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Difficulty enforcing rules


Hi, all. I thought I’d share something that’s on my mind today. We’ve run our airbnb for over 4 years and we love it. Since I retired from a supervisory job two years ago, I find it’s harder for me to enforce our rules. I’ve lightened up in my life and I occasionally find it hard to confront someone who doesn’t follow the rules. For example: We have a no fragrance rule. It’s written on our profile and it’s on our printed list of rules in the house. It’s for the sake for future patrons but it’s also for us too. We really dislike most perfume and cologne. Well, right now we have a 3-day guest who apparently soaks in cologne. I am outside the house right now and I can smell it. He seems like a very shy, quiet guy and I can’t bear to bring it up.

If someone were to smoke cigarettes, I know I’d have NO problem bring that up. But somehow this seems to be criticizing a personal characteristic.

This is day two so I’ll let it go but I’ll have to air out the room like crazy because there will only be 5 hours between him leaving and the next guests.

I feel like it’s too late in this case, but I’d love to get more backbone next time. Suggestions appreciated but please don’t yell at me, please?


Guests don’t read the rules or the listing description- ever!


I’m in a similar situation in that I retired from teaching and had no problem enforcing rules and now am more hesitant. Why? Well, my guests are paying, they are my peers, they are adults. Imagine a hotel saying “you can’t wear perfume or cologne or use those godawful smelly hair sprays or put a plug-in in the room.”

However there is a trick I used as a teacher with some success. Instead of thinking of it as “rule enforcement” think of it as asking for help. Go talk to him and say “Guest, I need your help. I’m very sensitive to smells and I can smell your cologne from outside your door. It really aggravates my sinuses and causes headaches. Could you refrain from applying it while here or at least while in the room?” You can even use some self-deprecating humor if you are comfortable with it. Like I say that it’s “the only one of my senses I still have full use of” or “like my dogs I’ve got a keen sense of smell. At least I don’t drool!”

This completely sidesteps the rule enforcement aspect. Don’t even mention the rule. It’s hard to look someone in the eye and say “No I won’t help you.” That’s why we roll up our window and pretend to look at our phone when a homeless person stands by our car at the light.


There are number things I like about your suggestion. For one thing, I wouldn’t be saying, didn’t you read the rules??? And the other thing is it’s really putting it on me, which could make it easier for the person. I may give it a try later today. Or my husband might do it for me…


When you next see him, how about a little white lie, such as:

Hi Tom, how’s it going? I hope you’re finding everything comfortable. I wanted to mention that the next guest is a returning guest and she has extreme allergies and is sensitive to scents and aromas. She takes medication to stave off nausea and I always have to take extra measures to rid the room of any trace of artificial scents. I notice you wear aftershave and I wonder if you could hold off on applying it or any other scent before you depart because it would really help me out.


Having to enforce rules or laws automatically sets up an adversarial situation. No one ever sees the flashing cop car lights in their rear view mirror and feels happy. You automatically think it’s going to be bad.

That said there are rules that have to be enforced as rules, like the one about no smoking. A host can’t leave any wiggle room for the guest to think following it was optional. If Mr Stinky doesn’t conform to your request it’s frustrating but manageable. Please include mention of the fragrance in your review as many of us don’t want these in our homes. You can also dock stars for not following rules.


In past situations like this, I’ve said, “are you wearing scent? my asthma seems to be playing up.”

oftentimes the guests responds that it’s a strong deodorant …

then I ask them if they can just go ahead and wash it off so my nose and eyes don’t hurt.

my attempt is to be both direct and kind but also clear to the extent possible.

i do like the “can you help me?” angle suggested for future situations.


OK…so does your husband have an easier time bringing up something like this? I say…whoever brings it up - blame the problem on the other spouse. Of course…that depends on what your rules currently say.

So…if husband brings it up - "Hi Guest…hope you are enjoying your stay. I know it’s really easy to miss the information on the listing when making booking. (Avoid the word rules). But my wife is highly sensitive to any fragrances, etc. and that’s why we have in the listing that guests can’t wear blah blah blahb. Plus we have had a few guests who are also highly sensitive. I love the cologne you’re using, but unfortunately my wife gets ill…would you mind not using it while you are here - I’d really appreciate it.

