Managing Your Vacation Rental

Screening Vacation Rental Tenants II: It’s OK to say No!

Written by Elizabeth Weedon
4.9/5 - (50 votes)

Updated January 2024

One concern shared by many of our vacation rental homeowners on Cape Cod is that they get cornered into renting to young adults looking for a fun place to party together for a week. (Homes on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket are at less risk due to the greater logistical and financial demands of getting there.) In fact, a seemingly responsible vacationer can rent a home on the Cape and then invite hordes of friends from off-Cape to come join them for a cookout or a few nights of partying.

What are your legal rights regarding who stays in, or even visits, your home? How do you say no? What can you do as a homeowner to legally protect your home from irresponsible parties?

You’re the boss!

You are not a public company and are not restricted in any way from picking and choosing whom you would like to stay in your home.  Your tenants are essentially your guests. You can deny them for any reason at all. We only ask that you do so as courteously and diplomatically as possible.

How to say “no.”

If you are suspicious that some prospective tenants are young adults looking for a place to party, try to convince them that your home would not be a good fit for them.

  • Explain that the home is in a family-oriented neighborhood, and neighbors are quick to call you or the authorities.
  • Tell them that your home is an alcohol-free property (and you can even include this in your lease on occasion if you’re concerned.)
  • If you happen to live nearby, make it clear that you do but that you will only stop by if requested or with advance notice.
  • Require a limit on cars. An excessive number of cars may be a flag that a large gathering is planned. Anyone planning a party will reconsider if there is a 2-car limit.

The objective is to get them to back out without your having to turn them down.

Also, require a higher-than-normal security deposit. This may be enough to discourage them from renting from you. Or, if you do rent to them, you are better protected in case of damage or the need for excess cleaning.

The bottom line is that you should never allow anyone in your home whom you do not trust – young, old, or in between. And you have every legal right to make that decision.

Protect yourself legally

Just in case your best efforts to screen your tenants fall short, make sure your lease provides you with adequate legal protection. If you have a listing with us, ask us for a copy of our sample lease.  Protective language is provided. Such as:

  • This property will not be used for functions such as weddings, wedding receptions, family reunions, or any other gatherings involving more than the maximum number of occupants specified in this lease agreement except with prior approval of the LANDLORD.
  • The TENANT shall not disturb, annoy, endanger, or inconvenience neighbors, nor use the premises for any immoral or unlawful purposes, nor violate any law or ordinance, nor commit waste or nuisance on or about the premises.

You could also require that whoever’s name is on the rental agreement be present in the home throughout the stay, forfeiting the remaining occupancy and funds if they are not present.

See our other blog posts about some general advice related to screening inquiries from vacationers.

Screening for a Better Fit

Screening III: Do the research

Do you have any suggestions for other homeowners to help screen their tenants and protect against excess partying in their homes?

About the author

Elizabeth Weedon

Elizabeth Weedon - Although I’ve worked for since 2008, I’ve been a loyal homeowner on the site since early 1998, just a few months after the website was launched by the Talmadges. I grew up summering on the Vineyard and managed my family's rental home there since the mid-1980’s. I’m passionately devoted to the Vineyard – and to WeNeedaVacation, which I credit with enabling me to hold onto the special property that has been in our family for nearly a century. An enthusiastic member of the WNAV Homeowner Support Team, I endeavor to keep my finger on the pulse of the Cape and Islands vacation rental industry so that I can provide homeowners advice about how to ensure their booking success with us. With owner Joan Talmadge, I am also responsible for editing and writing much of the text on our website, our monthly newsletters, and Homeowner Blog posts.


  • Last summer, we rented to what we always consider a responsible party–2 couples with 2 children each. Everything seemed fine until the second day, when a passing neighbor noticed that there were 8 cars in the driveway and 2 more parked along the road. Another neighbor complained about noise. We are not local, so I could not check up on this in person. I called the woman with whom I had talked during the rental process. She was quite defensive, saying that each of the adults (4) in the party had brought their own cars, and the other cars belonged to people who had dropped by to say hello. It must have been a very long hello, because the cars and the noise remained until late that night. The next day, the woman called to ask for an extra trash pickup, due to oyster and clam shells they needed to dispose of. Clearly, they were packing people into the house. Finally, the week ended. We were extremely lucky–there was no damage to the property. However, we have now changed the lease to state that no cars are to be parked along the roadway, and only 4 are permitted in the driveway. We have also strengthened the language regarding noise and nuisance to neighbors. The woman has asked to return this summer. We have politely told her that we feel it is not the best fit, and that she would probably be happier elsewhere.

  • Hi,

    I just got a call last night from an 18 year old girl that asked if I rented to 18 year olds. I tolder My policy was to rent to adults 25 and older. She thanked me and hung up. Last year, A young girl emailed me. I looked her up on face book and found she was just graduating from High school. I told her I was booked.
    I felt sorry, but I have heard too many horror stories of houses being trashed by young slobs. Last year I did rent to some young adults girls and found on face book that some of them were employed at a Boston hospital. I had them all put their personal information on the list and charge a $500 security deposit. They turned out fine and left my home spotless, no cleaning needed. Thay are comming back in July. I felt bad about turning down the high school kids, but as you said, this is my home. And, to have the police evict them, i understand is not possible unless a crime is being committed. The police would consider over crowding or sloppyness only a civil manner and not intervene if I needed to evict them. I have great neighbors, but I am still an absentee landlord 4.5 hous away and am unable to check on things during a rentor’s stay.
    Have a prosperous New Year all.

    • Hi Jerry. So glad to hear you’re using the resourcefulness of social media and how it’s helped you to better protect your rental. Thanks for sharing your experience. Best, Shannon