Mandatory safety standards & recommended best practices for Short-term Rentals

Written by Joan Talmadge
4.8/5 - (6 votes)

Massachusetts transitioned from Phase I to Phase II of the re-opening process last summer, including the lifting of the ban on short-term rentals – with certain restrictions and recommendations.  View the full Safety Standards and Checklist: Operators of Lodging from the Mass.gov website.

On the website, it is stated,Operators of unstaffed, individual unit lodging facilities such as short-term home or apartment rentals are required to comply with the hygiene standards specified.” 

Much of the language on the Mass.gov site lumps all lodging (including hotels, motels, inns, and B&B’s) together with short-term rentals (STR’s). But we have culled out all the language that is specific to STR’s for your ease.

We are also including some links (below) to downloadable checklists and logs to assist you as you manage your rentals throughout this challenging time.


  • Provide a Contactless Check-In procedure for guests
  • Improve ventilation for enclosed spaces where possible (e.g., open doors and windows)
  • All owners, Property Managers, and Cleaning Staff adhere to safety guidelines and precautions (face-coverings, self-screening, etc.)
  • Instruct guests prior to and during their stay to adhere to safety guidelines and precautions when leaving the home. (View Beach Protocol)
  • Use contactless pick-up and delivery protocols (e.g., linen service, equipment deliveries)
  • To support contact tracing, maintain a log of anyone who enters your rental (e.g. family, your guests, turnover staff, service providers, etc.), including their name, date, time, contact information. [Download sample Visitor Log (PDF file) or (Editable File)]
  • Remove or limit paper amenities. Remove pens, paper, and guest directory, magazines and brochures. Supplement with digital material if requested.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • Ensure access to handwashing agents on site, including soap.
  • Practice enhanced room sanitation by cleaning and sanitizing all hard surfaces at a minimum each time a guest checks out and before the next guest is admitted, and laundering all linens, bedspreads and covers.
  • When dirty linens are removed and transported from the property, they should be placed in single-use, sealed bags, and pillow protectors on the beds should be changed in between guests.  All bed linens and laundry should be washed at a high temperature and cleaned in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • Keep cleaning logs that include date, time, and scope of cleaning. [Download our Sample Cleaners Log (PDF File) or (Editable file).]
  • In the event that a guest presents a presumptive case of COVID-19 or a positive case, the room used by that guest may only be returned to service after undergoing an enhanced sanitization protocol, in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Creating a time buffer between guests

The state’s Safety Standards say, “Consider leaving guest rooms vacant for 24 hours as part of cleaning protocol to allow for deep cleaning, disinfectant and cleaners to dry, and reasonable air exchange.” Although hotels/motels are better situated to have a 24-hour buffer between guests, it is not a requirement, and it’s much more challenging for STR’s, which may already be booked back-to-back weekly.

It is recommended that you review your standard turnover procedures and extend the turnover time to allow for the required cleaning services to be completed.

Communicate in advance with your guests any changes to either your check-in or check-out times. Explain to them that these measures are taken to ensure everyone’s safety.  If guests are concerned about insufficient turnover time, consider offering them a check-in option the next day.  This would reduce their weekly rental to a 6-night stay. Thus, you might consider prorating their stay.  View our post Flexible Booking Strategies for 2020.

Quarantine for Out-of-State Guests

 Lodging operators must inform guests at the time a reservation is made and at check-in of the Commonwealth’s policy urging travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days when arriving in Massachusetts from out of state.

Note: Self -quarantining for out of state guests is urged by the state but is not a requirement.  The state does require you to inform your guests of this guidance, but they are not required to quarantine. The state also  asks you to educate all your guests, regardless of where they are coming from, about how to vacation safely and responsibly (state social distancing guidelines, wear a mask in public, beach guidelines, etc.).

It’s imperative that every short-term rental home maintain the standards set by the mandates and recommendations from the Governor’s office and the CDC to assure the safety of your service providers, your guests, and yourselves. Sometimes this requires common sense as well as the following of guidelines.

And don’t forget to communicate your efforts to your guests! They will naturally be anxious about the risks of entering your home. By informing them of what you and your cleaners have done, you will give them valuable peace of mind. [Download our Sample Cleaning Checklist (PDF File) or (Editable File).]



