The Most Common Reasons for Negative Vacation Rental Reviews & How to Avoid Them

Mar 17 2023
The Most Common Reasons for Negative Vacation Rental Reviews & How to Avoid Them

Get tips on how to use Hostfully to optimize your vacation rental business and make more profit.


What’s in this article?

Though bad reviews can be stressful and even unfair, they don’t have to impact your vacation rental business. 

By understanding the common reasons behind negative vacation rental reviews, you can ensure your listings continue to rank highly on OTA’s.

In this article, we explore 10 of the most common issues that lead to negative reviews and how you can combat them. We also explore how you can use smart automation strategies to reduce your workload while keeping your ratings high, and look at best practices for dealing with negative reviews. 

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Top reasons for negative reviews from vacation rental guests

You’re likely to come across guests who spot a few things that could be improved in your property, particularly when you’re starting out in short-term rental management. Though by understanding the issues commonly found in poor reviews you can put in place processes to avoid major issues and damage to your reputation. 

Complaint: Property doesn’t match the listing 

If your description or photos don’t accurately portray your property, you could be in for disgruntled guests. A gallery that shows a pool guests can’t use during the autumn is grounds for a bad review, for example. Equally, a description that says “four luxurious bedrooms” when one of the rooms is quite small and has a sofa bed could be setting guests up for disappointment.  

Making it look like your property is closer to local landmarks than it is can also be risky. If you advertise that your apartment is “waterside” when it’s actually a short walk away, for instance, you might find some guests complaining.

Screenshot of someone complaining about a closed coffee shop in an Airbnb review
Ensure anything you include in your listing will be open to guests.

Solution: Focus on honesty 

While you want to draw guests in with an impressive listing, you always need to be honest. Write a compelling description by painting a picture of how the guests will spend their time at your property and include high-quality photos that capture the best parts. But avoid including any of the following in your images:

  • Areas that are off-limits
  • Amenities that are no longer available
  • Seasonal amenities
  • Local attractions that are more than a couple of miles away
  • Angles that make rooms look bigger than they are

You also need to implement regular maintenance checks to make sure everything you advertise works as it should. 

Complaint: Intrusive security cameras 

OTAs like Airbnb prohibit you from putting security cameras in private areas of your property, such as bedrooms. And you have to declare any other cameras in your listing. However, even if you observe these rules, by installing cameras you can still upset guests who may feel mistrusted or spied on. 

Screenshot of an Airbnb review in which a guest complains about security cameras
Security cameras can set up a bad relationship between you and your guests.

Solution: Keep them facing outside

If you want cameras to deter burglars and save money on your insurance, place them so they only face outdoors. These are less likely to bother guests, who will appreciate the added security whilst still enjoying their privacy inside. 

Complaint: Access issues  

If you don’t have a streamlined check-in process, you risk starting your guest’s stay off in the wrong way. If they have to meet you to get the keys, even a bit of traffic could lead to delays and a bad review. And if they can’t find the information they need to use your lockbox, they’re also likely to end up frustrated and waiting around.

Screenshot of an Airbnb guest complaining about issues at check-in
Reviews that describe lengthy check-in procedures can put modern guests off booking.

Solution: Automate check-in

With automation tools, you can ensure your guests have a completely frictionless check-in experience. Inside Hostfully, for example, you can queue an automated message sequence to send directions and check-in instructions upon booking and a key code upon arrival.  

Complaint: Inconsistent communication 

Guests expect great communication from check-in through to check-out. Ideally, this means they’ll have all information to hand when they arrive and can easily ask you supplementary questions about the area and your amenities. If they contact you about an issue and don’t promptly hear back though, this is where bad experiences start to form.  

Screenshot of a guest complaining about a 12-hour message delay in an Airbnb review
You can mitigate the impact of other issues with great communications.

Solution: Use automation

Particularly as you scale and start managing several properties, replying to every guest issue can be a lot of admin. You can save time and ensure you don’t miss any issues with automated messaging solutions.

Inside Hostfully, you can queue a check-in sequence that tells the guest how to arrive, where to park, and what the Wi-Fi code is. Then you can check in on them a couple of days into their stay to make sure everything is going ok. At the end of their stay, you can send them reminders about what they need to do before they check out.

Screenshot of Hostfully’s inbox
Inside Hostfully’s centralized inbox, you can see messages from Airbnb,, Vrbo, and more in one place.

Complaint: A lack of local information 

Guests book vacation rental properties because they’re looking for a personal experience. So they look to you as a source of recommendations and local insights. And if they sense you don’t know much about where your property is situated, they might feel disappointed. 

Solution: Create digital guidebooks

To save yourself the admin of sending each guest a list of local recommendations, you can create digital guidebooks that increase guest independence. These can include:

  • Local recommendations such as restaurants and shops
  • Links to local services like tours and activities
  • Instructions for the guest such as information about where to park
  • Information about your amenities
  • Self check-in information

Inside Hostfully, you can create a branded bank of content in multiple languages. You’ll also get an 8% commission on any other businesses’ services you link out to through our integration with Viator.

Branded Hostfully guidebook for Cuevas Helena showing different available languages
You can use Hostfully’s branded guidebooks to share insights, tips, and details in multiple languages.

Complaint: Not enough or poor quality amenities 

Unless explicitly stated in your listings, you’re likely to receive complaints if your property is missing space for your guests to sit and eat. But you can also get caught out if you lack the smaller amenities. If guests find your property doesn’t have enough kitchen supplies or feel the sheets are uncomfy, for example, they’re unlikely to leave a positive review.

