Managing Late Check-Outs: 7 Solutions for Vacation Rentals

“Illegal” late check-outs are every vacation rental manager's worst nightmare.

As you're probably all-too-aware, guests that overstay without approval risk derailing your entire operation. They can cause delays and frustration for your new check-ins, and make things extremely stressful for cleaners, housekeepers, and maintenance staff.

That's why it's so important to limit and manage them as quickly and easily as possible.

But what if guests overstay, or want to stay longer?

As the hospitality sector works to get back on its feet, our research shows that 85.9% of professionals from across the industry are focused on improving the guest experience (primarily by using simple, automated technology). As a result, rental managers must capitalize on any opportunity to offer upsells and increase guest satisfaction.

Our data shows that guests positively expect keyless entry and digital hotel automation as part of their stay, and owners are increasingly turning towards it due to its agility, efficiency, and ability to face almost any new challenge.

But have you considered that guests who overstay intentionally by booking an extra night are great for business? Trust us: late check-outs aren't always a bad thing.

When offered as an extension of an existing stay, late check-outs are an excellent way to fill awkward spaces in your calendar, boost revenue for nights that would otherwise have remained empty, and please happy guests.

That's why in this article we'll explore ways to help you limit “illegal” overstays, and what to do if and when guests break your check-out time rule.

But, we'll also explore how you can make the most of the positive side of late check-outs too, and do it all without adding any more admin or stress to you and your team's workload.

Read on for a detailed “how-to” checklist of how to limit “illegal” late check-outs, while maximizing extended stays, for less stress and increased revenue.

RueBaRue lets you prevent late check-outs by sending guests automated reminders and a link to your house rules. Plus, you can use it to upsell late check-outs and boost your revenue. Book a demo personalized to your rentals to see the platform in action.

What is a late check-out?

First things first. Put simply, a late check-out is when a guest stays at your property for longer than they originally agreed in the booking. This can mean anything from a few minutes (or eek, hours) over your check-out time, to an extra day or two.

One kind might be termed “illegal”, as in—the guest is staying later than planned, booked, or paid for, and you haven't agreed to it beforehand. They're ‘clogging' up the room and delaying cleaning, turnover, and possibly the next renters' check-in.

This is a problem.

But in some circumstances, a late check-out could be seen as a positive thing.

Maybe the guest has contacted you beforehand to ask to stay longer because they have a late flight (for example), and you have agreed to it. Maybe you're happy to give them a few more hours because you don't have another booking checking in right away.

Or maybe you have offered (or they have asked) to stay for an extra night or two because they're having such a good time, they don't want to leave.

This is the best kind of late check-out. You have happy guests, extra revenue, and awkward spaces filled on your calendar.

Unlike “illegal” check-outs, these are the kind you want.

Credit: Coen Staal / Unsplash

Caption: Happy guests that stay an extra night or so are great for business

How to prevent guests from (“illegally”) checking out late

First things first, let's figure out how we can stop the first kind of late check-out: the “illegal” kind. This usually isn't something to call the cops over (unless you're really unlucky), but it can cause serious knock-on repercussions for you, your team, your guests, and the reputation of your rental.

These include delaying cleaning and maintenance, messing up your cleaning teams' schedule, and could even mean you have to make a bad impression by asking your next guests to check in late. No one wants that.

Here's how to reduce “illegal” late check-ins.

1. Ensure that your guests are aware of check-out times

Credit: Malvestida Magazine / Unsplash

Caption: Make your check-out times and policy super-clear throughout

You can communicate the check-in rules multiple times during your booking process. This might include in the original Airbnb, VRBO (or other OTA) listing, your confirmation and welcome emails, your Welcome Book, and your vacation rental House Rules.

This means that the check-out time is super-clear and guests are much less likely to miss it (or claim they did).

Platforms such as RueBaRue help you do this by enabling you to send automated emails and texts that always contain the information.