Cleaning and Turnovers


Sample Lease

COVID-19 Information

  • CDC Information on Coronavirus: Read more
  • MA Information on the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019: Read more
  • Stop the Spread of Germs (CDC): View PDF
  • More Printables from CDC: View more

Vacationer Information

About the author

Joan Talmadge

Joan Talmadge - My husband Jeff and I created WeNeedaVacation.com in 1997, shortly after buying our Cape home. My background includes teaching fifth grade for 8 years and writing and editing educational publications for 15. I get great joy from helping fellow homeowners successfully rent their homes. Jeff and I are proud to have two of our three grown children working for WeNeedaVacation.com, truly a family-run business. For me, the Cape and Islands are magical all times of the year -- whether it's walking on Nauset Beach, playing golf, or enjoying family and friends. Email Joan


  • Does the July 1 on non new England New York self quaratine require that someone from DC self quarantine? Where on the state’s on line infor. can I find the quote above?

  • I’ve poured over many websites to find out if the 31 day minimum short term rental requirement has been lifted but can find nothing specific. I have an Airbnb in the Berkshires and would like to update my guests who want to book my home for shorter stays. Can you direct me to a site that is specific?

  • Yes, thank you, Joan for all the information and great guidance – now and over the years.

    Is there roughly any idea when the next Phase will be implemented by Gov. Baker?

    • Laura, Governor Baker always said that if all went well, the phases would occur in three-week intervals. So, since Phase 2 started on June 8, I believe that Phase 3 starts on June 22, with the reopening restaurants for indoor dining.

  • Joan: We understand that some operators of Inns and other types of lodging are asking guests to sign a waiver of liability. Are you familiar with this ? do you have a form that we could adapt for our guests ?

    • Hi Merry, I know I replied to your question in an email, but you (and others) can find our sample leases at the bottom of this post — https://blog.weneedavacation.com/covid19/ — along with many other resources. Clause #16 deals with indemnification of the homeowner. We think this is sufficient and that a separate waiver isn’t necessary, but you can create one using the words in the lease if you wish.

  • The cleaning log and the guest log look very similar except for the titles. Should they?

  • Hello Joan,
    Thank you for the all this great information. Can you please affirm that I will be doing the correct thing?:
    1. The Vacation Rental Cleaning Log looks like the ones in hotels. I anticipate that our housekeepers should sign after each time they clean the cottage and leave it posted in the house. I plan to provide a plastic sleeve or binder to hold the documents, knowing that the sleeve will need to be disinfected as well.
    2. The Vacation Rental Guest Log: I plan to have a Master List using this template to keep on file and also have the Guest sign in and out. Should we have a separate Guest log for each guest for privacy purposes and collect them? I was going to have that information on the lease, too. If someone comes to visit who was not on the list, then this template would be very important as a sign in sheet and for Contact Tracing.
    Thank you and we appreciate all your hard work.
    Elaine Cwynar

    • Yes, what you propose doing sounds great, Elaine! The state has provided no specifics about how to implement their general guidance. But your plans for both the Cleaning Log and the Guest Log seem to make a lot of sense. And we do recommend that for the sake of guests’ privacy you have a separate Guest Log for each party.

  • So we remove all books, toys, board games, outdoor games? How about beach chairs?

    • I think we need to remind guests to WASH HANDS often. If it rains, books and board games are great to have available. High temperature, high humidity, and direct sunlight weakens the virus so beach chairs should be fine. I don’t see why we have to change pillow protectors yet mattress protectors are OK between guests.

      • Yes, Sheila, that’s right. Washing hands often is always recommended, and having books and board games is nice to have for your guests. The problem comes when they are left out and create clutter for your cleaners as they try to clean and disinfect all surfaces. And I agree that beach chairs do not seem like high risk areas for the virus to survive. I do think it’s easy enough to launder pillow protectors, so why not? Best to err on the side of caution. I’ve even seen some inexpensive disposable ones on Amazon.

    • I am curious about this too. I know my renters enjoy the board games, ping pong table, and the books. I have a borrowers library – need a book, leave a book. I am not renting until mid-August – Septmber so maybe some of these restrictions will be lifted by then.

      • Hi Kristen, Yes, as I mentioned below to Sheila and Janette, having books and board games is nice to have for your guests. The problem comes when they are left out and create clutter for your cleaners as they try to clean and disinfect all surfaces. They create a kind of obstacle course.

      • Thanks for all the input. We have a corner of the living room with open shelves above with books and closed cabinets below with games ands puzzles. I think I will move the kids books up so an adult has to get it for them so the adult is in charge of touch.

  • Thank you Joan for providing this information so quickly. You make it so much easier for homeowners like us to be on top of this situation!