Screenshot of someone complaining about a lack of towels and soap in an Airbnb
Investing in high-quality products is a way to set yourself apart from the competition.

Solution: Create checklists

Make lists of your stock, and be generous with how many of each item you think you might need. Then ask your cleaners to replenish everything after each stay with reference to this checklist. They can also adjust the quantities based on how much guests are using. 

Complaint: Poor cleanliness   

Even a single hair in the bathroom can cause a guest to complain. And because many guests take that extra step to check under the beds and on top of the wardrobes, unless your place is spotless, you’re leaving yourself susceptible to negative reviews.

Screenshot of Airbnb guest complaining about dust
Guests notice even the smaller signs of cleaning issues when staying in a short-term rental.

Solution: Ensure great hygiene standards  

You should implement and tweak your task checklists for your cleaners to ensure consistently high hygiene standards. But because this can be a lot of admin for you to manage, look to automation tools to save time.

With Hostfully’s PMS, for example, you’ll get a free Turno account and access to quality control checklists and scheduling software. Turno will assign tasks automatically based on real-time reservation data and give cleaners automatic access to the checklist so you never have to worry about a clean being missed. 

Complaint: Wi-Fi Instability 

A slow or inconsistent Wi-Fi connection is a big cause of frustration for guests. And reports of a bad signal can put remote workers off from booking longer stays.

Screenshot of a guest complaining about Wi-Fi in an Airbnb review
You need to have a Wi-Fi signal that reaches across most of your property.

Solution: Reset your connection with each stay 

To improve your Wi-Fi connection, install boosters that strengthen the signal between rooms, and reset your router between stays. You can ask your cleaners to do this as part of their automated checklist of tasks.

Complaint: Temperature issues

Both hot apartments and cold houses are prone to getting negative reviews. But even if the temperature of your property is right most of the time, you can still have issues if the property is cold when guests arrive. 

Screenshot of a guest complaining about the temperature at an Airbnb
With a smart thermostat, you can adjust the temperature if your guests are too warm.

Solution: Use a smart thermostat  

With a smart thermostat that integrates with your PMS, as Lynx does with Hostfully, you can set your heating to come on just before your guests arrive. This means you can create a warm, welcoming apartment and avoid wasting money on energy. 

Complaint: Problems with neighbors  

If your guests are hosting parties in your short-term rental, they’re probably going to expect to be in trouble with the neighbors. But if someone knocks on your guest’s door to complain about the noise when nothing is actually going on, they might wonder why you didn’t label it as a quiet neighborhood in your listing. 

Solution: Use a noise monitoring solution  

A noise monitoring solution allows you to protect your relationships with both neighbors and guests. Software such as NoiseAware which integrates with Hostfully will notify you if the volume reaches above a level you pre-set. 

Then, if you get a call from a neighbor, you can check your alerts. If the complaint was warranted, you can send your guest a quick message asking them to keep the noise down, but if it wasn’t, you can leave them in peace. 

How to deal with negative vacation rental reviews

By responding in the right way to negative reviews, you show potential guests you’re trustworthy, honest, and responsive to feedback.

The first step is to ensure your replies to negative comments are solutions-driven. If you’re seen to be taking proactive steps to deliver a positive experience, the odd bad review is less likely to impact your bookings. 

Screenshot of an Airbnb host responding to a noise complaint positively
Your review responses should show a keenness to improve the guest experience.

Even when you feel like issues may not be your fault, you need to avoid sounding defensive or blaming the guest. If you look like you don’t want to take responsibility, this can damage your reputation as a host.

Screenshot of an Airbnb host responding defensively to a review
You should avoid sounding judgemental of guests in your review responses.

Strategies to mitigate the impact of negative vacation rental reviews

To deal with bad Airbnb reviews, you can delay your review of a guest. Airbnb gives guests 14 days to leave you feedback. But by scheduling your review to post 14 days after their stay, they are less likely to have time to post theirs. 

You can use Hostfully to automate your online reviews, setting up personalized templates to thank guests for staying with you and thereby encouraging them to leave positive reviews for you. Then, if you do encounter a difficult guest, you can tick a box at checkout to delay the review until the end of the 14-day period.  

The guest reviews tab within the Hostfully platform
Reviewing guests is fast and simple with a batch of review templates at the ready.

Use negative reviews to show you care and improve

Negative guest reviews are never fun, but you can use them to improve your business. 

Develop a process to make use of insights from your reviews. If you frequently see people complaining about the Wi-Fi in a certain room, for example, you could get a booster. Or if there is an area where your cleaning standards seem to slip, you can communicate this with your team. 

Inside Hostfully, you can manage your team, communicate with guests, and manage reviews inside a single dashboard. You’ll save time with a centralized calendar, automated messaging, review templates, and more.

The Hostfully dashboard showing severals guest stays and details
You can manage all your vacation rentals from one place with the Hostfully dashboard.

Boost your reviews with automation

No matter where you are in your short-term rental management journey, there are strategies you can put in place to protect yourself against negative reviews.

These include:

  • Writing accurate listing descriptions
  • Keeping security cameras outside
  • Improving guest communications
  • Streamlining check-in processes
  • Ensuring high hygiene standards
  • Providing a great Wi-Fi connection
  • Implementing a smart thermostat
  • Using a noise monitoring system

With automation, you can reduce the workload involved in these tasks. You can respond to guests quickly and at scale with automated messaging, manage your teams with a scheduling solution, and encourage good reviews with review management. 

By implementing these strategies and learning what you can from negative feedback, you’ll only strengthen your business but provide an even better experience for future guests. 

Skip the admin of guest relationships using Hostfully