New host: guest upset about cleaning fees

About two weeks ago, I joined AirBnb, motivated by both losing my job, and having a one bedroom guest house I’d recently updated. I think it’ll be a competitive rental, with all new appliances, extras, like a top of the line espresso machine, hot tub, tempur pedic mattress and other nice furnishings, etc. I started renting it for $35, which was considerably below what I intend to charge for it. The lowest standalone apartments with one bedroom tend to go for $55-$75, and that’s generally the low end/low furnishings, no pull out sofas to make suitable for 4 guests. I also included a $50 cleaning fee. I quickly got lots of interest, and have the place 75% booked for the next month, despite having only one review as of yesterday. My suspicion/hope is that I could potentially rent the place for $100 per night, once I figure things out/have the reviews. In any case, it’s a discount.

Today, my second guest, who booked for three days, asked if it was okay if she did a great job cleaning and I waived the cleaning fee. I feel kind of stuck, because I do need excellent reviews at this point. But also kind of annoyed. I want to know what’s standard here, and if I should acquiesce/change things going forward.

My motivation was that it’s a lot of work getting the place ready each time. There’s considerable indoor and outdoor space, a lot of laundry, a lot of restocking, etc- two rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, I’m sure people are aware of the labor that can go into it. Even if she leaves the place immaculate, I still have to do laundry, check that everything was done to my standard, mop, restock, clean windows, etc. And it’s a lot less work for me if I don’t have to do that as often. I’d rather encourage longer-term stays.

She mentioned that hotels don’t charge a cleaning fee, and that if she leaves the place clean, I should have no objection. But that’s just not true. Hotels do charge a cleaning fee. They’re just able to deal with it more economically and equitably than I am. They hire cleaners on low salaries, whereas I’d have to pay at least $25 per hour, they have industrial washer/dryers that make all the linens a lot more economical/fast, they clean rooms every day, whether people are checking out or staying an extra night, so there’s a more reliable amount of labor, spread evenly among every guest, they have smaller, more standardized rooms, and streamlined processes. That’s different in every way from the AirBnb cleaning model, I think. It just seems fairer to myself and the guests that they only pay one time for the labor that has to be done when they leave, no matter whether they stay a day or a month.

She’s already getting a really good deal, but I’m feeling pressured by the fact that I need her review. So… does this normally happen? Do hosts not often charge cleaning fees? Should I pay her back the money AirBnB gave me for the cleaning, even though she already agreed to it? Figure out another way to encourage long-term guests? What would you do in the current situation?

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Is this guest already in your listing? If not, if I were you I would call Airbnb and ask if you can cancel her booking penalty free. As she is attempting to negotiate the price after she agreed to it, I think they will probably permit you to cancel with no penalty. For the future, any time a potential guest tells you what hotels do differently it’s advisable to decline their booking as if they want a hotel they should stay in one. When people bring up my cleaning fee, I remind them that I don’t charge for WiFi, parking, laundry or beverages all of which hotels charge for.


Thanks Ellen. That’s the hard part, is that she’s already here. There was no mention of her objection to the cleaning fee until she arrived.

It’s not really a “cleaning” fee, it’s more like an additional cost for one-nighters to cover the cost of their laundry and to encourage guests to stay longer. For instance, when I travel I like to stay in a different place every night but if a place has a cleaning fee I tend to stay there 2 nights to get my “discount”.


Oh no no no… she doesn’t get to change the terms on your deal once she arrives. Guests never ever clean up to your standards. I know you are new, but please be firm with your guests…

This guest sounds like someone new who is trying to push you around. The hotel comparison is not fair. If she wanted a hotel she should get one.

If I ever get anyone enquiring who is trying to get out of the cleaning fee, I decline them straightaway. In fact any bargain hunters are an automatic decline. If they don’t respect your price, they don’t respect your place.

It might be too late on this guest but never again. Don’t break your own rules. You will be getting plenty of good guests and good reviews. You don’t need or want this cheapskate.

Cheapskates make terrible guests. Don’t back down.


PS. You are going to get burned one day thinking you will do a guest a favor and they will leave a good review. Just doesn’t work that way. In fact, the first time you do a favor and you get a bad review over something else may be the last time you do a favor. :rofl:

If a guest doesn’t like your rules and prices, they can book elsewhere. You don’t need the money that bad!


Hi @annanyc

Welcome to Airbnb. The problem is that you have priced your property much too low and are attracting cheapskates.

Just say to your guest that she booked on the basis of the costs involved. And that the listing cost is already substantially lower than comparable properties so she is getting a great deal. And this won’t be possible as the cleaning fee covers items such as linens, towels as well as a deep clean.

