10 Ways to Prevent Complaints and Negative Reviews For Your Vacation Rental

reviewsOh no…..a negative review! The day you get the first of these is never a happy one and there’s always a knee jerk reaction that will throw you into defensive mode. How dare they? Don’t they know what damage publicly displayed bad feedback can do? It’s completely unfair and we have to get it removed.

But hold on a moment. Take a deep breath and take some time to consider what prompted the negative comments. Could it have been easily prevented by taking a proactive approach? Although some situations are impossible to predict many complaints arise from completely preventable scenarios and taking steps to avoid them can save you time, stress and the potential for negative reviews.

Here’s a few you may want to consider. Some have examples drawn from real Flipkey reviews.


  1. The property was not as described

Giving a misleading impression or being economical with the truth of a situation will generally come back to bite you with a complaint that the property was not ‘as described’. Nobody wants surprises and if the reality doesn’t match with the description and photos you’ve provided, because you have omitted a significant feature, a complaint is bound to follow. Being transparently open about the shortcomings of your property can bring you more satisfied customers because people appreciate honesty and candour.

Prevent this by: Being upfront with the negatives as well as the positive of the property


  1. Beds are uncomfortable

“the twin beds were squeaky and not terribly comfortable”

This is a prime cause of complaint – just read a few poor reviews and this will probably be mentioned at some point. There really is no excuse for uncomfortable sleeping options in any room – and that includes the twin bedded rooms that you might think will be used only by children. Here’s a rule of thumb – if you wouldn’t sleep in any of the beds in your vacation rental don’t expect your guests will be happy either.

Prevent this by: testing out every bed in the home personally; ensuring all mattresses are new or nearly new, and not going cheap on the secondary bedrooms.


  1. Guests run out of stuff or expected items are not there

“there was no backup toilet paper, no washcloths or absorbent bathmats”

Being clear on what is provided and what is not is crucial, but it’s equally important to ensure that if an item is to be supplied it is there when your guests arrive, and if they are to purchase their own replacements they understand this.

Guests have higher expectations than in the past, and since most have come to the vacation rental option with experiences of hotels and resorts, they often expect similar facilitites and supplies. The days of providing a single roll of toilet paper and no soap are over if you want to get positive reviews.

Prevent this by: Sending guests a list of the provisions that will be there on arrival. Ensure a complete check is carried out between rentals and resupply when required.


  1. Place was not clean

“ I was very disappointed in the cleanliness and how worn out everything was. The fans have so much dust built up on them I don't believe they have ever been dusted, and there was long black hair in the bathroom and master bedroom (obviously not mine).”

Don’t ever give a guest cause to complain about cleanliness by doing a thorough clean at the beginning of the season, and allowing enough time on changeover to cover the areas that can cause issues through the busy months. Always vacuum under couch cushions and under beds, and check kitchen cupboards and drawers for spills and food marks.

Prevent this by: Using a checklist on each changeover to ensure nothing is missed. Use block capitals on your checklist to say LOOK UP, LOOK DOWN and LOOK UNDER. Have a schedule for replacing furniture and furnishings and bring the schedule forward if there are early signs of wear.


  1. Facility was not available and things that don’t work

“Many problems with the refrigerator not working, showers that leaked from second floor, hot tub that was dirty. When you pay 10,000 per week you should get top quality experience.
I would not recommend this property to anyone else.”

Things happen during rentals that will make a facility unavailable for the next guests – perhaps damage to a hot tub or sauna, a damaged boat, or an appliance that breaks down unexpectedly. However if you don’t let the incoming guests know they will be upset at the loss of a facility they were expecting to have available, and it’s amazing how great the impact on them can be.

Regardless of the rental rate, appliances should work, regular maintenance should be carried out and attention to detail at every level.

Prevent this by: Being proactive and letting future guests know promptly if there’s a potential of a feature or facility being unavailable. If using a property manager, ensure they are on your wavelength in terms of your required standards.


  1. Couldn’t access property

Keyless entry systems can fail; caretakers can input incorrect codes into lock boxes, and keys can be put back in the wrong place – in fact there are many ways to create an access problem for guests. As I write this I’ve just heard from a guest who can’t get into a property he booked because the code he was given is not working. Fortunately we were able to give him the location of a spare key so he was only outside in the rain for a short time, but the situation has impacted on the anticipation and enjoyment of arrival and caused stress that was completely unnecessary.

