One of the most common problems you’ll deal with as a host of short-term rentals is smoking. If you’ve been hosting for any amount of time, I’m certain you’ve dealt with some version of this problem before. And if you’re brand new, I can promise you it’s coming.
Of course, there are plenty of variations on this problem. What if you live in the home and have allergies? What if guests are smoking cannabis and it’s illegal in your state? What if they’re vaping and don’t consider that smoking? How do you successfully collect a smoking fine? How do you avoid a retaliatory review if you’ve tried to collect a smoking fine?
I could go on, but I think you get my point. And while no one could ever fully address every potential problem that could arise because of guests smoking on the property, I’ve learned enough in my years as a host that I can probably address most of them.
Here are 7 tips to follow to avoid fighting with smoking guests (or the resolution center after they check out).
Crystal Clear House Rules
Make sure your house rules are CRYSTAL CLEAR. If you don’t allow smoking inside, or vaping, or smoking of any kind, make sure all of that is explicitly spelled out in your house rules. Also make sure to specify what the smoking / vaping fee is, if any. This is the only way you’ll have a chance at Airbnb backing you up in the resolution center if a problem happens.
Lots of Scary Warnings
Make lots of scary warnings – even if they can’t be enforced. The reality is that most requests for smoking fees won’t be approved if there isn’t other damage. However, the guests don’t usually know that! In my listings I say several times that smoking of any kind will incur a $300 penalty and immediate eviction from the property. I’ve never actually kicked anyone out for smoking, and only rarely ever even try to get paid the smoking fee…but don’t tell my guests that! The threat of those consequences tends to keep most people in line.
Get cameras. Smoking is notoriously difficult to prove, because if all that’s left is a smell you can’t send that through the internet as proof. If you can get video of your guests smoking your case will be so much easier to prove. (**NOTE** If you install cameras, make sure to disclose them on your listing!)
Take pictures. Along the same lines as the camera, make sure your cleaners are instructed to take pictures of any ash residue or smoking-related damage they see so that you can include that in your claim.
Obtain a Remediation Quote
Get a smoke remediation quote in advance. Smoke remediation quotes by licensed companies can be EXTREMELY helpful in collecting smoking fines. However, they take time to get and often the clock is ticking when you’re trying to collect a resolution claim, so I always recommend getting one in advance to have on hand.
Invest in an Ozone Machine
Invest in an ozone machine. Ozone machines are great for getting out that nasty smoke smell in a hurry. The only thing is that they can’t be run when people are around, so make sure you have enough time to clean the place AND run the machine before the next guest checks in!
Choose Between a Fine and Review
Choose between the fine and the review. Many people ask me how they can collect their $200 smoking penalty, AND avoid getting a retaliatory review after the guest checks out. I say, for the most part, the answer is you can’t. You need to decide whether it’s more important to you to go after the money, or try to keep your ratings high. It’s very unlikely that you’ll get both.
Over the last few years, as I’ve implemented all of these changes, I’ve seen the number of guests smoking on premises where they shouldn’t be steadily going down. Now what used to be a major, almost weekly headache is simply a minor occasional annoyance. It’s made a world of difference!