Guest's cooking smoked out the house - fire alarms etc

This is a private suite in a shared home. It has a bedroom, living room, bathroom and kitchenette.

TLDR: Guest nearly burns the house down. I added a laminated rule sheet with some tips about not burning the house down. In the future I look forward to having a house that is not burnt up.

Guests aren’t allowed to use my kitchen but I wanted to try and provide something so I designed and built a kitchenette. It works good. I’ve never had a problem with other guests.

Fast forward to yesterday. I had a man from a developing foreign country check-in. Lets call him Chef. Chef asked me if I had any larger pots. I thought that was weird because there’s already a large sauce pan down there. He’s also only here for 2 days and its just him. I showed him what I have an he grabbed a 3 gallon soup pot. Now I’m really intrigued. He said he’s making rice. A few minutes later I hear some sizzling and smell smoke.

I go over there and besides the soup pot he’s cracked about a dozen eggs in a frying pan with about 200ml of oil and its smoking. I ask him if he can use the vent fan (built into microwave and vents outside). He’s on the phone and isn’t really listening or paying attention so he stops talking for a second and asks me to repeat myself. I do and he said “yeah but some dust came out when I turned it on so I’ll just use it when I’m done.” I’m trying not to push it because he’s obviously engaged in his phone call and doesn’t want me there. I told him “ok” and left it at that just trusting him to use good judgement and thinking the eggs would be done probably with 5 min and that would be it.

15 minutes later, I hear A LOT more sizzling and crackling and see a lot more smoke. Now I’m very concerned and annoyed. I go over there again and right as I come around the corner, the fire alarm starts sounding and flashing.
He’s got about 1kg of steaks in a frying pan with about 500ml of oil (swimming in it). There’s a 1 liter bottle of oil next to him half empty. He’s on the phone still, even with the fire alarm going off. I ask him if he can shut off the heat and he doesn’t say anything. I go to cancel the alarm and when I come back, his steaks are still sizzling on the stove! So I ask him again to shut the heat off. I start opening up windows, turning on fans, opening doors etc.

It took a few hours to clear the smoke out of the house. It was really a dangerous situation I feel like because he had that much oil in the pan splattering everywhere. I later found out that most cooking is done outdoors in his country.

I decided something had to be done. I got a gel type fire extinguisher. Then I made some rules, printed and laminated this page. It will be taped to the knobs on that cooktop. I realize its rather straight forward but I guess I don’t see fire as a laughing matter and I’m hoping my good guests will understand that too. This is taped to the knobs on the cooktop with tamper evident seal tape. Do you think it’ll work on the kitchen situation or is something else necessary?


  • You acknowledge the following:
  1. Don’t set off the smoke detectors.

The fire alarm is remotely monitored. If triggered, the Fire Department will automatically respond. They will bill you a $250 service charge if they are dispatched regardless of the situation. They give no exceptions for any reason. You can avoid this by:

  • Using the microwave vent fan. It blows the smoke outside
  • Turning down the heat if there is excess smoke or grease splattering
  • Use the minimum amount of oil and heat needed
  • Never leave the microwave or stove unattended while cooking
  • Use the fire extinguisher if a fire gets out of control
  1. Use the vent fan.

This home is equipped with a central air system. This means any cooking smells will circulate through every room in the house. Other people live here and they might ask you to share if your food smells really good! Please turn on the vent fan whenever you have a stove top burner on for anything. Even just water. Don’t wait until your finished cooking to turn on the fan, turn it on before you start.

  1. Clean up.

Please leave the kitchen in the same condition you found it. The best way I’ve found to do that is to clean up right after your finished so that you don’t feel rushed at checkout time.

I don’t charge a cleaning fee and I keep the nightly rate very reasonable. This is only possible if my guests are considerate. If you’d rather that I clean up, I can do that and send you a cleaning fee bill through the Airbnb resolution center. The fee for cleaning up the kitchen is $50.

I also tried to add some notes to the description that clarify this is a small kitchenette and probably not good for elaborate meals.




I wonder how long he would have gone on talking on the phone with the alarm blaring?

The sign is pretty wordy. Pictures always help for those with short attention spans or non english speakers.

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Super wordy. Do you think this might be better?

  1. :fire: = :man_firefighter: —> :moneybag::hushed:

  2. :play_or_pause_button::wind_face:

  3. :sparkles: clean or $50


You forgot “Stop, Drop and Roll”

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@Mexican While your message is well written, it’s way too long. I would recommend a short and sweet message: the stove is available for your convenience for the heating of food and for the cooking of simple, quick dishes and NOT for frying with oil or for cooking elaborate meals. If the smoke alarm is triggered as a result of smoke in the apartment, the fire department will be automatically dispatched and you will be required to pay a fee to the fire department and, if the kitchen requires extra-cleaning, an additional fee will be charged via Airbnb. Thank you for your understanding!

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That’s ridiculous. With a 1-kg steak, does he have a pet tiger?

My suggestion is that you eliminate the cook top and the oven on your listing. Disconnect and leave a kettle. If
Communications are clear, just say “no frying”


I think he was doing meal prep for the whole week. I’ve had a couple guests like this. They go on a marathon cooking session for the entire day and its almost always on a Sunday.

I just paid around $4,000 to build that kitchenette so I’m hesitant to just pull the cooktop out. It was costly to hire a plumber to run the natural gas line to it. I did the countertop, cabinets, tile, drywall, sink and electrical work myself. I think its worthwhile for resale value on the home so I’ll get my investment back there. I was just hoping to bring myself some sanity and get my kitchen back in the meantime.


