Last update on October 14, 2013

I recently stumbled upon this discussion on the HomeAway Community Forum, and felt incensed that such ideas were actually accepted practices in the vacation rental community.

The topic at hand was an owner who received negative feedback from a guest, stating:

“The only downside in our eyes was the day of departure procedure.  We were asked to strip our beds, start a load of laundry, start the dishwasher, and take out all of the trash.  That was in addition to the cleaning fee.  It was a bit annoying to end a relaxing vacation doing the chores we had to do once we got home.”

This reminded me of a time I stayed at a vacation rental and the owner had a laundry list (no pun intended) of things for us to do before departure just like the guest above…

To say that I was offended at these requests is an understatement.

I mean seriously: we were paying $450 per night to stay at this bay front home.

He was running a business and we were his paying customers.

And now we were being asked to do favors to make his job easier? To save him some money or time or effort?

This discussion represents a bigger problem in my eyes…

Do you run your business like a lemonade stand or a juice factory?

There simply is no in-between.

Let me rephrase that: there is no in-between when it comes to successful rentals in this industry moving forward.

If you want to operate a professional vacation rental, you simply cannot have it both ways:

You either run a business and treat every guest like the most spectacular VIP in the world.

Or you participate in a hobby and worry not about your income or revenue.

In this particular case, the owner should tack on the price of cleaning to the nightly rate. Either that or throw in a “cleaning fee” (which I still find annoying yet consider acceptable in the big scheme). Whichever you choose, if you are running a solid vacation rental business and hosting strangers in your home, a guest should NEVER be required to do ANYTHING other than enjoy his or her vacation experience. If you are simply renting to friends, that may be another story.

One surefire way that vacation rentals will get in hot water with mainstream travelers is these kinds of owners or managers who have not made the “Go Big Or Go Home” distinction.  Charging $450/night and then asking guests to do chores is precisely what I’m talking about.

Will you get it right? Or will you pay the price?

About the author 

Matt Landau

Matt Landau is the Founder of the VRMB and the Inner Circle, two online resources dedicated to helping vacation rental owners and managers generate more bookings.

  1. You are so correct. Most people have no idea. Great information that is very realistic.

  2. there is nothing wrong with guests taking out their trash, loading the dishwasher, starting a load of laundry. It is not to lighten someone’s cleaning load it is to show respect for the person’s property. Believe me it does not lighten the cleaner’s load! There is plenty of cleaning to do besides those 3 things and the time spent cleaning doesn’t shorten. I have been cleaning vacation rentals for the last 12 years and there are some people who figure they can trash a place and expect the cleaner to do double time because of it. Then there are the nice respectful people who do start these things and leave a tip or a gift, they are the people who appreciate nice things in life and a pleasant, clean rental to come to that the owner puts out a lot of money to maintain it. Until you are a cleaner or an owner then you won’t be walking in their shoes. Once you do the job or own the property you will know what we are talking about.

  3. Most people who respect people’s property will want to know what to do before leaving.

    For Example here are some check out procedures that we use:

    Check out procedure

    Hope you and your family have had a great time. Check out is 11am.

    Check out procedure:

    If you have any dirty dishes, load them in the dishwasher and start it, housekeeper will unload the dishwasher

    If you have any colored towels put them in washer, start it, the housekeeper will put them in the dryer.

    Please do not put the whites in as the housekeeper bleaches them and if mixed with colors it will dull the whites.

    Take all garbage out to the large garbage container

    If you have left over food and drinks do not worry about it they are given it to the less fortunate.

    Leave the round gate fob, keys, and parking pass on the table

    In consideration of the housekeeper’s schedule and possibly new guests coming in the day of your departure, if you would like to extend your stay of past 11am or stay another day, you are to text, call or email the owner 24 hours in advance to ask if you are able to extend your stay. If you do not ask the owner and you decide to not leave by 11am, with the housekeeper scheduled there will be an inconvenience fee charged for not leaving by 11am as the housekeeper is prepared and scheduled to come by 11am to clean for the next guests arrival.

