Avoiding bad guests is a real issue for Airbnb owners. Bad guests cause problems for you in many different ways, they can upset your neighbours, damage your property, and more. So you really don’t want them. Here’s how to avoid them:
The real answer to this question is to trust your gut instinct: We’ve been lucky and only had a few “bad guest” experiences, but every time, something hasn’t felt right either when they booked, in the days before they arrived or when they checked in. That said, you can’t run a business based on your intuition (all the time), so in this article, I have a checklist of things you can do to rely less on your intuition and more on what’s happening, objectively.
Firstly, it’s important to say that this article is just about Airbnb, not other booking channels where perhaps you have more flexibility about how you check guests and what restrictions to impose.
1. How does the guest communicate?
How people communicate with each other says a huge amount about them (I think). I was out for a country walk the other day with my Dad and we make a habit of saying “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon” to everyone we pass.
Of the many people we met on this walk, most were very pleasant, but I’d like to take two examples as we passed each other in a matter of a minute or so, as it sticks in my mind: One person – a middle age man out for a walk with his dog looked me and my dad straight in the eye, smiled and said “Good afternoon, lovely day isn’t it”. We then met someone else a minute later on his bike, and I said my usual “Good Afternoon” – his response was “Alright mate” without making eye contact or looking at us.
I would feel extremely confident about letting my apartment to the middle age man with his dog, but not at all confident about letting it to the young man on his bike.
Exactly the same is true of Airbnb guests:
- Do they right professional, friendly messages?
- Do they respond to you?
- Do they take your calls?
You can learn a huge amount about someone through their communication style be it written or over the phone before meeting them. And if you have concerns don’t hesitate to cancel them. Airbnb actively discourages cancellations, but it’s your property and I’d rather upset Airbnb than risk my property.
2. Guests’ Airbnb Profile
The Airbnb system is not difficult to complete and it does not take long to sign up. If someone does not have a complete Airbnb profile, this begs the question: Why?
Airbnb change the rules quite regularly on what is required on a profile, but ask yourself this question: if you were looking to book on Airbnb, would you submit a complete profile or an incomplete one?
Things I’m looking to see before I approve someone are:
- Profile Photo (Why post an Avatar?!). This also means you can actually check that the person booking is the person who arrives.
- Linked Social Media Accounts. (If people are willing to link this, it’s a major (positive) trust signal).
- (For me) They must have verified government ID. Again, if not why not?
- Other reviews. I rarely take guests without other good reviews. I do sometimes, but not often. Other reviews = trust. More about that in the next section…..
- Their introduction message. Their introduction message should be specific. If someone says: “Hi Tony, I love the look for your property, I’m visiting to attend a concert, and I’ve read your reviews and would love to stay with you”. Then this is a good sign for me. Whereas if someone says “Hi, I’m looking for a nice place to stay”, this is way too vague for me, and might be concealing a party etc. Sure, these are generalizations, but there’s a reason people generalize: There’s often much truth in them.
If you have a guest who doesn’t have a complete profile, then either a) they have something to hide, or b) they can’t be bothered to complete the profile because frankly, they’re too lazy to! And, if they’re too lazy to complete their profile, they probably won’t be too bothered about looking after your property. So this is a big no for me and could mean a problem guest.
Here’s an interesting article on Forbes about why people are turned down for bookings.
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3. Guests’ Previous Reviews
This is a great feature of Airbnb and one of the reasons the platform is so popular. You can read what your guest has written about other hosts and has had written about them. Both types of reviews are useful and both can help you identify a potential problem guest.
Reviews about the guest
Of course, this is the most important thing and will flag up any serious issues. However, the caveat here is to remember that in reality, most hosts and most guests are pretty reluctant to write reviews about how they really feel for fear of bad reviews or bad review responses. So don’t take a slate of positives as being a complete endorsement of the guest, especially if there are problems with section 2 above.
The other thing to watch for is short reviews about the guest. If the reviews are just a few words, that doesn’t tell you very much. Whereas if the review is a couple of paragraphs, then it’s likely to be a strong signal to you that this is a guest to accept. An example of this would be something like:
“We really enjoyed hosting Tom and Jillian. They were a lovely couple. The communication was great, and Tom took the initiative to phone me direct to confirm the arrival information and that it was convenient with me.
Even thought they weren’t staying in our actual home, we bumped in to them a few times, and they were super friendly and seemed to be really enjoying themselves”
To me this is a very positive sign. Much more positive than: “They were nice people”. Now, granted, the second review example speaks to the host and not necessarily to the guest, but it’s still worth being aware of.
Reviews Written by the Guest
This is also something to look carefully at. Probably not as closely as the reviews about the guest, but nevertheless important. Things to watch out for include:
- Lots of complaining. Do you really want someone like that? One bad experience might not be anything to worry about, but constant criticism and nitpicking will probably be repeated.
- Any Rudeness. This would be a complete no-no for me.
- Style of writing: Do they write well or is it full of spelling and grammatical errors. It all speaks to someone’s character (or at least it might).
4. “Special Requests”
If your guest tries to communicate with you outside Airbnb, or asks for requests which are way beyond the scope of what is reasonable, beware. Examples I have experienced myself or seen on forums include:
- Requesting you go shopping for them
- Requesting you have parcels delivered for them
- Asking if “it’s alright” if they have friends over
- Requesting excessively late checkout Or early check-in
5. Communicating outside Airbnb
The whole point of Airbnb is that it is a “safe” platform, and indeed they have a vast team dedicated to trust and safety. If a guest tries to communicate with you outside Airbnb, do not. Explain that this is not acceptable under Airbnb rules.
This brings me nicely on to:
6. Paying Outside of Airbnb
This is a huge no-no and = problem guest! They whole point of the Airbnb platform is that it’s much safer than other platforms because of the two-way review process, and the host guarantee. If you accepted payment outside Airbnb this would invalidate all of this.
However this also raises the question – why are they trying to pay you outside Airbnb?
That said, if they are new to the platform, they simply may not realize how it works, so do your duty as part of the Airbnb community and educate your guests.
7. Booking “for a friend”.
Again, this is a no-no. Airbnb’s rules state that it’s the person booking that should be the person who is staying. You have the right to deny admittance if the person who arrives is not the person who booked.
Red flags this would wave to me included:
- Is this a booking for someone who, for whatever reason, can’t get an Airbnb account themselves?
- Why can’t the friend open an account?
On a suspicion level of 1-10 I would say this is pretty much a 10, so avoid as this is a major indicator of a problem guest.
Q: Much guest has left me a bad review. What should I do?
A: I’m a member of a ton of Airbnb forums and Facebook groups, and this question comes up all the time! Firstly, don’t panic. One or two bad reviews does not matter. It’s your average that counts (although I totally “ge”t that it’s hard not to take these reviews personally, but don’t – it’s wasted energy). I’ve written a post here dedicated to the subject of poor reviews/complaints.
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