Managing Your Vacation Rental

The Pros and Cons of Charging a Cleaning Fee

Written by Elizabeth Weedon
4.1/5 - (31 votes)

One of the difficult choices to make when managing a vacation rental is whether or not to charge a cleaning fee, refundable or not, over and above the rent. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer – but let’s discuss a few options and considerations to help you make a decision that’s right for you.

A general rule of thumb is that fairly high-end homes tend to include the cost of cleaning, although this is not always the case.

Charging a non-refundable cleaning fee

Pros: Obviously, charging a cleaning fee allows you to recoup a pretty expensive part of managing your home.  Really good, dependable cleaning services on the Cape and Islands are in great demand during the busy summer weeks.  As a result, they fill up their schedules quickly and are expensive.

And it’s not unusual to charge a cleaning fee these days, so your tenants shouldn’t be too surprised.

Also, your listing might be more likely to appear in a vacationer’s search with a lower price cap than if it were included in the rent.

Cons: Depending on how aggressive your rental pricing is already, you could risk losing bookings if the vacationers are unwilling to pay for the extra fee. The vacation rental market is very competitive, so take a look at comparable listings to make sure you are priced reasonably enough to allow for charging any extra fees. For assistance, see our blog post about pricing your home.

We find that  some vacationers who have paid an extra cleaning fee feel that doing so releases them from having to lift a finger to clean at all before they leave – they’ve paid extra for cleaning, they’re going to get their money’s worth.

And since the substantial addition of the MA lodging tax, vacationers are especially sensitive to the mounting “add-on” costs of renting a home. (Thankfully at least, WeNeedaVacation does not charge vacationers a fee to use our site, making it easier for homeowners to charge one if they wish.)

What to charge

The amount to charge can vary between $100 and as much as $500+, depending on the size of the house. But the most common for an average size house is around $150-$250. What does your cleaning service charge for an average turnover cleaning?

Alternative (not recommended) options

Some homeowners opt to charge a refundable cleaning fee – if the house is left in an adequately clean condition, the fee is returned.  This provides incentive for the tenants to leave the house clean, which is great. The problem is that the decision to return the funds is up to the homeowner, and this can lead to disputes about exactly how clean the house needed to be in order to allow for a full refund, or to justify only a partial return, or even none at all. The last thing you want to deal with is a dispute or a negative guest review.

In the past, some homeowners have offered their guests the choice: pay for cleaning, or clean the home themselves. Although this seems like a very fair and flexible arrangement, the fact is that this plan is fraught with problems and can end an otherwise wonderful vacation on a sour note if the homeowner feels that the vacationer didn’t leave the home as clean as expected. Again, just too many opportunities for disputes.

Including your cleaning costs in your rental price

Here are some subtle benefits to not charging extra for cleaning:

  • First, it’s one more selling point for your rental. I don’t charge one, and I always feel like I clinch the deal when I assure my potential guests that, besides the tax, there are no additional costs at all.
  • It’s also one less thing for either of us to deal with.
  • And finally, providing a turn-key, thoroughly relaxing and enjoyable vacation for your guests, without any extra fees or responsibilities, is a big part of the homeowner’s ultimate goal: to have extremely happy guests who will love and take care of your home, write a lovely guest review when they leave, and return year after year.

Do you charge extra for cleaning? If so, has doing so ever created any problems with your tenants? Or do you think it has ever impacted a potential booking of your home?

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.


  • Elizabeth, I can understand why it would be important to be careful when it comes to property cleaning fees. Our house happens to be cluttered thanks to our kids. I definitely think that we should look into finding a good cleaning service that could make our home pristine.

  • I would recommend landlords to have a security deposit always after seeing all what some unprofessional tenants do the property. On the other hand, tenants have right query landlord if security deposit is too much or coming with further restrictions

  • Yes, I do include the cleaning cost in my rental fee. NOT as an extra charge. I feel this way, I ask the people to leave the house as they found it. I tell them that if extra cleaning is needed, I will deduct the cost from their security deposit.. In 3 years, I have never had to do that. I have found the house spotless and sometime wonder why I hire the cleaning crew. I believe that a cleaning crew should come in and do a thorough job of vacuming and sanitizing the sinkes and bath. Also, they know the house and will notice anything broken or missing, so I know who to blame if needed.

  • this is a no brainer. Everone’s definition of clean is different- If I clean to perfection everyone is happy.
    Cleaning ata high standard a must and that means a professional