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Airbnb Guest Horror Stories + How to Avoid Them At Your Rental

Inexperience makes new hosts easy targets for bad guests. Read on to learn how to prevent your own Airbnb guest horror stories.

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I'm Sabrina, a short-term rental host coach who knows starting your own Airbnb biz can quickly get waaaay too complicated. But it doesn't have to be. I help first-time Airbnb hosts like you go from overwhelmed to "Yes!! Another  booking!"
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When you start an Airbnb, you’ll quickly find that hosting is fun, challenging, and frustrating all at the same time.

During my first month as an Airbnb host, I had guests nearly every night and grossed close to $19,000 in revenue. That same month, I also had my worst group of guests ever–the type of guests that make you want to give up on hosting altogether. Unfortunately, guests like these are all too common for new Airbnb hosts.

If you’re a first-time Airbnb host who wants to avoid nightmare guests, keep reading. By the end of this post, you’ll know what hosting bad guests is really like and how to prevent your own Airbnb guest horror stories.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I’m not affiliated with Airbnb in any way (other than being an Airbnb host, of course). Read my full disclosure policy here.

My Airbnb Guest Horror Story

One of the first lessons I learned as a new Airbnb host is that nightmares are real. My second guest ever was a classic Airbnb guest horror story. Here’s what happened.

A group of friends rented my Airbnb for one (Saturday) night, threw a party, trashed my brand-new property, and started a fire.

After all the hard work I put into renovating my condo and making it a wonderful place for guests, it was really disappointing to see how badly this group mistreated it.

After they checked out, I learned from my cleaning crew that they left the entire place trashed: crushed chips on the floor, fake eyelashes stuck to the coffee table, gum stuck to one of the beds, spots on the couch, and so on. Little did I know, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

A week or so later I got a very nice message from my then-current guest. She said she turned on the oven to make dinner and started to smell smoke. Soon after, she realized it was unmistakably the smell of fire.

She opened the bottom drawer of the oven where she found a box of spare tile that I had left tucked away in the back of a closet downstairs. Someone had moved a cardboard box into the oven! (I think we can all assume who…)

Thankfully, the current guest immediately realized what was happening and extinguished the fire.

But what if she would have gone outside for a few minutes after turning on the oven? Or got caught up on a phone call? It could have turned out much worse.

These guests were incredibly thoughtful and kind about the whole ordeal. They made what would have otherwise been a terrible situation just a blip on the radar. I can’t thank them enough.

I’m not telling you this to scare you. I’m confident you can handle anything that comes your way as an Airbnb host. But, it’s important that you know what to expect so that you can prevent these issues from happening to you and navigate them successfully if they ever do. Keep reading to learn how to do just that.

How To Avoid Your Own Airbnb Guest Horror Stories

When it comes to preventing your own Airbnb guest horror stories, you first need to know that bad guests are, unfortunately, all too common with new Airbnb hosts. Inexperience makes new hosts easy targets for bad guests. But don’t worry–here are five proven ways to help prevent bad guests at your Airbnb:

Step 1: Automatically screen guests

Turning on Instant Book is one of the easiest ways to screen Airbnb guests. That’s because when you turn on Instant Book you can also turn on certain requirements that guests must meet in order to book instantly. Automatically screening guests this way saves you tons of time and stress compared to manually approving or declining every booking request.

Plus, guests love that with Instant Book they can book your place without waiting for you to manually approve their request. AND it even boosts your position in search rankings. Win, win, win.

Here’s how to turn on Instant Book and automatically screen guests:

  1. From your listing, select “policies and rules” from the left-hand menu.
  1. Then, scroll down to “Instant Book” and click “edit”.
  1. Once you turn on Instant Book, you’ll be able to require that guests booking instantly have a good track record and/or respond to a pre-booking message.

I’ve had a great experience with the “good track record” requirement and have never needed to use the “pre-booking message” requirement, but you can choose to turn on either one or both for your own listing. Learn more about these requirements here.

Recommended: How To Block Dates On Your Airbnb Calendar: 7 Tips To Price Like A Pro

Step 2: Require guests have a profile photo

Requiring a profile photo creates an extra step for guests to prove their identity, which helps weed out guests that aren’t serious. It also helps you feel like you know your guests a bit, which can help you feel more comfortable with their booking. My nightmare Airbnb guest didn’t have a profile photo, so I’ve been requiring one ever since.