Prevent this by: Triple checking codes and having a spare key hidden on the property that you can direct guests to when they call to tell you they are locked out


  1. Teflon and other worn out stuff!

“The pots and pans were not usable. Teflon peeling off and not very appealing. They need to change the toilet seat, shower curtain and bath rugs. Would make a big difference.”

Even in top dollar properties complaints of this nature are common. They usually relate to small items that have seen a long period of rental in homes that are consistently rented. Swapping Teflon coated pans with stainless steel can make the difference this reviewer was referring to.

Prevent this by: Don’t allow anything to get worn out before replacing. The cost of a bad review is far higher than the expense of buying new equipment and furniture


  1. No instructions about garbage disposal

Getting rid of garbage can create quite a bit of stress whether there is municipal pickup or guests are asked to transport their waste to a local landfill or transfer station. When used to a structure for garbage disposal at home where there are precise instructions for recycling and separation, and fixed pickup times, they can become anxious about how to cope in unfamiliar surroundings with different rules and schedules.

Prevent this by: Providing detailed instructions on garbage disposal & make it as easy as possible


  1. Insufficient outdoor seating

People on vacation want to sit outside to enjoy the summer weather and al fresco eating – and they usually want to do this together. Not providing enough seating will result in indoor furniture being brought outside, where it may be left exposed to the weather and nocturnal visitors. If there is a firepit, everyone will want to sit around the fire at night and if they can’t without dragging heavy patio chairs across the yard, you will hear about it.

Prevent this by: Ensuring there’s enough outside seating for the amount of people the property will accommodate, and create permanent firepit bench or log seating.


  1. Construction & neighbor issues

Your guests arrive for their peaceful vacation and are greeted by construction going on at a neighbouring property or a wedding taking place over the weekend. Although situations of this kind are not preventable, the surprise element certainly is. Letting guests know about things that may happen during their stay reduces or removes the surprise altogether and the honesty you deliver creates a higher degree of trust and confidence.

Prevent surprises by: Asking your neighbours about any planned events or building plans before the season begins so you can forewarn your guests.


Is there anything else you do that proactively prevents a complaint? Or, have you had a negative review that could have been prevented. I’d love it if you could share your experience with us.


How about ” a review posted on any web site, without the landlords permission, will forfeit the security deposit ” written into the lease?

Heather Bayer

Hi Peter – there’s been a lot written about this with arguments to both sides. Personally, if I was confident my place gave no cause for complaint, the listing was accurate, I’d created a good relationship with the guests, and dealt with any issue promptly there would be no need for this type of clause. A well-crafted and non-defensive response to a negative review can often deliver better goodwill than no review at all.

One Chic Retreat

Heather, thanks again for such an informative article. Mentioning the peeling teflon reminded me of a recent vacation rental we rented in Tahoe where all the non-stick pans were in terrible condition. The mattresses were terrible and the jacuzzi was so dirty we couldn’t use it. Although I hesitate about leaving negative reviews and have left very few, in this case the management team was so neglectful that it was necessary. After all, I don’t want other unsuspecting guests to have the same experience.

I have a question for you about cooking pans: do you think a good solution for the ubiquitous peeling teflon pans would be providing good quality cast iron pans? Do you think they are a good option for vacation rentals? They are affordable, don’t show stains and never peel.

Thanks Heather!

    Heather Bayer

    Mercedes – we tried cast iron pans in one property but guests didn’t like them so much. We had one who was a cast iron devotee who thought they were wonderful, but in the main the weight of them was an issue for guests who were not used to cast iron. I’ve been using quality stainless steel in both cottages for a couple of years and not had any issues or complaints. I’ve been through a lot of non-stick fry pans and weighed up the options of going for the more expensive Viking brand that should last longer, but have since opted to just replace them every 6 months with a new good quality but moderately priced model.

      One Chic Retreat

      Thanks Heather!


We always tell our guests that if there is anything they are unhappy about that they should call us immediately; if they leave it until the end of their vacation then it is too late for us to do anything to resolve the problem. We would offer them a bottle of wine or similar for the inconvenience and generally find guests are happy with our response and grateful for the wine!

    Heather Bayer

    Way back in my customer service training days we used to talk about the value in recovering a situation and how important that was in customer satisfaction and retention. However, there are times when guests just don’t want to complain until it comes time for the review. We call our guests, usually the day after they arrive to make sure they have settled in well and are happy with the accommodation. It’s a great opportunity to ask for feedback and we can often deal with queries then and there. This is often mentioned favourably in reviews.

Faran Nasir

This all depends on the visitors what they wants where they want to stay what things make them happy for comfort living

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