How Should Vacation Rentals Deal With Hellraisers, Complainers and Otherwise Difficult Guests

Vito PauletićTourism Marketing
6 min read

The customer is always right, they say. 

They also say nothing is impossible but have you tried licking your elbow or sneezing with your eyes open?

The reality is, some overused adages make no sense at all, and believing customers are never wrong is on par with believing the earth is flat.

Customers are people. People can be wrong, impolite, overly-demanding and anything in between. If you happen to be a vacation rental manager, you’ll know this all too well yourself. 

You are able to spot them from a mile away — those who are hell-bent on causing mischief — because you’ve seen it all. You’ve handled so many guests you know what’s normal and what isn’t.

Running a vacation rental comes with this superpower. You know what the appropriate check-in time is, you know what a clean room looks like, you even know what the acceptable Wi-Fi speed is. 


You would think that, by consistently maintaining these standards, every guest you encounter will leave your property with words of praise and a big smile on their face.

But, sadly, that’s not the case. While in the minority, there will be those who will try to pass manufactured complaints for legitimate concerns — most likely to take advantage of your service. 

How should you deal with the troublemakers? Let’s find out. 

Prepare for the Most Common Complaints

So you’ve had a complaint from your guest. Whether it’s bogus or valid, deal with it the same way: with utmost respect and professionalism.

Don’t panic. You’re not the first nor the last to receive one. Just remember the British Museum has a 3,800-year-old Babylonian tablet on display — the very first written complaint known to man. 

Credit: UNSW

Complaints are the part and parcel of the hospitality industry. Some are realistic and some aren’t, but in most cases, all your guests need is a little guidance, some additional information or a bit of calming down. 

Patience and compassion are key here; your guests are less likely to remain upset if they know their voice is being heard and taken into account. 

A 2008 analysis of hotel customers’ most common complaints found 18 problem categories, of which the top five make up almost three-fourths of all filed complaints.

Among the most common problems hotel guests reported were rude and inattentive staff, as well as failures in service delivery. 

Whether it’s the inadequate room temperature, too much noise, or a service-related complaint (late or cold meal), you, as a manager, should learn to address and rectify legitimate issues, as well as diffuse the problem which isn’t entirely based in reality. 

Being well-prepared is one of the best strategies here. To protect yourself against false accusations, make sure you: 

  • Have a strong welcome message ready: This includes a confirmation of the reservation, a thank you note, the directions to your property and your contact information. It’s also a good idea to let your guests know whom to contact in case of any questions, concerns, or emergencies. Rentlio’s email templates come in handy here, as they are automatically sent to your guests when a booking has been made.
  • Declare your house rules online. House rules printed and plastered on your wall won’t cut it. If possible, post the house rules on the platforms you’re listed on (such as Airbnb). This way, the guest must agree to abide by them before making the booking. Any potential problem arising as a violation of your house rules will never be a debate and the platform is more likely to take your side if the rules are clearly advertised on your listing. 
  • Record all your communication. Whenever possible, stick to text messages and emails instead of phone calls. This way, you always have a recorded conversation in print to fall back onto in case of a dispute.

Keep Calm & Resist the Urge to Fly off the Handle

Don’t be like me. 

Last spring I had a very peculiar guest. In order to protect myself from any libel charges, I shall keep the man’s name to myself.

Let’s just call him a migratory bird. After all, this was the nickname he has used to rate his stay a 6 on Booking.com, the lowest score to ever grace our listing.


Migratory bird was a bit of a nightmare, despite only staying with us for a few days. 

Mainly, he was aggrieved with the lack of reception at the property (despite the fact we’re clearly advertised and operate as a private accommodation rental). He also complained about the main entrance being difficult to find, which I wrongly assumed was a joke at first.

And perhaps most bizarrely, he would knock on my door at odd hours in the morning, each time with a new objection, each one more peculiar than the last. 

I tried my best to rectify the situation each time, surpassing both the language barrier and my temper, but whatever issue I managed to resolve had always been followed with a displeased grunt-and-go.

It was downright exhausting. 

So you’ll understand I was rather enraged when I saw the review. Impulsively, I wrote the guest an insulting reply. I called him the n-word (a nutcase) and immediately received a warning from the Customer Service Team at Booking.com.


I apologized to the guest and learned to practice patience and compassion. It was a truly unprofessional remark and all of us working in the service industry should learn to keep calm, even when brought to the very end of our tether.

Mr. Bird, if you’re reading this: once again, I am sorry for ruffling your feathers.

Handling Difficult Guests is not that Difficult 

The point is, in this line of work, difficult guests are bound to walk through your door.

Treat them with the same degree of respect, care, and politeness you would treat any other guest and you’ve already done your part. 

The customer is not always right, but neither are you. Take each complaint seriously, work on improving your service delivery, and whatever you do, don’t let your temper get the best of you. 

Trust me, it’s just not worth it. 

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Vito is a content contributor at Rentlio. A trained journalist who switched to the dark side and now writes conversion-driven copy and an occasional blog post along the way. Proud father of two dogs.