OK…not the best wording, but you get the gist.


I always suggest keeping it as simple as possible:

I just wanted to remind you that my house rules state no strong scents or fragrances. If you have any questions, please let me know.


I prefer to use humour whenever possible. (In just about every aspect of life!)

That being said, most of the time I’m a fair bit older than guests so I can go into mom-mode and tick them off :slight_smile:

I couldn’t find a ‘wags finger’ emoji but that’s what I do. ‘Now look, I did you a favour letting you check in early so here’s what you’re going to do for me in return…’


I think (most) people get the No Smoking rule but the No Fragrance one is a bit different. I suffer from certain perfumes so feel their pain. Fortunately haven’t had this problem. I also send an ABB message before they arrive which reiterates all the important rules and things they definitely need to know like that there are no shops or cafes here. if fragrances were an issue I would add it in as No 1 and put it in BOLD CAPS so they realised it had to be taken very seriously, not as a nice to have.


I’m looking for it right now! Nup, best is this.



I think that’s a great approach that @K9KarmaCasa suggested . It amazes me when people put on way too much cologne. It hasn’t been a problem for us with guests except once. A very elderly lady used a lot of perfume. I think sometimes older people lose their sense of smell, like they do hearing and eyesight, and don’t realize how much they are using. I didn’t have the heart to say anything especially since it’s not in our house rules. After she left her sheets and pillow smelled even after washing! Young guys sometimes use too much cologne too, thinking it will attract the ladies. Eventually they learn it has the opposite effect.


That made me smile and also thought about the eye-watering smell of my son years ago…young teens stink and at the time I would have welcomed a cologne smell over the I-left-my-soccer-clothes-under-the-bed-for-days smell…that was awful! :smile: He’s past that now thank goodness. I also don’t like lots of perfumes and colognes.


Here’s what ended up happening with our uncommunicative, unusual and smelly guest. I never had a chance to talk to him , aimed with your great advice, because he avoided us like crazy and left a night early without saying goodbye. He did send a text complimenting us on our home. When I went into the stinky room I found something he left, this big egg-shaped device that was plugged in and was spewing the Smell that tormented me for 3 days. In retrospect, since we didn’t see him I should have texted him earlier… oh well. Anyway, I texted him now and said that we had his egg-shaped scent diffuser and that he may not have noticed our injunction against fragrances for the sake of ourselves and future guests.

He said he totally knew about our rule but didn’t think that lemon oil coming out of a diffuser qualified as a fragrance because everyone finds it to soothing!!! I said “yes, it’s a fragrance, we are airing out the room, goodbye.”

Now I’m working on my review. Oh and for the guest coming tomorrow I sent them an email reminding them of our (very few) rules including being a FRAGRANCE and SMOKE FREE home - which they acknowledged. We continue to evolve as hosts.

I just wanted to thank you all for your wonderful suggestions. Such creativity.


Be sure to mention it! I don’t want Mr. Smelly staying with us (which is likely since we’re in the same neighborhood.)


@Rachael52, @K9KarmaCasa pretty much answered as I would have had. Also, I agree with @Chris44g. Guests don’t read as much as we wanted. Who can blame them? They are most probably on vacation! For this reason I have nicely designed stickers placed at the strategic points in the apartment with short instructions for the most important stuff I want them to do (or not to do).

Here are the three examples:

  • (right above the cooking stove): “When cooking please use the exhaust hood to prevent triggering a fire alarm” (the last part of the sentence always works)
  • (on the towel rack in the bathroom): “Please avoid using the towels for makeup removal, use the provided makeup wipes instead”
  • (on the luggage rack): “Please avoid putting your luggage on the bed or sofa”

My experience is, people DO follow these suggestions.


I hope the make-up wipes are not the disposable sort; my aged drains were blocked with them last summer. Someone posted on here, with a lovely photo, about leaving a basket of face cloths (UK flannels) for removing make-up, which I implemented pronto. I’m astonished at how well they are used, even by non made-up folk.


So I’ve gone with serial notes. I have the same “use the wipes” make up note posted, and also a note right above the toilet, “Please do not flush feminine products or wipes, just TP.”


That’s a great idea. Just need to find somewhere that sells them by the dozen.

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