Managing Your Vacation Rental

When Something Goes Wrong in Your Rental

Written by Joan Talmadge
4.9/5 - (16 votes)

As a fellow rental homeowner, I know what it feels like to answer the phone and hear a current tenant’s voice on the phone. “The dishwasher is leaking,” is what I heard a few weeks ago from my tenant. Naturally, it was a weekend, and I couldn’t get a repairman there until the following Tuesday. I apologized for the inconvenience, and let them know when it would be fixed. But I felt I should do something for the tenants, so I got them a gift card at a nearby specialty food market.

Just the other day, a homeowner called with a dilemma. His incoming tenant detected a foul odor coming from somewhere in the kitchen, and, despite having the cleaner go in twice to clean some more, the odor remained. “My tenant is not happy. What shall I do?” he asked me. I suggested that he call a local restaurant and have a gift card prepared for his tenants. A day or so later, a plumber solved the mystery smell (sour milk beneath the refrigerator), and a potentially unhappy rental experience was averted.

The takeaway from this? We all know that unexpected things happen at a rental home. Appliances break, bugs appear, the turnover cleaners are late in arriving…you name it. But it’s not sufficient to just offer an apology. We need to go out of our way to fix the situation promptly, and if there’s a delay, we should compensate the tenant for their inconvenience. They need to know we really care about their having a good time while staying at our home.

I read the guest reviews as they come in, and there’s a predictable pattern: high praise if a homeowner reacts quickly to resolve a problem or at least compensates the tenant in some way. Conversely, complaints abound if the homeowner is somewhat apathetic to a problem or expects the guest to just “live with it.”

So the old adage “The customer is always right” applies here. Our tenants are our “customers,” in a sense, and it’s our job as homeowners to do all we can to make their stay comfortable and to address any issues quickly and responsibly. It will pay off in positive guest reviews and repeat tenants!

Do you have any suggestions for gifts or other compensation that other homeowners might offer their tenants in a time of need?

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About the author

Joan Talmadge

Joan Talmadge - My husband Jeff and I created 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, 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


  • I love this article! We had a situation this past summer with mites in our Cottage. Two different guests had to deal with it. The first guesto were repeat customers who have been coming at least 5 years. The second guest was here in our cottage for the first time. My husband dealt with the situation immediately. We felt horrible! Our worst nightmare. The guests were incredibly gracious and understanding and even said they would return next year in their reviews. However, I told each of them that I would give them a $100 discount next summer.
    I felt I had to do something!

  • We recently had a great review from a tenant. In a private note they mentioned that the mattresses in the second bedroom were uncomfortable, It brought to mind of one of your other topics about try staying in your vacation property. I suggest, try sleeping in your kids old beds and see if you think they are comfortable for adults that may be utilizing that 2nd or 3rd bedroom, now that the kids are gone. We are now upgrading the mattress’s and box springs