    That is all, have a safe journey home, and thank you for renting with me.

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  5. If people don’t want to do a bit of cleaning at the end of their stay, then they should stay in a hotel. If I rent an AirBnB or a rental home myself, I know that I will have to do some tidying up before I leave.

    We have a second home on an island in Florida which we turned into a weekly rental. We have a dedicated cleaner and manager, plus we have our pool serviced two times per week where other places have it done just once per week. We charge a $150 cleaning fee, but it actually cost us $250 per week to have the house cleaned, the pool maintained and to have the trash/recycle bins moved to and from the curb on schedule. We charge between $175 to $395 per night, depending on the time of year. Since we have four bedrooms and can accommodate 10 guests, we are actually *cheaper* than any other hotel options. We are around the same price or less than other vacation homes.

    I don’t think it’s too much to ask the guests to try to have most of the dishes done, the fridge mostly cleaned out, to start one load of laundry such as towels (we don’t ask them to strip all the beds) and to clean the BBQ grill if they used it. (We supply all propane and charcoal.) We ask our guests to wash and dry all the beach towels but they don’t have to fold them or anything — this is because it can take 3 HOURS for the 20+ beach towels we leave for guests to dry.

    It takes our cleaner four to five hours to clean the house, do the laundry, remake beds, clean around the pool area, clean the toilets, take out the trash and so on. Even with our requests to tidy up, about 10% of guests leave the place a total wreck, with beer cans left all over the house, filthy barbecues, trashed bedrooms, etc. which means she has to call a *SECOND* cleaner at the last minute to come over which cost us another $50. (We make a note to never rent to that guest again.)

    If we allowed all guests to leave the home like that, it would mean we could never accommodate a check-out and check-in on the same day.

    About 90% of guests comply and I don’t think they mind. We have many return guests. We don’t charge when people break stuff like glasses or vases, or lose an item such as a beach toy or in one case, even permanently stained a set of sheets — all of which a hotel DEFINITELY would do.

    My brother and three friends stayed at a hotel for a bachelor party, apparently they left it very unkempt. They were charged a $125 *extra cleaning fee* and charged $20 per towel that was missing, and charged $8 per piece of missing silverware from room service (which they disputed). My sister-in-law was charged $75 by a Holiday Inn because her kids drew on a wall with crayons. So it is simply untrue that hotels will just accept rooms in any state of disorder.

    We run our home very business-like. We charge a simple $250 refundable damage deposit. We have not yet kept anyone’s deposit but that’s how we insure that the home is left in decent shape for us to turn it over for another guests. In fact, we are now considering charging a $25 fee if people don’t want to clean the grill, and just add on the other cleaner for two hours. Part of the reason for this is because guests get very, very upset if a grill doesn’t look like its almost brand-new when they check in, so it takes two solid hours to clean both of the grills which we leave for their use.

    I don’t think any of this is unreasonable.

  6. I’d love to have ‘less rules’ for guests regarding how they leave my house, but I’m completely frustrated on the issue of trash. The local council in which my holiday rental (and hundreds of others) is situated just introduced a new ‘initiative’ which involves all trash having to be separated into three groups (regular trash, recycling & food scraps/greenwaste), with regular trash now to be collected only fortnightly (instead of weekly). Apparently they expect people staying at holiday properties be so good at recycling and composting during their stay that they’ll generate half the waste (seriously!!!!). The ‘initiative’ is enforced – I’ve had bins left uncollected because guests have put the wrong rubbish in the wrong bins. My only alternative is to have a clear instructions asking (bordering on begging!) guests to sort their rubbish. This is NOT something I want to have to ask people on holiday to do (no matter how much I can appeal to their sense of environmental responsibility), but I have no alternative…

  7. Bottom line is if you, the customer, pay a cleaning fee then you should not have to do any cleaning. I would be infuriated. We just stayed at a rental and the owner post-poned our check in to 6p because he was complaining about a turnaround for cleaning a same day check-out, check-in. We were understanding but also, did not throw him a pity party one bit. We know running a rental is not a walk in the park. And we know what it is to clean. My husband owns a cleaning company (www.carpetcleanerhonolulu.com) So we’ve been a customer and on the other end. If you have a rental, you are providing a service. And that should not include your visitor having to clean!

