said it nicely… Yes, hosting has really made me get my boundaries in order.
When you offer an entire private apartment, this will require more specific rules in anticipation of how guests will use, or possibly abuse, that unsupervised space. Again, think party house, even if it’s a small party.
House Rules Violators:
One reason for rules is to be able to access the security deposit should a guest not follow your house rule. No rule. No reimbursement. And you can’t ask them to leave.
A Sample of House Rules:
While some hosts have no house rules whatsoever… Unbelievable…Others create a novel… Unrealistic.
They have everything from:
- Keep the temperature at 68.5
- Make your bed before you leave for the day
- Clean the bathroom sink after you use it
This can be overwhelming for a guest, and some items are best communicated in person during your house tour.
For example, in my shared space, I provide bathrobes. I don’t mention it in my listing, and there isn’t a house rule that says … Don’t walk around in your undies. (Which I have seen, by the way). Instead, while doing the walk-through of the space, I say… “Please wear a robe, don’t walk around in your towel…” unless you're a runway model, and even then.
Here are some questions to help you start thinking about how to write your house rules:
- Will you allow people to smoke?
- Will you allow pets?
- Shoes on or off?
- Do you have any quiet hours?
- Do you allow your guests to invite overnight friends or have parties?
In shared spaces, you have to think about:
- Will you allow your guests to use the kitchen?
- Will you provide any food items?
- Will you allow food in your bedrooms?
Children Stay for Free… Unless:
Now, Airbnb has a rule of not charging for infants – zero to 2 years old… lots of hosts, myself included, have added a house rule stating that:
- Every child under two years of age needs to be counted as part of the group and will be charged the same amount as an adult.
If you don’t have this listed as a house rule, children under 2 years of age stay for free and don’t count on your maximum occupancy
Type of Guests:
Before you set your house rules and boundaries, think of the type of guests your home attracts and that you want to attract.
My neighborhood of Park Slope is family-friendly…. one with way too many strollers. My guests tend to be grandparents (which I love), families with young children (which I’m not crazy about, think fingerprints everywhere), professionals, and first-time visitors to NY. I don’t get the under 25 party-type crowds. Those guests are staying in the hip neighborhood of Williamsburg.
Your guests will determine your house rules. College students will have a different set of House Rules than my favorite grandparents.
My House Rules:
Because of my guest type… These are MY house rules and why I created them:
Remove your shoes.
This is for only one of my listings and only because of a renovation of floors that I did a couple of years back. I wish they would remove their luggage as well, but that is a bit too much to ask. So, I bought a small bench for people to be able to sit and put their shoes back on. I also provide slippers for their use. Think of easy ways for your guests to follow your rules.
No pets – sorry, Fido has to stay home.
Sometimes, people ask me if they can bring their pets. I’m allergic to most dogs and cats and I say no, most times.
No parties, no outside visitors, no overnight guests without previous approval from your host.
I had a guest who picked up a stranger and brought him home. Big no, no! But I do allow families and friends to stop by, and sometimes I even allow them to spend the night. Think grandchildren. I request that guests tell me if anyone is spending the night. I like to know who I’m waking up next to or bumping into on my way to the bathroom.
Do not engage in illegal activities anywhere on the property.
This applies to both drugs and internet activity. I know of hosts who have had issues with their cable companies because of illegal downloads by their guests.
If you break or damage something, please let me know and arrange for its replacement or repair.
Guests let me know when they break something. Sometimes, they go out of their way to replace it or pay for it. If it’s a small item, I let it go.
Do not leave any food out that will attract uninvited pests. Our home is pest-free, and we intend to keep it that way with your help.
This one is a no-brainer.
No smoking – also, don’t discard your cigarettes in the house trash cans. They get stinky.
I added the “don’t discard cigarettes” because people would smoke and throw the butts in the trash can, and then the house smelled like an ashtray.
Recycle – I get a fine from the city if we don’t recycle properly.
This is my biggest battle. No matter how many times I show it, write it, and put signage on the trash bins, I still always wind up having to sort through the trash. People will recycle according to their local rules. I give them a pass if they at least try.
Return all keys.
Yes, people lose keys or take them home with them. Keys happens. Some hosts charge for unreturned keys – I don’t. If I had a special lock and key which cost me a lot of money, I would charge for replacement.
And recently, I added the following:
Please note that every person in your group must be included in the guest numbers so I don't exceed my maximum capacity of 4 people. I do not have a ‘children stay free' policy. Every person in your group must be included in the guest numbers, regardless of age. My policy is that guests of any age are charged the same amount.
Therefore, Airbnb's system will not calculate the correct guest numbers and accommodation fees when there are children under 2 years of age included.
To manually override this, enter children who are under 2 years of age as though they were in the 2-12 category. This will ensure you know exactly what you'll be charged BEFORE you book.
Those are my latest house rules. They might change over time.
One Bad Apple:
But I don’t let one bad situation ruin it for everyone else.
For example, if you allow kitchen access, and everyone leaves your kitchen tidy and clean except one guest who leaves dirty dishes. Because of that one experience, you may want to ban everyone from the kitchen.
…. Instead, you could change your rules a bit to say:
- Kitchen for reheating only. No cooking.
- Or Clean the kitchen after you use it.
- Or change it to something that makes you happy.
If there is something which is super important, mention it in your communications with the guests during the house walk through.
The important RULE of House Rules is for you to know when to break them, which I have done.