You can schedule emails and SMSs at set times, such as after booking, before arrival, and a few days before check-out.

Include the check-out time when you send:

2. Make your house rules easily accessible

Credit: Thom Holmes / Unsplash

Caption: Sending your House Rules by text helps ensure that guests see them

Ensuring your guests know your house rules, and they're easy to see and read even before they check in is crucial.

If you include the check-out details here, this is another opportunity to make sure guests know the score.

Again, a great way to do this is to use a platform such as RueBaRue to automate emails and SMSs with the House Rules and your digital Welcome Book easily accessible via URL link.

Using SMS means they will definitely see it, even if they're offline or their inbox is overflowing.

3. Consider a late check-out fee

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Caption: Charging a late fee is a topic of debate in the industry but may be effective for you

There is debate in the industry as to whether this is good practice.

Some say no, as they fear it could give guests a bad impression, and make you seem unfriendly or money-grabbing.

However, others say yes, as late check-outs truly can impact your business. Even just having the policy in place (even if you don't have to use it) can show guests that you are professional, and value your time.

Whatever you choose, make sure you:

On the latter point, not only is this compassionate; if nothing else, from a purely business standpoint it will help the guest out during a tough time, so they may even mention it in a review later, giving you a chance to show extra hospitality and friendliness.

4. Install smart locks that notify you when a guest leaves

Credit: Nuki.io

Caption: Smart locks such as Nuki can help you monitor your rental even more closely

Smart locks that connect to your PMS, or that simply send you an SMS or email notification when they're locked or unlocked, showing you the status of each property, can help you keep track of exactly who is entering and exiting your rental.

This way, you can enable contactless check-in for vacation rentals , and easily see whether a guest has checked out on time or not. Smart locks are also used by cleaners, so you can see at a glance where both guests and staff are, and coordinate accordingly.

If guests are late checking out, you can take action and send them a gentle check-out message reminder of the check-out times & late check-out fees by SMS or email.

You can also communicate with your housekeeping staff in the same way, and ensure they're ready to act at short notice if need be (for example, cleaning a different room than scheduled, or doing a quicker-than-normal turnaround for a room whose guest checked out late).

Major smart locks on the market include:

What to do when a guest checks out late despite the rules

Even if you've implemented all of the above, some guests may still (accidentally, or sadly, on purpose) overstay their welcome.

It happens. If and when it does, we advise:

1. Ask your next guests to let you know what time they're checking in

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Caption: Make sure to message your next guests as soon as you can in case of late check-out

Message your next set of guests promptly, asking them if they know what time they'll be arriving. If they have a late flight or long journey, they may be planning to arrive late anyway, and they will never know there was a problem with the guest before them.

However, if they want to arrive as soon as possible, you may have an issue.

If you need to, ask your next guest to delay check-in. Be polite, professional but apologetic, and if you can, offer some kind of reward to say thank you. This might mean offering them a free gift or extra time on check-out if possible, or maybe even a partial refund.

If you manage multiple units in the same building and another one is available, you could even offer them an “upgrade” in the same way as a hotel.

Have a policy in place, and use it when needed.

2. Establish direct communication lines with your cleaners

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Caption: Having direct communication with cleaners means quicker turnarounds when needed

Make sure you can contact your cleaners quickly and easily if needed.

This is especially true if their cleaning times are changed last-minute because of “illegal” check-outs.

As mentioned above, using smart locks and digital communication is a great way to do this, and platforms such as RueBaRue can also enable this functionality too; in fact, RueBaRue is about to launch a new feature that will allow you to seamlessly communicate with your cleaners via text messages.

3. Have an emergency cleaning checklist

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Caption: A cleaning checklist helps ensure fast, consistent turnarounds

It's good practice to have a comprehensive cleaning checklist for your vacation rental in any case, but it's even better to have a designated checklist for situations when you have a very limited time frame to clean the rental.

Don't skimp on cleaning, of course, but make sure this checklist is optimized for maximum efficiency.

