Learn how to protect your property and guests with a comprehensive short-term rental agreement. Set clear expectations, and ensure a smooth hosting experience.

A vacation rental business isn't just about offering a cool space with luxury amenities. As a property owner, you must ensure a smooth, stress-free stay with clear expectations for you and your guests. This is where short-term rental agreements come into the frame.

A rental contract outlines the responsibilities of both parties to ensure transparency and trust. From clarifying the rental period to listing your property's do's and don'ts, it's a must for your hosting essentials. In this article, we've rounded up our top tips and best practices to customize your rental agreement template. Let's dive in!

What is a Short-term Rental Agreement?

A short-term rental agreement is a legal contract between the homeowner and their prospective tenants renting the property for a short duration. It lays out the rental terms, including the rental period, house rules, payment, etc. This formal document aims to protect both parties in case of disputes, clarifying in writing their responsibilities.

As a vacation rental host, this gives you peace of mind when hosting complete strangers in your home, so even if problems arise, you can hold them accountable for agreeing to your terms and conditions beforehand. A short-term rental agreement is also known as:

  • Short-term rental contract or vacation rental contract
  • Vacation lease agreement
  • Vacation rental short-term lease agreement
  • Short-term residential lease agreement
Short-term Rental Agreement: A Guide for Houfy Hosts
Short-term rental contract for property manager

Why Do You Need a Short-term Rental Agreement?

Most hosts avoid rental agreements since legal work can be tedious and time-consuming. However, if you jump right on profit without setting boundaries with guests, you risk the longevity of your vacation rental business. Here are a few reasons why a rental agreement pays out in the long run:

  • Protect your property: you might question, aren't my house rules enough to protect my home? House rules are important, but don't bind guests to do anything. They act more as guidelines rather than a formal agreement. On the other hand, a vacation rental agreement has your guests' written consent to abide by your rules and expectations. So, even if they break the agreement, you'll have something to fall back on. Plus, a lease agreement is crucial to file a claim through an insurance company or an OTA.
  • Set the right expectations: making things clear from the beginning is critical to a successful rental. Guests tend to carry old standards into new homes, which might lead to misunderstandings. To ensure both you and your guests are on the same page, be clear on check-in/check-out hours, additional fees, house rules, and more.
  • Ensure you're getting paid: avoid chasing down your guests to pay their rental fees. A lease agreement clarifies rental rates, the tenant's security deposit, and extra fees from add-ons. For example, if guests opt for breakfast, which is not included in the rental rate, you can clarify extra charges with your own lease agreement so there's no room for error.
  • Attract the right guests: by outlining your rental property agreement guidelines, you ensure you're welcoming guests who are a good fit for your home. For instance, if you forbid parties, pets, or extra guests, visitors interested in throwing a spring-break party or bringing their dogs will likely back out. And that's okay! It means you're avoiding possible short-term rental horrors you were unprepared for.
Short-term Rental Agreement: A Guide for Houfy Hosts
Short-term rental agreement for residential property

What Should I Include in a Vacation Rental Agreement?

Before jumping on downloading residential lease agreement templates online, make sure to consult with an attorney to advise you on your state and local laws. Below, we've rounded a list of general questions your vacation rental agreement should aim to answer.

1. Property Details

A vacation rental agreement should include your property info, such as:

  • Property address
  • Rooms and capacity
  • Detailed inventory (including furniture and appliances and their current conditions)
  • Luxury amenities

2. Guest Data

Your guest information should always appear in your rental contract:

  • First and last name
  • Home address, city, postal code
  • ID, passport, or driver's license
  • Email, phone number

3. Reservation Details

Summarize your booking details such as:

  • Lease start date
  • Lease termination date
  • Check-in and check-out hours
  • Tenant rents

4. House Rules

To avoid troublesome guests or miscommunications, list:

  • Smoking policies
  • Pet policies
  • Parties
  • Noise restrictions

5. Prices and Extra Fees

Dodge guest misunderstandings by including:

  • A breakdown of your rental rates (prices, deposits, cleaning costs, VAT, tourist tax, insurance, credit card surcharges)
  • Optional extra fees for add-ons (e.g., pool or jacuzzi usage, breakfast)
  • Accepted payment methods (e.g., cash, credit card, bank transfer)

6. Amenity Usage

If you offer luxury amenities and add-ons, make sure to include:

