Vacation Rental Agreement 101 : What is a short-term rental contract?
A short-term rental contract (also known as a vacation rental agreement) is an document highlighting the legal agreement between the owner / manager and the tenant / renter. All agreements highlight several important elements, including, but not limited to:
- Names of each guest and dates of stay
- Terms of payment & security deposit
- Cancellation policy
- Check-In and Check-Out policies
- Cleaning and Maintenance
- Maximum Occupancy
- House rules
- Missing and damaged items
This post will explain how to customize our free template to make the perfect vacation rental agreement for your Airbnb or vacation home. Make sure at the top of your agreement you include the names of each renter and the dates of stay. Please note, it is always best to have an attorney look over legal documents before using for your vacation rental property. Please fill out your name and email below if you need assistance.
First, Terms of Payment for Vacation Rentals
First off, highlight the terms of payment for your rental property. When are your payments due? Most vacation rental payments are due in full 60-90 days before check-in. Commonly, renters pay around 25% of the booking upfront, with the remainder due 60-90 days prior to check-in. When payment is not collected in full, usually a cancellation policy protects the owner / manager from risk of a renter not committing to their reservation. If there is a security deposit, please explain amount and refund policy in the terms of payment section.
Terms of payment should detail the exact costs per night, applicable taxes, extras like pool heat and cleaning fees, security deposit and the arrival and departure dates of the stay. Clearly highlight check-in and check-out dates and times so there is no confusion.
Cancellation policy for vacation rentals
Secondly, all vacation rentals have a cancellation policy to protect both the owner and renter in the event of a cancellation. HomeAway and AirBnB have their own cancellation policies you can choose from. For your convenience, I have linked AirBnB cancellation policies.
If you are choosing your own cancellation policy, I usually go with full refund if cancelled within 60 days, no refund if cancelled after. This is common, because if a guests cancels and you cannot rebook, you will lose a lot of rental income.
Check-In and Check-Out Policy for Vacation Rentals
Thirdly, vacation rental check-in and check-out policies let your guests know how to get in and how to depart smoothly.
Check-In Policy for Vacation Rentals
Guest check-in time across the vacation rental industry is usually between 10-11am. What time should you choose? Well, this question is twofold. On one hand, the guest wants an extra hour to sleep so 11am may be best for great reviews. On the other hand, if you have a large home and an arrival departure on same day, your housekeepers may not have enough time between 11am-4pm to prepare the home properly. The choice is yours, but I personally prefer 10am.
Next, let's discuss late check outs. Your vacation rental agreement should clearly explain that late checkouts are allowed up to a time of your choosing, but charge 1/2 a nights rent for a late checkout. Do not allow a late checkout if you have a same day check-in. Seems obvious, but remember to check that calendar!
Check-Out Policy for Vacation Rentals
Equally as important, your check-out policy in your vacation rental agreement needs to clearly explain what is expected of your guests upon check out. A check-out policy for a vacation rental includes:
- Check-out is at 10am. Late check-outs are subject to one-half nightly rent rate.
- Please place towels by the washing machine
- If dishes were used, please start dishwasher
- Take out trash and place in trash receptacle
You can add or remove check-out rules as you wish.
Cleaning and Maintenance in Vacation Rental Agreement
Use this section to lay out expectations for guests on the standard of cleanliness and how they should leave your home when they depart. Be reasonable, guests will usually strip beds and put dishes in dishwasher, but they will not clean the home if they are paying a cleaning fee. Next, let guests know how to contact you if there is a maintenance issue and how they should expect you to respond.
Do not forget to let your guests know what maximum occupancy levels are. If your home allows a maximum of 8 guests, then it is 8 guests. In the first section of a vacation rental agreement, all names of guests should be listed. Any extra guests are in violation of rental agreement and should be charged per guest per night accordingly. This section prevents horror stories - like large parties with loud music!
House rules for vacation rentals
House rules are extremely important. Luckily for you, we have a related blog post on house rules for vacation rentals.
Click on the link above for house rules to insert in your vacation rental agreement.
What about a breach of my vacation rental contract?
Explain consequences of breaching the contract in a professional way. If the contract is breached and you clearly highlight what occurs in the case of a breach, you cover yourself.
Missing and Damaged Items
Next, our least favorite part. It breaks my heart, but guests sometimes take or damage your property. Vacation rental agreements should clearly state guests will be charged for damaged or missing items from their security deposit or beyond if necessary. There should be no surprises here.
Vacation Rental Accidental Damage Insurance
If you offer vacation rental accidental damage insurance, highlight what the policy covers and does not cover so expectations are set. Commonly confused, guests think all damages are covered by a small insurance fee they pay on the booking - this is not commonly the case and you will be on the hook if you do not include details in your vacation rental agreement.
What next? To receive your free vacation rental agreement template, please fill out the form below. Need a custom agreement for your vacation rental home? Let us know! We can help.