A Bill of Rights for Vacation Renters?

for-rent I haven’t had a rant for a while so think it’s time to get something that’s been bothering me recently out in the open.

Don’t go into this business if you don’t like people

If you went into a store, there were no lights on, it was cold and you were totally ignored, wouldn’t you just walk out again and never go back? If there was something you absolutely had to purchase perhaps you’d stay until the transaction was completed, but bets are that you wouldn’t be too happy.

I speak to vacation rental owners every day. The ones that are really successful seem to be those who care about their guests, are considerate about their needs, and really want them to have a good time. Then there are the ones who should never be renting out their properties at all. Sure, they like the money that comes in – to them its an easy way to make a few bucks and pay the taxes, but they couldn’t care less about the people who spend their hard earned money on a vacation in their rental home.

I also talk with a lot of renters in an effort to match them up with the cottage of their dreams, and the stories they have of past experiences with vacation rental just blow me away.

Here’s one example of the sheer indifference a vacation rental owners has towards his guests:

A family arrived at their rented property at night to find it in total darkness, after a 3 hour drive from home. When they finally found the key which had been left on a hook on a nearby tree, and entered the property it seemed the power was out because none of the light switches worked and the place was perishing cold. Ahhh….that would explain the unwelcoming nature of their arrival. They were right, because when they finally found a flashlight, and one of the group picked up the erroneously named “Welcome Book” the first thing they read were the instructions on how to turn the electricity on, and a warning that it may take an ‘hour or two’ before the place would heat up.

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident and I just hear these stories too many times. Some other complaints were:

  • Beds with flimsy comforters and no extra blankets
  • Old and lumpy mattresses
  • No toilet paper provided
  • Plastic dinnerware and glasses (the owner said he’d had too many breakages)
  • Unclean bathrooms
  • Satellite TV disconnected with no notice
  • Misrepresentation of features in general

So, on behalf of renters everywhere I am submitting this as a:

Bill of Rights for Renters of Vacation Homes

We have paid you money to rent your vacation home for a short period of our lives. Like any consumer we have rights attached to this purchase.

We have the right to:

A clean property. This means you have vacuumed under the bed and I won’t find dubious scrunched up tissues, dust bunnies and various items of underwear. (Yes, folks, I stayed in a cottage a few years ago and this is what I found under the bed). It also means there’s no food debris in the cupboards; the microwave is clean and doesn’t smell of popcorn; the bathrooms are spotless and there’s no dog poo on the lawn.

A comfortable mattress. I know some people like rock hard mattresses and some like them super soft, but all I want is one that doesn’t look as though it was bought at a yard sale, isn’t lumpy and stained and is likely to give me a decent night sleep. I am on holiday after all.

The features as advertised. If you listed a ‘home entertainment theatre system’, I don’t expect a 21” TV with an indoor aerial. If you’ve said we’ll ‘enjoy great swimming’, that should mean off the shore or dock, and not 30 feet out after we’ve waded through soft muck, weeds and lily pads

To be told if anything has changed. I might have booked your property for the sole reason it had twin beds in one of the rooms and won’t be happy if there are now bunk beds. If you change anything you have advertised, I need to know before I arrive.

Privacy. I understand you might live next door but please don’t wander over every time I am sitting on the dock having my morning coffee, or decide to join us if we are having a camp fire at night. We are friendly people but need our own space. Wait for us to invite you, and if we don’t, it’s not a personal insult to you – we came on this type of vacation to enjoy our private time as a family.

Clear departure instructions. I’m not psychic. Please don’t expect us to guess what we have to do before we leave. If you have asked us to leave the place as we found it, you might have to offer a reminder because we were tired when we arrived and can’t really remember what it looked like then. If we need to clean, then a cleaning checklist would be helpful.

I know this may not sit well with some owners and I will probably get a ton of emails arguing that owners have rights too, and I am not disputing that. Remember I wrote only last week about a group at my cottage who are now on my blacklist.

I just feel very strongly that the moment an owner of a property advertises it to the public, they become a provider to the travel market and must take on the responsibilities that come with that role. If they don't like that aspect of it, they should not be renting out in the first place.


We couldn’t agree more with this article, and have created just such a bill of rights for users of our small-but-growing not-for-profit listing site, established and run by caring owners themselves.

It dismays me that owners, who must surely have been on the receiving end of disapointment at lest once when renting a holiday home, could happily go on to dish out the same careless treatment to others.

Heather Bayer

Hi Jane

I couldn’t edit your post to include your URL so here it is:

Jane’s site at http://www.yourholidaymatters.com is a unique listing site that is solely for owners who care about their guests and manage their properties to a stringent set of standards. I’m hoping to interview Jane for a post about YHM very soon.


“Privacy. I understand you might live next door but please don’t wander over every time I am sitting on the dock having my morning coffee, or decide to join us if we are having a camp fire at night.”

Interesting one that – I think there is a question of degree here. When we are around I do like to call in as I believe it shows we care. OTOH I am as careful as can be not to intrude. I do think that guests appreciate SOME attention.

Margaret Leach

Our terms and conditions are presented as a 2-way charter between owners and guests. I think most situations work best when the 2 sides are in balance:

We agree to:Provide top quality accommodation in excellent condition and spotlessly clean for arrival from 15.00 on the day of arrival.
Provide beds made up and towels in the bathroom(s). If your stay is 7 days or longer, towels will be changed part way through your stay.
Clean the apartment at the end of your stay.
Provide a welcome pack which includes enough for your first breakfast (details in your booking confirmation).
Pay the local tourist tax on your behalf.
Provide tourist and activity information in English.
You agree to:Treat the apartment and its contents with care.
Leave the apartment in good order by 10.00 on the day of departure unless a late departure has been agreed in advance, with the washing up done.
Not smoke in the house or gardens.
Not bring animals to the property.
Sort all of your rubbish for recycling during and at the end of your stay.
Be careful with use of energy by not leaving lights on in rooms/areas not being used and not opening windows without turning off the radiators first.

Margaret Leach

We try to let guests approach us when they want to, although we will ask if everything is OK if we bump into them.

We once stayed in an apartment which was managed by an expat Brit. Every day of our stay, he texted or emailed me in the morning asking what we had planned and offering help (he was in a neighbouring village). I told him each time that we had our day planned. We are experienced travellers and knew what we wanted to do. After we returned home, he emailed me about our stay used the word ‘upset’ 3 times in the email to describe his reaction to the fact that we did not take up his offers of advice on where to go. Whenever we think now how to handle guests, we remember that experience and take a step back.

We do notice though that the majority (not all) of our guests do not actually come on holiday to be alone and they actually welcome contact with us and other guests. But they are in the driving seat.

Heather Bayer

@John – I completely get your point and if I was at a rental with the owner next door, I would enjoy a welcoming chat so I could ask a few questions. After that I would prefer to be in the driving seat.

@Margaret – Ouch…would you go back there? I heard from a renter who spent her whole week trying to avoid the owner who came across every time they set foot on the deck. She would bring her coffee, sit down and not budge until they told her they were going out. They felt too uncomfortable to ask her not to keep dropping in, and ended up eating inside instead of enjoying the deck and the great views. Sad.

@Margaret – Like your charter – I’d like to write a post on that. Can I quote it?

Margaret Leach

Heather – no we would not go back there! In fact, when we started out I was quite concerned to play down the resident Brit owner thing (for exactly the reasons I set out above!). But this is a new area for most people who come here and they welcome the support.
As far as the charter goes, you are welcome to quote it (attributed, of course, with our web address!). We feel very strongly about the 2 way street thing and I think, as with most relationships, mutual respect brings the best out of everyone!

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