10 Contacts from Renters and How to Handle Them

    1. “We've been driving for 45 minutes and still haven't found Ocean Ave.”

    How to fix it: First off, admit that you can get pretty snarly, too, after traveling in a plane, train or automobile to get to your vacation destination. So, it's fairly likely that your guests can get a bit tired and testy, too. Add to that an extra 45 minutes in the car trying (unsuccessfully) to find your home… and they're going to be downright cranky. So, when you get that call, text or email at 11:30pm, try to keep this in mind and be patient.

    First, have your guest pull over into a gas station or other landmark with an address. If you recognize the landmark, give them step-by-step directions to your home, and if possible stay on the phone with them until they arrive. If you don't recognize the landmark and can get to a computer or tablet, look up their current location on Google Maps and use the “Directions” feature to get the exact steps they'll need to take to reach your home.

    How to prevent this problem in the future:
    Create thorough directions that steer your renters through each twist and turn of the road to your rental. Online mapping sites have undoubtedly made it easier for a lot of us to get around; however, they are not sufficient for sending to your guests.
    Try to be available by cell phone when your guests are checking in… just in case.

    2. “I opened the lockbox and there are no keys inside."

    How to fix it: It’s almost a given that something like this will happen in the middle of dinner, so before you start yelling obscenities, consider your options. If you don't have a backup lockbox, call your housekeeper to see where he or she is and if they can quickly get to your property to let in your renters. If you can't get a hold of your housekeeper (and no one else has keys to your home), you may have to call a locksmith.

    How to prevent this problem in the future:
    Give clear checkout instructions to your guests regarding keys to help ensure that they put the keys back into the lockbox before they leave.
    Install a backup lockbox somewhere on your property. Don't give the code to anyone except as an absolute last resort.

    3. “I just got to your home and there's another family already here."

    How to fix it: Uh oh. Your first step is to figure out exactly what's going on. Get the names of both sets of renters and double-check their info against your records. Often the problem lies on the side of one of the guests. Perhaps they read the rental agreement wrong or maybe they thought that they rented your property, but actually rented a neighbor's. If you did, in fact, book both renters in your home for the same dates, you have a double-booking on your hands.

    It's your responsibility to at least try to find another vacation rental for one set of the guests. First, try calling everyone in your network of local owners. If no one's home is available, start calling property owners listed on vacation rental sites with a sizeable supply of homes in your area or contact one of the larger property management companies. Unless there is a huge event going on in your market, you should be able to find a suitable alternative for your guests.

    How to prevent this problem in the future: Double-bookings are one of the most common fears of vacation rental owners. Avoid mishaps by creating a sound system for organizing bookings.
    Get everything in writing. If you're not currently using a rental agreement, you're definitely at higher risk for double-bookings.
    Also, it never hurts to create a network of other owners in your market. Not only will you know who to call if you ever double-book, you'll be able to refer guests, discuss market trends, and potentially share maintenance.

    handling cleaning problems at vacation rentals4. “Are the sheets and towels supposed to be laying in piles on the floor?"

    How to fix it: First off, give your housekeeper a call to find out why the heck the home hasn’t been cleaned. If you can't reach your regular housekeeper, call your backup. If you don't have a backup, call other owners in your area to see if their housekeeper could be available. While your home is being cleaned, send your guests to dinner—on you.

    How to prevent this problem in the future:
    Communicate clearly with your housekeeper. This may mean informing him or her each time you secure a booking and also sending a reminder the night before each check-in.
    Get a backup phone number for your housekeeper.
    Have a backup housekeeper (or two) that you can call in a pinch.
    Stock your owner's closet with cleaning supplies, an extra set of linens for each bed, and extra towels, and hide a key somewhere in your home. This way, you have the option of having your incoming guests clean the home if you can't reach a housekeeper or cleaning service (or if it's 2am when the guests arrive). If your guests end up cleaning your home, be sure to refund your cleaning fee and consider giving them the first night for free.

    5. “It's 105 degrees outside and the A/C isn't working."

    How to fix it: First, find out if the guests may have left any doors or windows open for an extended period of time. When it's blazing outside, it doesn't take very long for the heat to move indoors if given access. If your guests haven't left a door open, next have them turn off your A/C. Then, have them go outside to look at your A/C unit. Is there ice on the condenser? If yes, have them leave the unit off for 30 or 40 minutes so the unit can thaw out. If no, your unit may be broken and you should call an HVAC repair company.

    How to prevent this problem in the future:

    Instruct guests not to prop open doors when checking in.
    To keep your air conditioning unit in tip-top shape, have it cleaned and serviced twice a year.  If your unit is reaching the end of its life, consider replacing it before it breaks to avoid future headaches.
    Consider stocking your home with a few oscillating fans — just in case.

    6. “I can't connect to the wireless Internet."

    How to fix it: Why does technology have to be so gosh darn complicated? Connecting to wireless Internet can be tricky — even for the tech savvy. If your guest can't get the wireless Internet to work, you should troubleshoot with the renter over the phone to determine the source of the problem.