I would advise you to put your prices up to reflect the quality of your listing. You get a short term boost as a newbie so this will help you get bookings from guests who value your place.

Likely she won’t leave you a great review. But you can be honest in yours.


I definitely agree with the previous posts here, but

This looks a bit disproportionate to me. Someone paying 35 a night then having to cough up 50 might be tempted to question paying that much for a cleaning fee.

Still, trying to change the terms after agreeing to it is unacceptable, but for the future you might want to consider reevaluating your cleaning fee. And increasing your per-night fee to something a bit closer to the market value.


Airbnb advise newbies to drop the price until you have a couple of reviews in your trousers, maybe if you’re swayed by this, drop the cleaning fee as well. Once you have your reviews, set the levels to what you see fit.
The only problem with taking heed of starting lowprice to get reviews is: guests booking months in advance, so you don’t actually get those reviews until way into your Airbnb career!


This mustn’t happen. Use the ‘Specific Dates’ option on the calendar to set the low prices only for the upcoming few weeks. Set the later dates to be a much higher price for the foreseeable future.


Welcome to the forum! You’ve had some great advice from fellow hosts, as I did starting out a few months ago. And still do too. I’d just like to add, through gritted/grinding teeth, that this guest has already paid Airbnb up front, including the cleaning fee, agreeing to the Ts&Cs as she did so. Thus she’s breaking Air’s own rules, not just yours.

I agree that you should put your rates up to your local market levels and lower the cleaning fee a bit. You will stop attracting cheapskates by doing so, and get your good reviews. My husband once mentioned to friends “when we were still wh*ring for good reviews”… we’ve all done it!


This actually gives you (the OP) an escape route - instead of ‘refusing’ to waive the cleaning price, however politely, you can say, I’m afraid this violates the ToC - and if the guest insists, tell them to speak to Airbnb, while you call Airbnb yourself first and express your concern at this unacceptable behavior.


As others have said, just no! But I do agree that your rate is too low and cleaning fee out of proportion to your nightly rate. If you want one nighters raise the rate and lower the cleaning fee. I don’t stay for one night if the cleaning fee is high. We stayed Wednesday night at an Airbnb in NYC with a 65 nightly rate and a 35 cleaning fee which was reasonable for here. Where is your listing? Easier to advise you. We are in City Island, NY

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True Story: Once a year I would do an “extra good karma pricing” and do a room for super low for a few weeks to a month (if my money was okay). Bad idea? The worst. One hundred percent of the time, I would get someone who either a) wanted to negotiate or b) acted like they were doing ME a favour by booking with me - even though my price was super low. The guests refused to show up on time or follow the house rules. Never again. You get what you pay for (and for hosts - we get what we ask for - a price that is too low = crappy guests). Just my two cents.: 0 )


I completely agree with this.
I have one week a year that it super busy with a convention. I used to have my prices at regular (maybe up $10 a night), and I would get in guests that would negotiate, ask for everything, and expect to be treated like royalty. Since then, I have doubled my price for those dates, and now I get very nice guests that appreciate having a place to stay during the convention.


Yes, blame it on the middle man Airbnb in order to make that conversation go smoother. That’s what we’re paying them for - to take the heat at times like this. Also, why not up the base price for the remainder of next month and beyond to be comparable to similar properties with high ratings? The OP is 75% booked already for the next month, even without reviews! She’ll attract a better kind of guest by raising rates now. That’s been my experience in pricing.


Food for thought: I don’t waive the cleaning fee ($50, 1600 sq ft, 3 Beds, 3 Bath) because it is low for the space. However, if a guest leaves the place clean & washes their linens, I will refund part or all as a thank you after I’ve inspected the unit. I don’t promise it upfront else who knows what their version of leaving it clean means.

Yeah, it’s like if people aren’t buying your art/products, it’s because they feel that they’re getting less than - ironically, if they pay more they feel that they are getting more for their money!

Let me add to the chorus of “raise your price!” Immediately. The cleaning fee might be too high for one nighters but if you are trying to discourage one night stays then it’s okay.

Don’t give in to the current guest and don’t worry about a bad review because you can get that whether you give in or not. Don’t forget you get to review her as well. Please let other hosts know that she’s the kind of guest that agrees to your terms and then complains about them. None of us want to host her.

Welcome to the forum and count your lucky stars that you found us at the beginning of your journey.


@Annet3176, it’s nice of you to refund part of the cleaning fee - however, I’d be concerned that the guests then might expect that of other hosts in the future. Plus since the cleaning fee is already low, perhaps it just balances out other guests who weren’t as tidy?