How to Handle Difficult Short-Term Rental Guests – Tips & Mistakes to Avoid

dealing with bad guests

By The Hospitable Team

Picky and problematic guests wreak havoc with your reviews, relationships with neighbors, and short-term rental properties. And it can prove frustratingly hard to spot who’s going to host a party or complain about 100 little things.

So, we created this guide for handling difficult guests. 

Here, we cover how to avoid hosting them and how to manage relationships with them once they’re booked in so you can still get 5 stars even when there’s an issue to iron out.

Alongside our expert suggestions, we point out the mistakes to avoid and what tools will reduce your workload, help you develop a rapport with guests, and protect your properties and their contents from harm.

Manage guest relationships even when you sleep.

We will detect questions and answer on your behalf; send fully custom messages triggered by events, and much more!

How to avoid hosting difficult guests

If you’re managing a busy short-term rental business, difficult guests are somewhat of an inevitability. The good news is you can set up your listings to filter out guests who aren’t the right fit for you, and introduce processes that help identify potential issues. In this section, we explore how.    

Check profiles and guest reviews 

You can gain greater control over who visits your property by screening prospective guest profiles. Watch out for:

  • Reviews to check for a reluctance to comply with house rules or booking processes
  • Incomplete or new profiles could indicate a scammer, though you don’t want to discriminate against people who’ve just joined the site
  • A lack of verification or photos on an older profile could be someone using a fake identity or trying to evade responsibility   

If you’re managing more than five short-term rentals, it’s not possible to manually screen profiles. By trying to do all of the admin yourself, you could make mistakes or slow your guest’s booking experience. 

In the next section, we explore how automated screening provides a more efficient, fairer alternative. 

Use automated screening

An essential aspect of scaling your security processes is automating guest screening. Technology allows you to assess your guests’ backgrounds in real-time, at scale, and without bias, by presenting you with data from hundreds of global databases. 

Automated screening tools like Autohost and SUPERHOG integrate with rental management software like to provide objective insights that flag fraud risks and problematic guests.  

This includes name mismatches, payment concerns, credit card declines, and guest blacklists. These tools will also identify the risk of your guests using your property for spontaneous parties or criminal activities by looking at whether they’re booking locally and/or for one night. 

Turn off instant bookings

Across OTAs, instant bookings allow you to automatically accept booking requests from your guests. This is great because you can capitalize on last-minute reservations, but it also gives you less time to review the results of your screening. And, since your account can be suspended if you cancel people at the last minute when you find an issue, most guests choose to turn instant book off.  

Keep your listings up to date

To find guests who are looking for what you offer and therefore less likely to complain, you need to ensure your listings are accurate. If your pool is closed in the winter, for example, make this clear in your property description to avoid disappointing anyone. If you have no parking close by, provide helpful suggestions for where guests can park. Later, we show you how you can send this information as part of an automated message flow before check-in. 

Address your property’s flaws 

You can also use your listings to prepare guests for parts of your property that may be less than top-notch. Got a garden that’s off-limits or a nearby bar that’s really noisy? Briefly point out these issues at the bottom of your property description.

Screenshot of an Airbnb property description
In your property description, make it clear to your guests that they can contact you anytime with any issue

Provide clear house rules

You can set expectations in your listings to deter people who are interested in hosting parties or getting involved with illegal activities. Then you can send reminders of your house rules during their stay to keep them on the same page. 

Your rules should be short and simple, but they could include all of the following:

  • Smoking policies
  • Pet policies
  • Policies on children
  • Rules on parties and visitors 
  • Quiet hours
  • Off-limits areas
  • Damage policies
  • Checkout time
Screenshot of Airbnb’s rule function
Use Airbnb’s pre-set rules or easily add your own to set guest expectations from the start

With a vacation rental agreement, you can make the terms and conditions of a guest’s stay legally binding. This means you can assign penalties when they break your rules—for example, your guests might sign to agree that they will cover the costs of any furnishings damaged during their stay. 

If you choose to implement this policy, you should always outline in your listings that you require guests to sign a vacation agreement before they book. If guests find this out unexpectedly, they may cancel.

How to handle difficult guests 

Handling difficult guests can seem like a minefield. But great communication and tech solutions help you manage your relationships and reduce your workload. And this can stop even troublesome, fussy, or demanding people from causing issues or complaining. Here we look at how.  

Create an automated message flow

By strategically sending messages before, during, and after your guest’s stay, you can anticipate their needs and lower the risk of them complaining. But you don’t need to be glued to your phone in order to do this. 

Instead, you can save time with guest communications software that will stop you from constantly needing to answer guest questions. 

