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Airbnb/VRBO Red Flag Guests Guide: Protecting Your Property and Peace of Mind


As a vacation rental host on platforms like Airbnb and VRBO, welcoming guests from around the world can be an exciting and profitable venture. However, not all guests are created equal, and occasionally, you may encounter red flag guests who can turn your hosting experience into a nightmare. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore various aspects of identifying and dealing with potential red flag guests to safeguard your property and maintain your peace of mind.

1. Understanding Red Flag Guests

Who Are Red Flag Guests?

Red flag guests are individuals or groups who exhibit behaviors, characteristics, or patterns of communication that may indicate potential problems during their stay at your vacation rental property. These issues can range from causing damage to your property, violating house rules, or engaging in illegal activities. Red flag guests are not limited to any particular demographic, but certain behaviors and patterns can help you identify them.

Why Is Identifying Red Flag Guests Important?

Identifying red flag guests is essential for protecting your property and ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for both you and your future guests. Failing to spot warning signs early on can lead to property damage, negative reviews, and potential legal issues. By understanding who red flag guests are and how to deal with them, you can maintain a positive hosting experience.

2. Guest Profile and Communication

Screening Guests Before Booking

One of the first steps in identifying potential red flag guests is through their guest profile pictures stock photos and communication. When guests message to inquire about your property or send booking requests, take the time to review pictures on their profiles, including:

Profile Photos: Look for clear, genuine photos of the photo of the other person, friend or guest, not blurry or impersonal images or stock photo photos.

Complete Profiles: Guests with detailed and complete profiles are generally more trustworthy.

Verification: Prioritize guests who have completed identity verification on the platform.

Communication Patterns to Watch Out For

Pay attention to how potential guests communicate with you during the hotel booking process. Red flags can include:

Excessive Questions: Guests asking overly detailed or repetitive questions may be trying to manipulate the situation.

Late-Night Inquiries: Inquiries or messages sent to hotel front at unusual hours can be a sign of impulsive or potentially troublesome guests.

Pressure to Book Quickly: Guests who push for an immediate booking without giving you time to review their profile may be hiding something.

3. Booking Requests and Inquiry

Red Flags in Booking Requests

When you receive a booking request message, scrutinize it for potential red flags:

Lack of Information: Incomplete or vague booking requests may indicate a lack of respect for your own space, location, property or rules.

Last-Minute Requests: Be cautious about last-minute bookings, as they are scams that may leave you with less money and insufficient time for due diligence.

Unusual Group Sizes: Be wary of discrepancies between the number of guests in the room you request and the size of space on your property.

Investigating Guest Inquiries

If a potential guest sends an inquiry message rather than a booking request, use this opportunity to gather more information:

Ask for More Details: Politely inquire about the purpose of their stay, the budget, the number of guests, and any special requirements.

Check for Consistency: Ensure that the information in their inquiry aligns with their profile and previous messages.

Trust Your Gut: If you sense that something about the person or the inquiry feels off, feel safe to trust your instincts and proceed cautiously.

4. Reviews and Ratings

Analyzing Guest Reviews

Reviews from previous guests and Airbnb hosts can be invaluable in assessing a potential guest's suitability. Look for:

Negative Reviews: If a guest has a history of negative reviews, carefully after reading reviews to consider whether you want to accept their booking.

Host Feedback: Read comments from other hosts to identify recurring issues, such as noise complaints or rule violations.

Importance of Host Reviews

As a responsible host, your own reviews of guests can help others in the hosting community. Be honest and fair in your assessments, as this information can be crucial for fellow hosts when making decisions about potential guests.

5. Payment and Verification

Payment Methods and Red Flags

Take note of the payment methods guests use:

Unverified Payments: Guests using unverified payment methods may be attempting scams to avoid accountability.

Cash Payments: Avoid accepting cash payments outside the platform, as this can circumvent platform policies.

Verifying Guest Information

Platforms like Airbnb and VRBO offer verification services for guest identification. Encourage guests to complete these verifications to establish their trustworthiness. Always verify the guest's identity when they arrive.

6. Preventing Red Flag Situations

Setting Clear House Rules

Preventing red flag situations starts with setting clear house rules:

Detailed House Manual: Provide a listing and a comprehensive guide to listing it that outlines expectations and rules for listing and renting your property.

Consequences: Clearly communicate consequences for rule violations, such as damage fees or eviction.

Security Measures

Implement security measures to deter potential issues:

Smart Locks: Consider renting or installing smart locks with unique access codes for each room and each guest.

Security Cameras: Visible security cameras can act as a deterrent and provide evidence if issues arise.

7. Handling Red Flag Situations

Communicating with Guests

If you suspect a guest may be causing problems, address the issue promptly but professionally:

Open a Private Dialogue: Initiate a private conversation with the person or the guest to address your concerns and provide the person with an opportunity for clarification.

Document Communication: Keep a record of all communication with the host hotel and guest, especially if the situation escalates.

Reporting to the Platform

If issues persist and you believe the guest poses a genuine threat to your property or other guests, report the situation to the platform:

Provide Evidence: Submit any relevant evidence, such as messages or photos, to support your case.

Follow Platform Procedures: Comply with the platform's policies and procedures for reporting incidents.

Legal Recourse

In extreme cases, you may need to seek legal action to protect your rental property and rights. Consult with an attorney experienced in vacation rental disputes for guidance.

8. Maintaining a Positive Airbnb Hosting Experience

Importance of Regular Updates

Stay up-to-date with platform policies, industry best practices, and local regulations. Regularly update your house rules and communication strategies to adapt to changing circumstances.

Building a Network of Trusted Airbnb Guests

Building relationships with trustworthy guests can be a valuable asset in your hosting and hospitality journey. Encourage repeat bookings and referrals from satisfied guests and travelers who respect your property and rules.


Hosting on platforms like Airbnb and VRBO can be a rewarding experience when you attract responsible and respectful guests. However, understanding and identifying red flag guests is crucial for safeguarding your property and maintaining your peace of mind as a host. By following the guidelines and strategies outlined in this guide, you can minimize the risks associated with hosting and create a positive and enjoyable experience for both you and your guests. Remember, vigilance and communication are key to hosting success in the vacation rental industry.

While the majority of guests using platforms like Airbnb and VRBO are genuine travelers seeking a comfortable stay, it's important for hosts to be vigilant about potential red flags. By carefully reviewing profiles, communication, booking behavior, and guest intentions, hosts can minimize the risk of problematic guests and ensure a positive hosting experience. Remember, your property is an investment, and taking the time to screen guests effectively can lead to fewer headaches and more rewarding hosting experiences in the long run.

Note: Please ensure you keep your hosting practices compliant with the terms and conditions of Airbnb, VRBO, and any local laws and regulations. This guide is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.

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