This could mean the absolute must-do tasks, such as:

Can late check-outs be a good thing for vacation rentals?

Yes, late check-outs can be a good thing for your vacation rentals, when agreed ahead of time, or even offered by you before your guest even asks.

Here's why:

How to upsell late check-outs and boost your revenue

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Caption: Late check-outs can be managed well so they boost revenue and fill calendar gaps

Having a set process to offer late check-outs (where possible) can help maximize the number of extra nights guests book.

We advise:

You can even offer guests a discount or deal for booking extra nights, making them feel they got a great deal, but boosting your revenue more than you would without the extra booking.

You can also offer guests early check-in too, before they arrive, to fill gaps the other way too.

Platforms such as RueBaRue not only allow you to email and SMS guests directly, it also has a dedicated Extend guest stays feature, enabling you to offer extra nights to existing bookings easily.

Credit: RueBaRue.com

Caption: Platforms such as RueBaRue can make extending guest stays simple and easy

Late check-outs: How to minimize disruption and maximize revenue

“Illegal” late check-outs are every vacation rental manager's worst property nightmare.

That's why it makes sense to limit how often they happen and have a contingency plan in place to limit the damage they cause to operations if and when they do occur.

Using automation software such as RueBaRue helps you see where there are gaps in your calendar, and extend guest stays easily, so you can create positive guest experiences and increase takings without adding extra stress or admin.

Rather than being the nightmare you might fear, late check-outs, when done right, can actually boost your revenue and occupancy, and make happy guests even happier.

FAQs about late check-out for vacation rentals

1. How can I stop guests from checking out late from my vacation rental?

Ensure guests are aware of your check-out policy at all times and include it in your check-in and check-out reminder messages, and when sending your House Rules and Digital Guidebook.

You can also use platforms such as RueBaRue to automate emails and SMSs for this exact reason, to make the House Rules as accessible as possible. You may also want to charge a late check-out or extra-quick cleaning fee. If you do, communicate additional charges upfront to guests from the start too.

2. What should I do if my vacation rental guests check out late?

Despite your best efforts, some guests may still overstay. If so, we advise asking your next guests what time they are aiming to check in, so you know if there will be a clash. If you need to ask them to delay check-in, be polite, professional, and apologetic; and offer them some kind of reward if need be, such as late check-out or upgrade.

Establish direct communication with your cleaners, so you can update them if situations change last-minute, and have an ‘emergency' cleaning checklist that you can use in case of limited time.

3. What's the best way to communicate my late check-out policy to guests?

Be as upfront as you can, right from the start. Send it in advance, and include it in your Welcome Book and House Rules. Decide on your policies (such as times, non-refundable deposits, fees, and rewards for any next guests). Send timely reminders via email and SMS, and automate the entire process easily using platforms such as RueBaRue.

4. How can I use late check-out to my advantage for my vacation rental property?

Offering planned late check-outs (as opposed to dealing with “illegal”, unplanned ones) can enable you to increase revenue, boost vacation rental occupancy and fill awkward gaps on your calendar, and impress happy guests by letting them stay longer, easily. Having a set process to offer guests extra nights where possible can help make it easier. That's especially true if you use a platform such as RueBaRue's Extend Guest Stays feature, which enables you to see available nights at a glance.

5. How can I make managing late vacation rental check-outs easier?

Try to prevent it in the first place by communicating your check-out policy and times up front early on, via automated message templates with reminders via email and SMS. Have a set system and policy in place in case it happens, including late fees and communication with the next guests.

You can also turn a ‘negative' into a positive, by offering extended stays to guests to boost revenue and fill up awkward gaps in your calendar, such as using a platform such as RueBaRue to enable it easily without extra admin.

RueBaRue lets you prevent late check-outs by sending guests automated reminders and a link to your house rules. Plus, you can use it to upsell late check-outs and boost your revenue. Book a demo personalized to your short-term rentals to see the platform in action.

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