This is where being a garrulous old lady who won’t shut up has its benefits:

“Larger pot? Now you’ve got me wondering. Didn’t you find that large one that’s down there? You did but you want even larger? Why is that then? Oh, I see. Well, let me tell you what’s a good idea. You see, I’m sure you’re not like this but I’m hopeless in a new kitchen with appliances and things that I don’t know about. Let me come down and show you a few things. No, no, no, it’s perfectly alright, no trouble at all. We’ve had lovely weather today haven’t we? Here we are. Now let me just tell you first of all about this fire alarm. Listen carefully because setting it off could cost you $250. Yes, I know, Dreadful. But there it is. You see…”

On and on and on and on…

But on the serious side, I want guests to know that I have no hesitation in going into ‘their’ area and showing them how to work certain things. After all, it’s my place and I’m the boss.


I have a similar set up. The light and the fan are connected so unless they want to cook in the dark the fan has to go on. I still occasionally hear the smoke alarm go off but probably from toast rather than cooking. I provide an electric 2 burner, I wouldn’t provide gas even though I use it myself. And a fire extinguisher on the floor next to it.


I would agree. And it’s a matter of your own tolerance level. Personally, I disconnect the oven stove unit. However I did buy a Cuisinart mini oven that works quite well. No cooktops though.

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A microwave oven, small sink, mini-refrigerator (with small freezer) and coffee maker (with coffee and tea supplies) are all any weekend guest needs.

Maybe add a George Foreman indoor-countertop food grill, starting at $17 from Walmart:

But ovens and stoves lead to trouble, as not all guests can cook well for themselves.

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Thanks for the perspective. I could see guests reacting really well to that approach and appreciating the personal attention with the sense of humor.

This fan is internal to the microwave unfortunately. A brief google search turned up some possibilities. I’d essentially just cut the wire feeding the squirrel cage fan from the microwave and then wire that to a switch. I could use a thermostat switch like they use for attic ventilation fans and put the thermister directly above the range. The only down side of that is you couldn’t turn the fan on without the heat being on so its a catch-22

You’re probably right though. That would be the only way to be sure the fan is used. I’ll try it as is for now.

Good idea. I just never realized how careless people would be with fire. I’m constantly amazed by my guests.

Another good idea. I’ve had a lot of experience with mini ovens smoking a lot though. They tend to build up debris and oil inside.

I probably could’ve done better with one of the Tokyo Gas ranges like this:

These ranges have more safety features like an automatic shut-off. I don’t think they make one with English controls though so I could see that just making people mad.

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I understand you already invested a lot in your kitchenette, but two things:

  1. A gas cooktop? Yes it’s the best for cooking, but it does seem like a safety hazard. Next time for such a small kitchenette, just put in a 1-pot portable induction cooker on the worktop. (If IKEA is close to you, they have a cheap and beautiful one). This setup has many advantages:
  • More working space, because you can store the cooker when not in use, e.a. on top of the microwave :wink:.
  • Just one cooker. It is possible to cook something delicious, but it will take a bit more time, so guest may choose not to cook at all :grin:.
  • If they stick to one pan dishes, there will be less to wash and clean :smiley:.
  • If you get tired of people cooking, you can just remove it from your kitchenette :blush:.
  1. Your vent fan appears to be dangerously close to your cooker. I don’t know that specific vent-fan-microwave combinations, but all the vent fans I know, require a minimum distance of 70cm between the worktop and the vent fan. Yours appears to be at 40cm (?): A big pot barely fits beneath it: Stop worrying about a bit of oil smoking, this is a dangerous situation.
    Judging by the cupboard on top of the microwave, it was also designed for a different kind of vent fan: A flatter and deeper one. I advice you to have a good look at the technical specifications of that appliance, to see if it was installed accordingly.
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Although both our rental apartments have lovely kitchens, it’s a fact that the less they are used, the less cleaning I have to do afterwards. When they’re away on a trip people are rarely as careful in a kitchen than they are at home. For example, I’ve found that guests staying for a few days don’t take the trash out every day to avoid it getting stinky in our South Florida heat. (And the trash attracts insects like crazy here).

We have a few repeat guests for whom the kitchen is a great attraction - they love gourmet cooking and bring their own favourite knives, apron, cast iron pan and even cookbooks. They often leave gourmet goodies in the fridge when they go home.

I love these guests but for others, I don’t know that they are going to be as careful in the apartment kitchens as I’d like so I wrote a short article about how I try to discourage kitchen use. It might be useful to a few other hosts:


And everyone forgot to to mention that you need to put the $250 fire alarm fine in your house rules so that AirBnB can charge them. Unless that or the $50 extra cleaning charge are in the rules, AirBnB will NOT help enforce them.

If it had happened to me, I would have shut everything OFF, then called AirBnB and tasked them to do a no-penalty cancel because you don’t feel safe, you’re afraid that he’s going to burn the house down, and talking to him didn’t work.

And once the smoke started I would have told him to GET OFF THE PHONE.


I rent rooms. My insurance will not allow oven or stove use. It’s in both the description and the rules. It’s amazing how many show up expecting to cook though. And how many learn to adapt, if you have a few gizmos and show them how.

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This part of the instructions is downright dangerous. If this happens, the last thing you want is for your guests to start trying to put the fire out themselves with a household extinguisher in order to avoid setting off the smoke detector. If there is an out of control fire, you WANT the smoke detectors to go off and the fire department to respond!

I would think that they should use the extinguisher IF there is fire. Otherwise they can claim a controlled burn…lol…in or of your house. :wink:

A fire moves so bloody fast that even if they turn the garden hose on it I don’t care. It’s the sum of my worst fears. I would rather stock the fridge with microwaveable meals than risk it.