late checkout

Picture this: your checkout is scheduled for 11am. You’ve got new guests arriving to check in at 3pm. Yet, it’s 2pm and your current guests are still dawdling around. How will you have enough time to get the place cleaned and adequately prepped for the incoming renters?

Late checkout may seem like no big deal to a vacationer. But to a short term rental host, unexpected delays like this can be incredibly frustrating. It can even impact the ability to deliver a 5-star experience. 

Whether this is something you’ve struggled with in the past or you’re new to the business and are looking to avoid it, here are a few inside tips for managing and mastering the (late) checkout experience.

Set expectations upfront.

Most guests expect certain house rules from a vacation rental. Keep the noise down, don’t smoke, no pets allowed, etc. You can reduce the likelihood of guests overstaying their welcome by including details about your checkout policy right in your house rules. Communicate it clearly and often. Include it in your Airbnb listing. Post it in your welcome book. If you call, text or email to check in with guests during their stay, gently remind them about when checkout should be. The more you set expectations, the less likely you’ll be to have unexpected delays. And if you have another reservation checking in that same day, let them know that the checkout time is firm, because you only have X number of hours to prep the home for its next guests. 

Take a deposit.

As a short term rental host, you’re allowed to charge guests an upfront deposit. While this security deposit is often applied to property damage, it can also be used to offset any house rules that are broken, including – you guessed it – staying past the scheduled checkout time. If guests know they could potentially lose some or all of their deposit by missing checkout, they’ll be more likely to stick to the stated schedule. Don’t forget to list it in your house rules, and also in the posted rules inside your home. 

Charge a fee.

Most hotels assess a late checkout fee for any guests who stay past the scheduled time without making prior arrangements. It’s perfectly acceptable to do the same as a short term rental host. There are a few ways you can approach this. Some hosts charge a set hourly rate – say, $50 per hour for every extra hour past the scheduled checkout. Some charge for the entire day. In either case, the risk of being hit with a penalty is often enough to keep guests on schedule. Just remember to include the details about this fee in your rental agreement, so guests are fully aware.

Be present (even if it’s just virtually).

Making your presence known to guests around checkout time can work wonders for getting slow-goers moving. If you can’t physically be there at checkout, as is the case with most short term rental hosts, you can do the next best thing by using technology. For instance, a doorbell camera that allows you to see and speak to your guests can be a great tool for “popping in,” albeit virtually, and reminding your guests that checkout time is approaching. Personally, I like to send a reminder on the morning of checkout, reminding my guests of the checkout time to avoid any fees associated with late checkout. 

Change the time.

If you’ve implemented any of the above strategies and are still finding it difficult to get guests out on time, you may want to consider changing your scheduled checkout to an earlier time. This will at least get your guests moving a little bit earlier, so even if they still stay past the allotted time, they won’t be as late. 

Late checkout can be a hassle for short term rental hosts, but with the right approach, it doesn’t have to be a big deal. Follow the tips listed above and be sure to clearly communicate specific details about your checkout policy – especially if you’re planning to charge a fee or keep a portion of the security deposit. The more proactive you are, the less of a headache this will end up being for everyone.

If you’re still wondering how to attract your ideal Airbnb guest, check out these tips.