Your message flow might include:

  • Information about how often you’ll contact them and how they can get in touch with you
  • Local recommendations such as restaurants and events
  • Check-in times and instructions
  • Directions and parking details
  • Property access information
  • The Wi-Fi password
  • A reminder of what your guests need to do before checking out 

You can use Hospitable’s customizable templates to save time when setting up these sequences. Coming as standard in over 25 languages, you can personalize these messages with shortcodes (snippets of code) that include your guests’ names and personal details. This means you can use the same template for different guests staying at different properties. 

Maintain ongoing communication

You should schedule a message for the day after your guest checks in to see how they’re getting on. This allows you to respond to any issues the guest may have encountered before they escalate. For example, if a guest is frustrated about a broken toaster, your friendly message will give your guest the chance to report this, and you the chance to quickly get it fixed.

And, with Hospitable, you can see all messages for your properties inside a centralized inbox. With communications from Airbnb,, Vrbo, and more in one place, you’ll easily be able to respond to guest concerns after your initial check-in message. 

Be friendly, responsive, and offer solutions

On the occasions when guests do raise problems, you can reduce the risk of them leaving bad reviews with instant, automated, solution-oriented messages. These may include generic one-liners like:

  • Sorry to hear that! How can I help?
  • Thanks for letting me know. I’ll be in contact soon.
  • Could you give me a little more information?

But with Hospitable, you can also save time by building a base of canned responses that act as answers to specific guest concerns. 

These have information about your listings integrated, so you can respond to problems quickly and accurately. For example, if your guest complains about not being able to access the garden at a particular property, you can recommend a local park with great views.

Pro-tip: If all else fails and you know your guest is going to complain about their stay, you can reduce the time they have to give you a bad review by scheduling yours for the end of Airbnb’s 14-day window.

Implement noise monitoring

To reduce the risk of neighbor complaints, you can install smart devices which let you know if the volume at your property goes over a certain threshold. With NoiseAware and Minut, you’ll receive an instant alert to your phone. Then you can communicate with your guests to prevent a party or large gathering from escalating.

Learn more: Check out our NoiseAware party-prention masterclass here!

Mistakes to avoid when dealing with bad guests 

The wrong comment alone can cause a guest’s dissatisfaction to grow beyond repair. Here are three key mistakes to avoid in your communications.  

Blaming your guests

When guests raise complaints, you need to be careful not to sound defensive or judgemental as this can cause further frustration and damage your reputation as a host. Avoid asking too many questions about their actions as this can make it look like you are trying to shift blame. Instead, acknowledge your responsibility wherever possible.

You should also apply this approach when you respond publicly to negative reviews. Rather than trying to highlight the guest’s error, recognize their disappointment, apologize for your part, and clearly explain the steps you’ll be taking in response.  

Not recording all communications

Tracking your interactions with guests allows you to spot recurring issues. If you see people struggling with the check-in process, for example, you can look to make this easier in the future. 

And if you frequently have guests complain about an aspect of your property, for example, a wasp issue, you can update the checklist for your cleaning teams to address this. You can also update your property description accordingly.  

Not having vacation rental insurance

The only way to cover yourself completely against injury claims and damage to your property is with vacation rental insurance or a damage waiver. This can also deter guests who are looking to cause trouble in the first place. 

When you insure your short-term rental, your guest will receive money if they get injured, and you’ll receive money if your home or its contents are damaged.

With a damage waiver, your guests will sign to say they accept liability for any injuries that occur during their stay. And they will pay a non-refundable fee that covers any damage to your property.  

With Hospitable Direct, you and your guests can get payouts in just 30 days through integration with SUPERHOG. 

Managing difficult guests as you grow your STR business  

Difficult guests are an inevitable part of any short-term rental management experience. But there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood that you’ll be affected by noise complaints, fraud, bad reviews, and legal issues. These are:

  • Screening guest profiles
  • Turning off instant booking
  • Keeping your listings up to date and addressing your properties’ flaws
  • Providing clear house rules
  • Maintaining ongoing communication with guests 
  • Providing solutions to guest concerns
  • Managing your reviews
  • Implementing noise monitoring
  • Recording all communications 
  • Using vacation rental insurance

As you manage more properties, you can’t afford to spend hours screening guests manually or replying to messages. Automated solutions allow you to avoid difficult guests through advanced insights and to manage relationships with those that slip through the cracks. 

With the ability to update your listings easily, streamline communication, and keep an eye on your property, you’ll safeguard your relationships with your neighbors and guests, and protect your business as it grows. 

Manage guest relationships even when you sleep.

We will detect questions and answer on your behalf; send fully custom messages triggered by events, and much more!
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