You have the option of setting house rules for your guests. Your house rules let prospective guests know how you expect them to behave when staying at your place.

Hosts never have to host a reservation they’re uncomfortable with. If you’re ever uncomfortable with a reservation, you can cancel penalty-free before or during a trip. An example is if the guest makes it clear they’ll likely break one of the host’s house rules, like bringing a pet or smoking. However hosts who set fewer house rules tend to get more reservations.

Airbnb provide a few common suggested rules you may wish to set. You are also able to add any other rules you choose yourself:

Additional house rules can cover anything that’s important that you’d like your guests to know. This includes things like areas of your home that are out-of-bounds or permission to have visitors.

The house rules appear on your listing page so that guests can review them before requesting to book. This has the benefit of allowing hosts to be upfront in their expectations, as well as eliminating any surprises that guests only learn about to their disappointment throughout their stay.

Despite these benefits, it also has the potential to scare off guests that are considering staying at your place too. Being too heavy-handed with your house rules gives prospective guests the impression that you’re the kind of host that’s likely to be overbearing (even if the rules themselves are fair).

Therefore, the purpose of your house rules should simply be to increase transparency and clarity around your expectations. You’ll want to use your house rules as an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to providing consistently positive experiences for all of your guests. Prospective guests should ideally see your house rules as an effort to create a great space that they will benefit from as much as you will.

Principles

Limit the Number of Rules you Mention

Section XXVII of the Clean Streets Act may state that “Dropping litter on the footpath will incur a $50 on-the-spot fine”. There’s little wiggle-room for one to argue they weren’t clear on what the rule was, or what the punishment will be for breaking it.

Your house rules are a little different.

House rules primarily establish the expectations you have of guests to eliminate any surprises that may arise throughout the duration of their stay.

Whilst you’re theoretically able to cancel a booking without penalty if a guest breaks your rule, it’ll be a drawn-out and unpleasant process to bring into effect, and a scenario you’ll want to avoid if at all possible.

You may also find it a little hard to define a definitive list of things that are and are not permitted within your place.

With all of this in mind, any attempt to build an exhaustive list of every possible rule that covers every possible contingency is an exercise doomed to fail.

This problem is compounded by the risk of putting off guests by coming across as too heavy-handed with too many rules.

You therefore need to be selective in the house rules you choose to include. Limit these to the top 3-5 most important rules to you, if you decide to include any at all.

Don’t Dump Everything in House Rules

What constitutes a rule is a broad concept.

For example, is your maximum occupancy a potential house rule? Yes, but it is also something you’re able to specify as a booking setting.

It is important to be selective in what you choose to classify as a “house rule”. There may be things you consciously omit so you don’t give the impression of being an overbearing host.

Reserve precious house rule “real estate” exclusively for things that can’t be dealt with elsewhere.

Consider also whether you’re able to communicate any of these things during pre-arrival communications, the check-in process, in house manuals you develop, or other sections of your listing page (such as the Other things to note section).

Ensure that you save your house rules exclusively for calling out any critical expectations that prospective guests need to be aware of prior to booking a stay at your place and which can’t be called out anywhere else.

Limiting Rules are Better than Blanket Rules

As we’ve established, nobody likes rules. However rules need not be only black or white – there can be grades of rules too. And a partial rule is better than a blanket rule.

For example, you may have had bad experiences in granting guests access to the kitchen. Maybe they failed to clean up after themselves? Maybe this caused you to get bugs? And maybe all of this caused frustrations with other roommates or guests?

The knee-jerk reaction would be to simply implement a rule that forebode guests having access to the kitchen. Problem solved? Yes. But a little heavy-handed? Probably so.

Given the problem you’re trying to avoid, what if the rule were simply a requirement that guests clean up after themselves if using the kitchen? This would seem reasonable and unobjectionable to your common guest as well as solve the problem you’re trying to avoid.

Be Conscious of Guest Types

You wouldn’t explain road rules to your five year old child in the same way you’d be discussing them with your teenager that’s learning to drive.

Your audience matters in how you phrase your rules. This comes down to the type of guest you most commonly attract to your place.

For example, to an ethical traveler, your request to switch off the lights and air-conditioner when not in use could be phrased as being to help the environment. This is something they’d most likely willingly support.

Make sure that whenever describing your rules, you put yourself in the shoes of your target guests. Eliminate as many objections as you’re able to pre-empt by phrasing the rule in a way that will resonate and sit best with them.

W.I.I.F.M. (What’s In It For Me?)

With a sea of choices on Airbnb, guests have a wide selection when deciding which place will be best for them. As paying customers, they’ll inevitably frame this decision around the question: What’s in it for me?

They’ll do this on multiple occasions throughout the process of deciding where they want to stay. And the influence of house rules on these decisions cannot be emphasized enough.

Your job is to explain what benefits your guests stand to gain – not lose – through your rules. When done correctly, this will transform your house rules into something that has the potential to enhance, not hinder, their travel experience.

As an example, you may have a rule requiring guests to switch off all lights, air-conditioning and heating when they leave your house. Your primary motivation will most likely be to minimize your electricity costs. Through phrasing this cleverly, you can position this rule as principally being for the guest’s benefit: Lower electricity costs = lower Airbnb overheads = savings you’re able to pass on to them.

When explained in this way, guests will more likely be understanding of your house rules once they appreciate what’s in it for them.

Reciprocity

An offshoot of the W.I.I.F.M. principle, is reciprocity – the idea that people are willing to give back the kind of treatment they receive.

This becomes especially important when what you’re offering on Airbnb is a shared or private room (i.e. living with others).

When done correctly, you’ll transform your house rule from an edict you’re imposing onto guests into a level playing field where guest and host are equals.

Examples

Hosts often ask for examples of the type of rules they should think about including on their Airbnb listings. Below is a summary of some common rule categories you may wish to include.

Do not view these as an exhaustive list that must be added in its entirety to the house rules section of your Airbnb listing. Rather, select the two or three that may be of most importance and relevance to you.

A problem-free track-record may indicate a lack of needing to implement any house rules at all. If this is the case for you, then view these examples as rules to keep up your sleeve for a time you feel it necessary to implement at your place:

  • Access: Are there prohibitions on any areas that guests are and aren’t allowed access to?
  • Amenities: Are there any rules for using any amenitiesor features of your home?
  • Behavior: Do you have any expectations around the ways guests should be behavingwithin your space?
  • CleanlinessAre there any cleaning or cleanlinessexpectations?
  • Damage: What are your expectationsaround spills or damage to property and being informed about incidents and accidents that take place?
  • Drugs: What actions will be taken if illicit drugs are consumed on the property?
  • Electricity: What expectationsor requirements do you have around lights, air-conditioning and heating being used?
  • NoiseWhat limitations are there around making noise, the volume that music can be played at, or the times that guests are expected to be quieter?
  • Security: Are there requirements to keep doors, gates or certain areas locked?

 Ensure that any rules you decide to include comply with Airbnb’s Non-Discrimination policy.

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Less Daunting Than You May Have Thought
Step 1: Starting With the Basics
Step 2: Setting the Scene
Step 3: Get Ready for Guests
Understanding Your Target Guests
Starting With a Trustworthy Profile
Use Headings and Bullets
Photos
Elements of an Airbnb Listing