Here’s how to require guests have a profile photo:

  1. From your listing, select “policies and rules” from the left-hand menu.
  1. Then, scroll down to “guest requirements” and toggle “profile photo required” to “on”.

That’s it! A super simple way to further screen your guests.

Recommended: Everything You Need to Know About the Airbnb Resolution Center

Step 3: Check the date their account was created

If guests don’t meet your Instant Book requirements, they’ll be able to send you a booking request instead. When they do, you can view their profile on the right-hand side of your message thread with that potential guest:

Airbnb Guest Horror Stories

A guest’s profile can give you a lot of insight into their history on the Airbnb platform and what hosting them would be like. When reviewing their profile, one thing that could be a sign of a bad guest is if they just created their account this month. This could (but doesn’t necessarily) indicate that they had to delete their previous account and start over.

This was another red flag with my nightmare Airbnb guests–they had just created their account the same month and had zero history on the platform. Just like not having a profile photo, there’s no guarantee that this makes them bad guests, but it’s one signal to look for. I’ve found that guests who have had their account for several years tend to be good guests, even if they don’t have many reviews yet.

Step 4: Increase your minimum night stay requirement

Not having a minimum night stay requirement was probably the biggest reason I attracted my horrible Airbnb guests. Unlike almost every other Airbnb in my area, I was letting guests stay for just one night any day of the week, even on weekends (a.k.a. party central). I was the perfect target for them.

Here’s how to increase your minimum night stay requirement:

  1. From your listing, select “pricing and availability” from the left-hand menu.
  1. Then, scroll down to “trip length” and click “edit”.
  1. Finally, specify the minimum number of nights required to book with you and hit “save”.

Step 5: Increase your nightly rate

Lastly, check your nightly rate. If it’s too low, you may be attracting low-quality guests. Here’s everything you need to know about setting the right Airbnb pricing for your property.

Recommended: 7 Tips To Price Your Airbnb Like A Pro

What to do if you ever get a bad Airbnb guest

Even with all the tips above, you may still have bad guests from time to time. When that happens, the first thing to remember is that the vast majority of guests are wonderful. One bad experience doesn’t mean you should give up hosting altogether.

All that being said, if you ever do have awful guests, here’s how to navigate it successfully:

  1. Don’t make assumptions
    • If your cleaners report damage, excessive cleaning, or missing items, ask them for explicit details, photos, and when the issues were found. Don’t assume they’re updating you in real time or that what they’re sharing is 100% accurate.
  2. Pause before contacting your guests
    • You want to ensure you have all the information before contacting your guests, which takes time. Moreover, seeing photos of damage done to your property can be emotional. Give yourself time to have those feelings and then move on so that you can treat all of your guests with kindness and respect. You’ll be glad you did when you see you’ve maintained a 5-star rating.
  3. Remember that most guests are fantastic
    • If one of your first guests turns out to be a total nightmare, it can make you want to give up on hosting altogether. Remember that new hosts are especially susceptible to awful guests (but not if you follow all the tips above!) and that the vast majority of guests are wonderful.

Recommended: Everything You Need to Know About the Airbnb Resolution Center

Airbnb Host Tip: Things at your Airbnb will break or go missing and it’s not necessarily a sign of a bad guest. In my first month as an Airbnb host, the blinds broke, two towel holders broke, and the track on the bathroom door broke–none of them were because my guests did anything wrong, things like this just happen. Make sure these types of issues don’t impact your guests’ experience by doing regular property maintenance. Get all my property maintenance tips here.

Takeaway

Whew, we just covered a lot! After following the steps above, you’ll be incredibly well-prepared to avoid having nightmare Airbnb guests. Great work!

Recommended: 6 Proven Tactics to Earn More with Your Airbnb Business

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What questions do you have about Airbnb guest horror stories? Let’s chat in the comments.

Disclaimer: All content on this website is for informational purposes only. You are taking all provided information at your own risk. We are not financial, real estate, legal, investment or other professionals. Nothing on this website should be construed as professional advice. We will not be liable for any loss or damage of any nature. For more information, read our disclaimer.

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I grossed $160,000+ my first two years Airbnb hosting. Now, I’m sharing all my Airbnb hosting tips so you can build your own insanely profitable business.

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I'm Sabrina,
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Secret Weapon.