Managing Your Vacation Rental

Yikes! A Negative Guest Review!

Written by Joan Talmadge
4.7/5 - (19 votes)

Fortunately, of the thousands of guest reviews we receive each year, on average, 98% are positive (4- or 5-star) reviews.

But, yes, it can happen:  Despite your best efforts to provide a home that all of your tenants will rave about, you might someday receive a negative guest review – or a negative comment in an otherwise positive review. What should you do?

Respond quickly, graciously, and positively

How you as the homeowner respond to a negative review can have more of an impact than the review itself.   A carefully and thoughtfully written response will give the reader an impression of you as the responsive and caring homeowner that you are, whereas an emotional or defensive reaction will just add fuel to the fire and greater credence to the vacationer’s criticism.

Potential renters know that unexpected and unfortunate situations occur.  By taking responsibility for these occurrences, you will show that you are a professional and sensitive homeowner. Do your best to “take the high road,” take responsibility for any unexpected issue that occurred. Here are a few examples of negative reviews and the smart way some homeowners reacted to them in their public responses:

Tenant:  We had a wonderful stay – the location is ideal for our family.  We felt that the house could have been a little cleaner, especially since we had two babies crawling around on the floor. 

Owner’s response:  We appreciate your feedback as we strive to make it a comfortable stay for all of our guests.  We will be speaking with our cleaning staff to be sure that, in the future, our home is spotless, even for crawling babies!

Tenant: One thing that was a little upsetting was that we could not walk to the beach from the front of the house because of the birds nesting.

Owner’s response:  The nests of the endangered piping plovers caused a slight detour to the beach this year, but there was always access to the beach from the front of the house, just to the right of the original path. Thank you for taking the time to write your review and hope to see you all back again someday!

Tenant: We were disappointed in this rental.  It was more rustic than we expected it to be, and we found some cobwebs in places.  There was no dishwasher or air conditioning.  But we had a great time anyway and loved being so close to a beautiful beach.

Owner’s response:  We are so sorry that you were disappointed in our home.  Our home isn’t for everyone, and we try to convey its rustic nature on our listing.  We don’t list A/C or a dishwasher in the list of amenities but will spell it out in the description loud and clear.  But we’re glad you enjoyed our beach – it’s one of the draws that keep some of our tenants coming back each year!

Get more reviews

One of the best ways to mitigate the impact of a negative guest review is to post other positive ones.  You probably have had many happy tenants – ask them to write a review.  Their positive comments will go a long way towards making your one negative review seem like the outlier.

On, homeowners can use a request form to send a personalized email to their past tenants requesting them to write a review. It’s easy for you, and easy for them!   See more.

Take steps to avoid receiving a negative review

Here are 3 important tips to assure your tenants’ happiness and increase your chances of their posting great guest reviews – and even returning for future stays:

1.    Manage your tenants’ expectations before they arrive. – See more.
2.    Check in with them shortly after their arrival to make sure all is well. – See more.
3.    Treat them not as tenants but as your guests.   See more.

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


  • Hi we got a very negative review on VRBO. Below is the post and our response. This renter stayed one night we never had such a bad review from any of our week long renters. This renter even went so far as to post the negative review on our other web sites that we advertise on that they didnt post on. We called VRBO and asked them if they could make a differentation between people who booked through the site and people who do not. They said they would try to do this but they still had to accept all reviews wether the person booked or not through their site. Do you do this? This is the review.

    Good does not outweigh the bed.
    First of all the price was right and the location beautiful. The hosts were easy to work with. BUT….the house smells very musty, one of the beds is a pullout couch on an unheated porch that has a mildewy mattress with springs popping through it and the other beds have very uncomfortable mattresses. Sleeping was hard to come by. Furthermore, while there are two bathrooms, one of them is in the far corner of the upstairs bedroom which means that everyone else(7) needs to share one bathroom on the first floor. On the upside, there are awesome kayaks and the house is right on a river. We would choose a good night’s sleep.
    Stayed: October 2014Submitted: October 15, 2014Source: VRBO
    Owner response:
    We’re sorry you had such a bad time! Your feedback is very important. Too often people are reluctant to give the bad and good. I know you came in later than expected and were under a short one day time crunch. We made up all the beds for your arrival. The musty smell has not been a complaint before. The house is right on the water. That might have been the source.
    I had turned off the dehumidifier in the crawl space a month ago (start of September) and will turn it back on for a spell to see if we can tell any difference. The sunroom with pull-out couch is an unheated room. We offered an electric heater for use there but found you had not used it. You came with 7 people and we have 7 beds in 3 heated bed rooms. Two of those beds are queens with new mattresses. We thought you would use these 7 beds but after rental heard that you wanted to use the sunroom pull-out to have four private room spaces. (We advertise as having three bedrooms.) The pull-out bed is certainly a thinner mattress! I pulled the mattress cover and found no springs popping through. You can feel where the springs are and I agree that a replacement is needed. On 10/16: I took the entire pull out couch to the dump and disposed of it. I have replaced it with a 7″ thick 53″ x 72″ futon couch/bed. It sleeps much better than a pull-out sofa. Trying out all beds I agree that the two mattresses in the small room upstairs are not good enough for an adult. We have purchased two new high quality mattresses for the smaller bedroom. All other mattresses are in great condition. Regarding bathrooms, I recall telling you that the upstairs bathroom was attached to the larger bedroom. But we should make it clearer with prospective renters that this means that the 2 people in the smaller bedroom must walk thru the larger bedroom to access the upstairs bathroom or use the downstairs bathroom with two entrances. We are happy to invite you back for a free night to try out the three new mattresses, and see if the crawl space dehumidifier makes a difference. Hopefully you’ll have some time to get on the water and use the kayaks or enjoy the beach. It was good hearing your feedback. Thanks!

    • Deb, we’re sorry to hear about this negative review, but it appears that you handled it very well and even generously offered the tenant a free stay at your home. Did they ever take you up on it?

      In answer to your question, like all vacation rental websites, we allow renters to write a review about their stay at a home even if they did not initially find that home on our site. The more common scenario is that a renter wants to write a positive review about a home. We wouldn’t want to prevent them from writing that review just because they found the home by some other means. That being said, we do review the guest reviews very carefully and always put negative ones on hold until we can speak with the homeowner and hear their side of the story. Reviews must adhere to our guest review guidelines, or they are not posted.