    First off, have your guest double-check that they're entering your wireless key and password correctly. If yes, have your guest hook their laptop up directly to the modem using an Ethernet cord. If the guest is able to connect, then the problem likely lies with your wireless router or your guest's wireless card. If the guest is still unable to connect, the problem is likely your modem or a service outage. Before calling your Internet company, have your guest reset the modem by holding down the reset button for 15 seconds. If the guest still cannot connect after the reset, call your Internet company to determine if there are any outages in your area. If your Internet should be working, have your Internet company call your guest to do further troubleshooting.

    How to prevent this problem in the future:
    Avoid at least a few phone calls by providing detailed instructions for using the wireless Internet in your welcome book.
    Have directions for resetting the wireless key and password handy, but don't necessarily include the directions in your book (or your guests will change it without need and you'll have to constantly update the directions in your welcome book).

    cleaning vacation rental toilet7. “Um, there seems to be a problem with the toilet. It won't flush."

    How to fix it: To start, suppress your gag reflex and remember this is probably a pretty embarrassing call for your renters to make. You can bet that the guests have done everything in their power to fix the problem themselves, but just in case, walk them through the steps for unclogging a toilet (using a plunger, etc.). If they've tried everything they can think of to fix the toilet, you may have to call a plumber.

    How to prevent this problem in the future:
    Supply a plunger for each bathroom. It's amazing what dilemmas your renters can fix themselves with the right tools.
    Set clear rules for which items are allowed to be flushed. It's perfectly acceptable to include a clause in your rental agreement regarding toilet rules.
    Keep in mind that the occasional plumbing problem is inevitable. That's why it's vital to have the contact info for a reliable plumber (and a backup) handy.

    8. “The scratching in the walls is keeping me from sleeping."

    How to fix it: Your first reaction might be that your guest is hearing voices in his head and is therefore completely nutty. But whether your home is located within a national forest or within the city centre, at some point or another you may have to deal with pests. First, get all of the details you can from your guest to better assess the situation. Then, call a pest control company.

    How to prevent this problem in the future:
    Schedule regular pest service to mitigate your risk of an unpleasant infestation, but keep in mind that no preventive measure will completely avert the occasional ant, mouse, or cockroach.
    Outline clear rules regarding food waste and cleanliness in your rental agreement.

    9. “When I close the dishwasher, nothing happens."

    How to fix it: First, stifle any urges to start screening your guests according to their IQ scores. Then, you may have to ask questions like: Did you press the start button? Is the latch flipped? Is the door securely shut? Do you have the light switch that powers the dishwasher turned on? Next, have the renter check the power supply. If this doesn't work, call an appliance repairman or your local hardware store for a replacement dishwasher.

    How to prevent this problem in the future:
    If there is a trick to using your dishwasher, be sure to give detailed instructions for use in your directions and your welcome book.
    While you may not be able to prevent your dishwasher from breaking, you can be prepared for the occurrence by having contact info for a reliable appliance repair-person in your Rolodex.
    You should also research the home improvement stores in your area to see which ones will deliver to your home.

    10. “I just found a Cheerio® under the sofa."

    cleaning problems at vacation rentals10
    How to fix it: At some point in your vacation rental life, someone will inevitably call with a complaint as unimportant as this. First, put on your psychologist hat and assess the situation to find out if the guest is really upset about the Cheerio® or if there is a deeper root to the problem. Most often when a guest complains about a seemingly small cleanliness problem:

    1. Your home is not acceptably clean, but instead of frankly telling you this, the guest tiptoes around the fact by complaining about something small. If your guest eventually spills that your home is unacceptably dirty (and you feel their complaint is reasonable), send your guests to lunch or dinner on you while your housekeeper (or backup housekeeper) gives your home a good scrub.

    2. Your home is not what they expected and they're not happy. While photos and descriptions go a long way in describing the features and feel of your home, occasionally you may have a guest show up who thought that your home was bigger, more luxurious, closer to town, etc. Since they cannot complain about their misperception, they may choose to complain about smaller, more tangible things like cleanliness. Do your best to appease these guests by selling them on the great features your home does offer and the attractions that are near your home — and apologize for the Cheerio®.

    3. Something else has upset the guest and they're taking it out on you. Maybe she's been in the car for 12 hours with five cranky kids. Or maybe they just found out that their favorite daytime soap has been canceled. No matter what the external grievance is, it's not your fault. While on the phone with the guest, put on your best customer service hat, but don't let yourself fret over things outside of your control.

    4. The guest is one of those who you'll never please. You know the type. The guest who never thinks that your windows are clean… enough. The guest who wants to know the last time that you disinfected the handrails on your balcony. The best way to deal with a guest like this is to placate him/her the best that you can within reason. You may be tempted to turn off your phone while these guests are in your home, but be wary: The types of guests who complain about seemingly silly things are the same ones who enjoy nothing more than writing negative reviews of your home on every website they can find.

    How to prevent this problem in the future:
    Communicate clearly with your housekeeper about expectations.
    Create a checklist of tasks that you'd like to be completed between each guest and a list of tasks to be completed monthly, quarterly, or annually to ensure the cleanliness of your home.

    *Last Updated April 11, 2018

    © Copyright HomeAway, Inc. 2009 - Present