House Rules I've Broken:
It was the slow season. You’ll hear in this podcast that I do many things, all legal, during the slow season. And I had an inquiry… It was a potential guest who was having some construction done in their home and needed a place to stay for about a week. They had a dog, and I said yes. Tinkerbell was in my space…
Yes, I broke my house rule of No Pets. We spoke about it, me and the guest… not me and the dog… and I was very clear about the consequences of any noise, damages, etc. At the end of the day… and night… I never even saw or heard Tinkerbell.
Another rule I broke: No Parties.
These guests were throwing a birthday party in January. Which is super slow here in New York. The guests made it very clear that the celebration was the only reason they wanted my home. Thankfully, a good Airbnb review from a previous gathering made it easier for me to say yes. Again, I was very clear with my expectations.
We discussed the time frame, gave them noise boundaries, RECYCLING information, and other house rules. I also informed my neighbors just in case it turned into a club scene. The guests were in my age range, over 40, which was still a toss-up…. cops showed up at my 40th birthday… Don't ask. Anyway, the party happened, and I came home to a pretty clean house, everything was in order. Including the trash. A win in my book.
In the end, your House Rules are for THEM…but at times they’re for YOU, too. “Law of the Land.” You make them, and ONLY YOU can break them.
Guest Break Your House Rules:
Now, what happens when your guests break your House Rules.
What House rule did your guest break?
- Did they bring home a stranger?
- Throw a party? Without you knowing.
- Steal your stuff?
- Eat your avocado? NOOO!
And most important, what kind of action do you want?
- Do you want the guest removed from your property?
- Do you need to get the police involved?
- Do you need to get reimbursed for damages?
Airbnb has a million-dollar host guarantee for damages. I know hosts who have made claims against it. The process wasn’t easy.
Depending on the situation …
- Keep all of your communication on the Airbnb platform.
- Take photos of all damages
- Airbnb will probably ask you to get a police report if the property was stolen
- They will ask you to first go through the resolution center
Thankfully, I haven’t had experiences with the host guarantee program, and I don’t want to provide you with any incomplete information.
Do your research, inform yourself, have the correct insurance, beyond Airbnb’s policy. Protect yourself and your property.
Remember The information contained in this podcast is meant only for guidance purposes and not as professional legal advice.
Remind Your Guests:
Also, include your rules in your House Manual. TRUST ME… by the time your guest arrives … Those house rules from your listing have long been forgotten. House Rules are EXTREMELY important, and they are made To protect you AND your guests… Use them to secure YOUR listing… If you have simple and crystal clear House Rules… Your hosting life will be made happier and more secure. And who doesn't love Happy and secure? Exactly.
This concludes this episode, “He Ate My Avocado: House Rules and Boundaries”. Thanks for reading the show notes… Feel free to read it over again…. It's that good. Of course, you can hear the episode, too… You can hear it over and over and over. Some say I sound a bit like Lady Gaga… I don’t hear it, but that's just me.
Well, this is Evelyn… thanking you for joining me on this amazing Hosting Journey…
Oh, and in case you were wondering how my avocado tale ended. Well, I'm happy to announce my guest replaced it with two, yes TWO, organic avocados…
Only to eat my last orange a day later.
Can children travel on Airbnb? Children under 2 years old are not counted as guests when you're booking a reservation and wouldn't incur any extra costs.
Airbnb's Host Guarantee Program
Avocado Chocolate Pudding from Warm Vanilla Sugar
1 ripe avocado
2 tablespoons good quality dark cocoa powder, unsweetened
1/2 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp honey
Put all ingredients in a blender and BLEND! The pudding will come out smooth and sweet. Absolute perfection!
As of today, I will be setting up some new house rules as well… It was perfect for me today, I got triggered big time last night over this issue – setting boundaries and honoring myself.
Getting triggered and being diplomatic about it is big lessons. That I continue learning every day. Every single day.
No wonder they ate the avocado – after reading your recipe, I might have been tempted:)
I think all your posts should include a recipe!
I think we all need to just add our favorite recipes. This one is from the audio engineer’s wife Carol.
Hi Evelyn. Great article again. One thing that I struggle with, although I haven’t had any severe house rules broken as of yet, is how to strike a balance between contacting the guest to approve charge for damage (or extra unregistered guest) and still have a fair chance of getting a decent review. I have let go many minor things, written them off as the cost of doing business.
I do let some things go but not others. It really depends on how I wake up that day. And how the guests behave.
Thank you! I have had a “Jessie’s Guidebook” for the past 3 years (restaurants, coffee shops, what to do, etc) with a framed copy of my “Rules”. I have had issues with guests not reading the House Manual before arrival, and consequently not parking in marked Visitor parking spots… and subsequently getting towed. I even reinforce this in my communication with them on the AirBnB platform — SO frustrating. I will add my Rules and parking info to the Guidebook now based on this feedback — and that my pantry items are NOT included for them (not an avocado, but my expensive gifted balsamic from Italy). And alter my Rules for situations that I have yet to encounter (thankfully) but can learn from others.
THANK YOU! 🙂
Evelyn, you are a dear, and this is great advice for all.Besides house rules in the listing, I have a framed notice by the self service breakfast bowl of fruits and cereal, reminding guests that I do not charge a cleaning fee so please clean up after yourself. Because it not being heeded regularly, I now only allow microwave cooking as not only do they not clean up, but leave the sink full of pots, dishes that I have to come home to and clean. Some guests even get an attitude when I leave the dishes and ask them again to take care of the dishes. I started out with clear rules, adding as things happened, if guests don’t read the listing then, it’s almost certain they don’t read house rules and some are offended when you point something out a second time. certainly not all, but enough to make it troubling.
I learned so much from this podcast. My house rules will evolve but thanks to you, I have them. I’m also practicing boundaries and diplomacy at levels I never have before.
Just what I was looking for.