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Rules: How to write your own. A guide, with samples and critiques

I have seen a lot of threads on rules, and a lot of opinions about rules. What I hoped to contribute was a drafting guide for a new host who wants to use rules in their listing.

I know many people have expressed the opinion they won’t book a place that has what they consider excessive written rules. What input do you have for someone who is going to write rules anyway? How can they keep them from being “excessive” or a turn off?

I put together a long bulleted list with my advice and opinions on how to go about writing rules.

I have also compiled some related threads that may be useful to a person who is just setting out to write or revise their rulebooks, at the bottom. Hope this is useful.

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When drafting rules:

-Be concise.

  • Use ample white space.

  • Organize your rules with headings, followed by bullet points. Pet rules under one heading; any house-specific rules/instructions are organized in the same section; any outdoor related rules; and so on.

  • Don’t say “please.” It’s a rule, not a request and it’s an unnecessary word. The more words you give them to read, the less likely they are to read them.

  • Cut unnecessary words. Write, then review. Find unnecessary/repeated words. Cut them out as you go. Review again from the beginning, cut more if you can until you are conveying the most important information with no extra words.

  • Write in a conversational tone using 8th grade language.

  • Use “do” statements: “Don’t pester the wildlife, but do enjoy the view!” Likewise, eliminate “don’t” wherever possible: “Recycle using the labeled bins.” vs. “Don’t leave unsorted trash or we will get fines!” (The guest doesn’t want to hear your sob story. Just tell them what to do.)

  • Give a rationale for the rule that gives the guest a stake in it. “X must happen, else Y will happen.” (“If you don’t keep your dog where I tell you, he will get out onto the roadway.”)

  • If the reason for the rule is your HOA/POA, state that in them and have that documentation at the ready for when you have to call AirBnB to cancel the reservation for violating the rule.

  • If the guest has no stake in it, ask yourself if you can change the environment or your own procedures in order to get rid of the need for the rule.

  • Don’t assume people will read the rules. If they are deal breakers, confirm them in your initial booking messaging. Use templates.

  • If you get it in writing that the guest intends to break the rules (including exceeding number of guest booked / max occupancy) in the initial booking message, call AirBnB and ask them to cancel on that basis. Don’t cancel it yourself.

  • Rules can help back you up when asking AirBnB for resolution because “it was in the rules and they agreed to them.” Don’t expect this to be a gurantee that you will collect whatever penalty and fine you specify for violating rules. You probably won’t.

  • Your rules do not supersede the AirBnB TOS nor the booking settings. You may be in jeopardy of account termination if your rules conflict with the AirBnB community standards.

  • AirBnB’s ToS do not supersed local law or ordinance. If you are in a 55+ community, you can limit guest ages to your legal requirements. You are not being ageist. Cite the ordinance in the rule.

  • Rules are not remedies. Don’t get that confused. No magical remedy happens just because you wrote the rule. Rules don’t stop drunk, mentally ill, or just downright rotten people from doing crappy things. You will have to take action to remedy the violation.

  • You are the only person who can enforce your rules.

  • Ask yourself: Is the rule to help keep you out of disputes with your neighbors and legal trouble, or for the safety of the guests, their pets, or the wellbeing of the neighborhood and the quiet enjoyment of others? Or are you just being a little too micromanage-y about things that really aren’t hurting anyone in the long run? Or can you change something to eliminate the need for the rule?

Ask yourself if you’re being a little too uptight and maybe need to relax and let people be people and get rid of the rule and lighten up.

Finally, if the guest breaks your rules, let us know about it by mentioning it in the guest review after they check out, or you throw them out. Happy Hosting.

[House Rules vs. House Manual]
(House Rules vs House Manual)

These were posts where hosts helped other hosts revise their rules, with good discussions:

[Critique and discussion of a host’s rules] (Standard house rules)

Another one

Another

Host gets help revising a set of 5 rules.

This set of rules was very unpopular with hosts.

Your rules do not supersede the booking settings.

Hosts share their house rules in this thread, many samples.

Discussion about smoking rules

Note on the above OP question: I allow smoking outdoors, provide ashtrays and a butt bucket, and have more words about this in the rules than any other topic.

I threaten redundantly and sternly yet humorously to keep the $499 security deposit if they break the smoking rules. I list it as a non-smoking listing. I hope it scares away indoor smokers. So far, so good.

Gun rules for guests

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This is a slam dunk fantastic post right on target thank you

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Not bd Lonestar, but I do think you need to follow your own advice bullets about writing:

  • Cut unnecessary words. Write, then review. Find unnecessary/repeated words. Cut them out as you go. Review again from the beginning, cut more if you can until you are conveying the most important information with no extra words.

Also, I think your “conversational 8th grade language” point is good, but a bit too sophisticated. As a Technical Writer for over 30 years, our professional standard, if you will, was to write to a 6th grade level…

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I routinely create presentations for the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I was told “5th grade level” The rule was - the higher up they are in the company, the lower the grade level.

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I have what I think of as my Red Line Rules. They involve smoking, parties, unauthorized guests and late check-outs.

For these, my tone is direct. You could even say strict. I mention the negative consequences for breaking them.

Example: “Absolutely no smoking. To avoid an expensive fine, same night eviction and a bad Airbnb review, do not smoke anywhere in the house or on the property.”

If a potential guest thinks that cramps their style, then they are likely not a guest I would want anyway.

Everything else is in the house manual and written in a much nicer tone that is about informing rather than dictating.

“The switch for the fan is to the right of the sink. It’s a good idea to use the fan for high heat frying or spicy cooking.”

“The only detergent used in the dishwasher is Cascade pods.”

“You’ll find the recycling bins next to the back porch.”

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Reminds me of this wonderful, wonderful clip from “Margin Call”:

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Apparently true in the US government too.

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This is funny because it’s true.

I give humanity too much credit sometimes, it’s true. :grin:

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For your consideration: :wink:

Shocked Airbnb guest finds VERY strict list of bathroom cleaning rules
https://mol.im/a/7261971

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What a load of passage.

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