We’re packing for a 2-month trip and haven’t found a short-term rental guest. I’m getting anxious. Can I find a house-sitter? Can we afford this expensive trip without extra cash from the rent?
The funny thing is that I’ve already turned down a couple of prospective guests. Maybe that was stupid, I think when I’m tossing and turning at 3 a.m. But in the light of day, I know I made the right decision. It’s much better, I remind myself, to trim our travel budget and ask a friend to check on our home while we’re gone than incur the hassles – and run the risk — of letting the wrong people stay here.
Why Turn Down a Short-Term Rental Guest?
It’s every short-term rental host’s dilemma: you want your home to be occupied by paying guests who will care for it while you’re away. But there are good reasons for declining a guest, no matter how badly you want one. For example:
- The inquiry is obviously a scam
- The dates won’t work
- The people aren’t a good fit for your home
- The guests badger you to the lower price
- The guests keep asking the same questions
- The guests balk at giving give you information about themselves and/or talking with you on the phone
- You spot inconsistencies in the guests’ “story” and/or what they say keeps changing
- You have a strong sense that something is wrong
The inquiry is obviously a scam
Every so often I get an inquiry that smells like fish left out on the counter for too long: “Dear Sir or Madam….” “I am helping a friend with a sick child….” “Your place looks wonderful. Please send your banking information so I can wire the full amount of the rent….”
Those phrases are red flags that make me sit up and take notice: they’re clues to a possible scam. I don’t bother responding to an obvious scam inquiry – in fact, it’s better not to. I dump the inquiry in the scam folder and when appropriate, alert the listing site.
The dates won’t work
Just this morning I was excited to hear from a local family who need a place to stay while their home is being renovated. I so wanted to say “Yes!” But they need a place for 90 days, and we are going to be gone for only 5 weeks. So I had to say, “Sorry, no.”
Dates that don’t work is the most common reason I say no to an inquiry. But I always respond. Sometimes the guests’ dates or our own are flexible enough to make the rental work.
Guests aren’t a good fit for your home
Another common reason I politely decline is that our home simply isn’t a good fit for the guests. For example, we have only two beds, and we don’t want guests putting air mattresses on the living room floor, so we can’t accept large groups. We’re in a suburban area with no useful public transportation. Our yard isn’t fenced and our deck isn’t safe for toddlers, so we discourage guests with very small children.
Guests badger you to the lower price
I don’t mind if guests try to bargain – I do that myself. But I turn down guests who keep trying to get me to lower the price after I’ve said clearly that it’s firm. Guests who haggle about the price might not be able to afford the rent, or they might be on a fishing expedition, trying to land a deal.
Guests keep asking the same questions
I go on alert when a guest keeps asking questions I’ve already answered and that are clearly answered in the listing. Guests who ask the same questions over and over might not be paying attention or are feeling unsure about the rental. Whatever the reason, chances are that our home won’t meet their expectations. To avoid hassles, I seriously consider turning those guests down.
Guests balk at giving you information about themselves and/or talking on the phone
“Is it safe to rent out your home?” I get that question a lot. My answer is, “Yes, but….” There’s always a risk when you open your door to people you don’t know. But there is far less risk if you know something about them and establish a person-to-person connection.
I ask guests questions about themselves, such as where they live and work and why they’re coming to our area. In additional to exchanging email messages, I always set up at least one phone conversation. Our guests have always been happy to tell us about themselves and to talk on the phone; we’d turn down any who would not.
You spot inconsistencies in the guest’s “story” and/or what the guest says keeps changing
A guest says she’s a senior manager at XYZ Corporation, but her LinkedIn profile indicates that she left that company two years ago. In one email, she spells her name “Joanne,” and in another, “Jo Ann.” She initially says that she’s coming to your area to visit a friend; later she says she’s relocating, and “by the way, I have a very well-behaved 13-year-old poodle.”
I would thank that person for her interest, find a reason to say no, and wish her luck finding the right place. That many inconsistencies and shifts in the guest’s “story” could indicate trouble.
You have a strong sense that something is wrong
In the end, trust your gut instinct when deciding whether to accept the guest or turn them down. Long-time short-term rental hosts have learned that if something seems wrong, there’s a good chance that something is. It’s far better to turn down a guest or cancel a booking than to take risks with your home, property, and peace of mind.
Tips for Turning Down Short-Term Rental Guests
Even when you have a good reason, it can be hard to say “no” to a guest. But you don’t have to feel guilty. There are ways to make declining a short-term rental easier for both you and the guest.
- Be clear, friendly and polite
- Suggest an alternative
- Be truthful
- Treat everyone equally
Be clear, friendly and polite
In an attempt to avoid saying “no,” it’s easy to come across as vague or abrupt, or to ramble on about reasons before getting to the point. Simply thank the guest for their inquiry, politely decline, give the reason if it’s appropriate, and wish the guest luck in finding the right place.
“Thanks for your inquiry. Unfortunately, our home won’t be available during the month of March next year. Please think of us if you plan another visit to our area….”
“Thanks for asking about renting our home for your family reunion next summer. I’m sorry, but we’re not set up for so large a group….”
“We appreciate your interest in renting our home over the holidays, but we can’t accept pets….”
To think about:
- Some listing sites have pre-written messages you can send when turning down a guest. Those messages can save you time but they’re vague and impersonal. If you use a pre-written message, take a moment or two to customize it. The guest will appreciate even that brief human connection.
- You don’t have to give specific reasons for declining a short-term rental, but it can be helpful to the guest if you do. Who knows? Maybe the guests can change their dates or leave their dog at home.
Suggest an alternative
If you have to turn down a guest, consider suggesting other places they might try. For example, when I need to decline an inquiry because the dates are wrong, I recommend a nearby friend who also rents out her home. That’s helpful to both of us, and guests appreciate our offer of help.
Tell the truth!
There is never a reason to lie when you turn down a guest. It’s not respectful, for one thing. For another, lies have a way of coming back and smacking you in the face. Don’t say you have another guest for that period if you don’t. Don’t tell guests your HOA won’t allow more than four people to stay over if that’s not true. Give the real reason if you can. But if you can’t, it’s better simply to say something like, “We’re sorry, but we won’t be able to accept this rental at this time. Good luck finding the right place, and enjoy your stay in our area.”
Treat everyone equally
It’s not right – and can be illegal – to turn down guests based only on such factors as their race, gender, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or age. But it’s all too easy for our biases to creep into our decision-making. Think very carefully about your reasons for declining a guest.
To think about: Some listing sites penalize hosts for declining bookings. Check the site’s policies, and read the comments on the site’s community forums. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t turn guests down if you have a good reason to do so, only that you want to know in advance about any possible impacts.
Have you ever had to turn down a short-term rental guest or been turned down yourself? We’d like to hear about it! Please tell us your story in the comments or on our Facebook page.