  8. Hello everyone,
    My name is Adriana Restrepo. I am the proud owner of a cleaning business that I run with my two daughters in the Orlando, FL area. We have been in the cleaning business for 8 years. We currently have 20 residential clients and 4 vacation rentals that we have obtained solely by word of mouth and good reputation. Our clients trust and adore us and we have been with each one for no less than 5 years. We are interested in expanding on our vacation rentals and are in need of some advice. We want some insight on how we can better advertise and market our company. We would like to be able to efficiently acquire more vacation rentals directly with the property owners. After reading your complaints and concerns we are confident that we will be able to address these problems much more swiftly and effectively than our competitors. Please contact us via email at trfc19@yahoo.com. We can be your Saint Lizzie :)!

  9. Just saw this so I’m a little late to the party. I have a vacation rental in North Padre, TX, I charge $525 a night and a $225 cleaning fee. I DO ask that the renters strip the beds and put all soiled towels and sheets by the laundry room, run the dishes, take out all their trash from the fridge and trash cans. I do not allow rentals the same day that other renters leave. It is too difficult and unfairly stressful to the cleaning people, in a 5/4.5 nothing can get cleaned that quickly. On the date of their departure, I allow my guests to stay no later than 1:00 p.m. I hire 2 individuals and pay them $25.00 per hour for 3 hours work each. With the excess they get paid to clean the balcony rails, windows and garage door. I have never been to a hotel cleaner than my house nor has anyone else. Because we do not allow back to back rentals, a family can arrive to our house as early as 11:00 a.m. So yes, I do charge a cleaning fee and renters don’t need to rent from me if they don’t want to pay it and I’m ok with that.

  10. This is a great thread and a great subject. Lots of different ways to go about this. I want to ask questions and make a comment. I have been in Hospitality for over 25 years. Restaurants, Hotels, Private Catering, House Managing to name a few. I was born with a catering heart. The way I see it, this is mostly for profit. MOST people in this business are in it to make money. Bottom line. Once established everything starts to creep in, Notes saying -PLEASE TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF- or a list of what to “DO” before you leave and so on.. That is where you separate yourself from the hotel industry. My question is why do you have a check in time of 4 pm, a check out time of 10 am(11 if you’re lucky) and a list of chores to do before you depart? Whenever I see that, I can’t even relax. Too leery to step somewhere,cook or even enjoy some drinks on a patio. Rentals are great, however if you have work to do at the end and no time to sleep in etc etc.. and stress about leaving it practically turned over for the next check in at 4, it truly was never worth it. I am sorry but that is what your cleaning fee is for. Its not for profit. That is so misleading.
    I just stayed in an air bnb in Hollywood and that rental was filthy,dirty and down right disgusting. My elbow stuck to the table as soon as I got there and sat at the table. I didnt leave a bad review publicly. I focused my review more on the location than the rental. I wrote her a private message and she never responded. WoW. Kind of what my expectation was…Annoying! MOST people do not really get this business at all.I could write a book on this. I already wrote more than I wanted.
    Matt Landau- Big fan! You are spot on with everything and I dont know exactly what you think of my post however I just wanted to vent a tiny bit..

  11. Hi everyone. Ive been cleaning vacation rentals for 15 years, working for many companies at once. Last year I decided to branch out on my own. I am hoping I have not made a mistake as I’ve invested a good amount to get up and running. We also offer linens and property management/ emergency services etc….. i figured once web page was up and if I marketed it that business would come in however that has not been the case. That said, we started in off season and its slow. But I am concerned this busy will be harder to grow than anticipated. Any pointers on advertising etc. We are in Myrtle Beach

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