  • Usage guidelines
  • Their condition at the time of check-in
  • Safety precautions guests should be aware of

7. Cancellation Policy

In case you or your guests want to cancel the reservation, your rental contract should specify the following:

  • The conditions under which guests are entitled to a full or partial refund
  • The method and timeline of returning fees (e.g., via bank transfer within 3 days)
  • Penalties that might apply in case of last-minute cancellations

8. Cleanliness and Maintenance

Set clear expectations of cleanliness, such as:

  • If you provide cleaning services throughout guests' stay
  • How guests ought to leave your home after checking out
  • Contact numbers in case of maintenance emergencies

9. Scam Bookings

To deter ill-intentioned guests in the first place, specify the following:

  • If you require a guest ID verification or a security deposit before confirming a reservation
  • Legally binding clauses that protect you and your property
  • Fee penalties in case of damages or breakage of rules

10. Signatures

The final step that ensures the validity of your vacation rental contract is having it signed by both parties. Signatures signify the agreement's legality, protecting parties in disputes or disagreements.

Short-term Rental Agreement: A Guide for Houfy Hosts
Signed agreement for short-term rental hosts

FAQs for Short-term Rental Agreements on Houfy

Does Houfy Require Hosts to Use a Rental Agreement?

No, Houfy doesn't require hosts to use a rental agreement but strongly recommends it for the extra layer of protection.

Can I Upload an Agreement Later?

Yes, you can complete your Houfy listing first and upload a rental agreement later. This allows you to save time during the initial listing creation process and fine-tune your agreement when everything's up and running.

Can I Ask Guests for ID?

Absolutely. Requesting identification from guests is a common practice among many hosts. There are various reasons why hosts ask for guest ID, such as security measures and compliance with local regulations.

Can Guests Digitally Sign My Rental Agreement?

Yes, Houfy offers a convenient feature called the Rental Agreement Creator. If you already have listed your vacation rental, you can find it by clicking the "+" sign in the top right corner of your dashboard. Test it out and conveniently enable guests to sign your rental agreement digitally.

Can I Customize My Rental Agreement for Each Reservation?

Certainly, you can upload a sample agreement and tell guests they'll receive a customized template after their reservation.

Short-term Rental Agreement: A Guide for Houfy Hosts
Contract for short-term rental

Where Can I Find Rental Agreement Templates?

While consulting with your attorney and following your state's laws is essential, you can find rental agreement templates shared by other hosts. These templates can serve as a helpful starting point, but customize them to suit your requirements.

Where Do Travelers View My Rental Agreement?

Before guests inquire about booking directly, they must agree to your rental agreement, cancellation policy, and house rules. Only then can they proceed with their booking.

Where Do I Upload My Rental Agreement?

To upload your rental agreement, navigate to "Manage Listings," then click on "Edit" and "Settings." Within the settings, you will find the option to add your rental agreement under "Rules." Alternatively, you can utilize Houfy's digitally signed Rental Agreement Creator.

How Can I Ask Guests for Their ID?

Hosts have various methods to collect guest IDs. Some hosts include a request for ID within their rental agreement, while others prefer guests to text or upload their ID through the Rental Agreement Creator feature on Houfy.

How Does Houfy's Rental Agreement Creator Work?

If you already have a Houfy listing:

  1. Click the plus icon ("+") to open the menu. Scroll down and select Rental Agreement.
  2. Choose Houfy's default template or create your own. Houfy's default template will bring some predefined sections for you to start with your rental agreement. You can always edit all those sections to customize to your rental property.
  3. Choose the listing for which you want to create a rental agreement.
  4. Click "Get Started".
  5. You can re-arrange or modify the agreement sections.
Short-term Rental Agreement: A Guide for Houfy Hosts
Vacation rental agreement for vacation rental property

Secure Your Business With a Short-term Rental Agreement

Whether you rent a city apartment, a cottage in the woods, or a treehouse, lease agreements protect you and your guests from miscommunications and disagreements. Putting the initial effort into creating your rental lease agreement will pay for years to come and keep your business safe from any problems that might arise.

Thankfully, with Houfy, you don't have to create your short-term rental contract from scratch. With our predesigned rental agreement, you can take the guesswork out. Not on Houfy yet? Join an extensive community of book-direct homeowners who rent their homes without OTA fees or other commissions. Take a more active approach to your short-term rental business and lose the middlemen who take large chunks of your profit. List your property today for free!

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