More and more property investors are getting into the vacation rental game, and for good reason. According to vacation rental stats, the global market for this type of property exceeded $82 billion (yes, with a B).

There is a lot to like about operating vacation rental property, but it is not without its drawbacks. Landlords can come up against difficulties and complications, and they need to properly protect themselves.

One of the best ways to do that is with a vacation rental agreement.

Having one in place for anyone who occupies your property- no matter how short the rental period- is essential for covering the bases and protecting your investment.

This comprehensive guide to preparing a short-term vacation rental agreement covers everything you need to know.

To make things even easier, DoorLoop provides a free vacation rental agreement template with all the details you need!

Let's get started!

What Is a Vacation Rental Agreement?

Put simply, it is a short-term lease agreement designed specifically for properties that are rented out to tourists. They usually apply to rentals that last no more than 30 days and are more commonly used for high-end, valuable properties that have been purpose-designed to host tourists.

It is a legally binding document that protects guests, owners, and the property itself.

In many ways, it is similar to any other residential lease agreement- but with a few adjustments that make it a better fit for vacation properties.

The most obvious differences between the two are the fact that the tenants are not usually responsible for the costs of services, utilities, and other property-related expenses and the way the rent is calculated.

Standard lease agreements include a monthly rent amount and terms and conditions that apply to long-term payment- while vacation rentals are usually based on one upfront charge (not accounting for additional fees applied).

Short-term or vacation rentals do not have all the same state and local laws that apply to long-term rentals, but they carry all the same risks- if not more.

It is important to look into the local laws in your area regarding renting properties to vacationers before you draw up a lease.

The purpose of a rental agreement for vacation rentals is to avoid complications and set clear terms of use for the property.

Why Is It Important to Have a Rental Agreement for Your Vacation Property?

Having a legally binding agreement in place between you and your short-term tenants can make you feel more confident as you enter into the vacation rental business. It also gives you a little more control over how your property is used- within reason.

It may seem like more hassle than it is worth for such a short occupancy, but without one, you leave yourself exposed.

Here are three key reasons why you need a vacation rental agreement.

Receive Payment Without Hassle

You can easily lay out your costs and fees in the lease agreement however works best for you.

Many property owners offer a range of services for guests to pick and choose from, and the charges for these services can be clearly explained in the lease agreement.

Once they select their options and sign the lease agreement, they have committed to paying those costs. This removes the room for error and debate, making it easier to collect payment quickly and smoothly.

Protect Your Investment

No matter who you have on your property or for how long, there is always a risk that they won't treat it with respect and could cause damage.

Sometimes, this risk is higher with a vacation rental- since they are not there for long, have no significant commitments, and may have the 'my vacation house rules' mindset.

You can't stop things from happening, but you can use a signed lease agreement to prove that guests consented to your rules. That way, if things go wrong, you have proof to back up an insurance claim or security deposit deduction.

Avoid Unsuitable Guests

As the property owner, you can use a vacation lease agreement to set the expectations for anyone renting the unit. Although many of the details are guidelines, they can deter people who are not willing to accept them.

A rental party has to agree to the terms on a legally binding document. You may miss out on some clients, but they were likely not a good match anyway.

What to Include In Vacation Short-Term Rental Agreements

Now, let's look at what goes into a vacation rental agreement and how to write one. Remember, the free template provided by DoorLoop simplifies the process and can save you time.

That said, it helps to know what you should include with or without a template.

Here are the 10 most important parts of a lease agreement for vacation rentals. It may seem like a lot to think about, but it is worth it if it means your property is more protected and you feel more comfortable with the arrangement.

Property Details

The first thing that goes into a vacation rental agreement is the relevant property data. You need to clearly state which property is in play. Some of the details you must include are the full property address, exact location, and property type.

It is also highly recommended to include a description of the property's condition, along with an inventory of the contents.

Your inventory list can be attached as a separate document, but it must be cited in the contract. On the inventory, you should cover any items in the property and their current condition. Add a note that by signing the contract, the renters confirm the accuracy of the list and agree to maintain and respect the property.

That way, if something is damaged, you have something to compare it to and proof of the guests' acknowledgment.

Guest Details

When you draw up the vacation rental contract, you need to include the details of the person renting your property. It works the same as a standard lease with a long-term tenant- their name must be included to specify that the contract applies to them.

You should have the names of everyone staying on the property- plus some additional contact details for at least the lead guest.

Here are the details you should ask for when confirming a vacation rental booking.

  • Full legal name of all guests
  • Some form of ID for all guests
  • The phone number and email of the lead guest (maybe one more for backup, just in case)

Put these details in the lease agreement alongside your own to confirm the landlord and tenant parties involved in the rental contract.

Maximum Occupancy

The last thing a property owner wants is to have their unit crammed full of people- upping the risk factor and the chances of damage occurring. It is also a safety concern to have too many people on a property at the same time.

Include the maximum number of guests allowed at the property- both to stay overnight and to visit. Some hosts do not allow visitors who are not part of the rental party.

You should state your maximum occupancy number when you advertise your properties and reiterate it in your vacation rental agreements.

Check the local requirements and restrictions regarding occupancy limits. Some areas are strict with vacation rentals and will penalize the owner if guests bring more people than they should.

Check-In and Check-Out Times

One of the things that applies to vacation rentals that you don't generally need to think about in a normal lease is check-in and check-out.

When you rent a home or apartment on a short-term basis, it almost becomes like a self-service hotel. Like any hotel, guests are expected to arrive after and leave by a certain time.

Many hosts who rent properties in residential areas do not allow arrivals in the middle of the night or early morning to avoid waking up neighbors. You could set arrival hours, say between midday and 8 PM.

Check-out time is usually based on when you need the property back to get it ready for the next arrival or to give you time to check the cleanliness and condition on the same day. Some landlords offer late check-out for an extra charge.

Make sure you include details of the check-in and check-out process and any charges that apply if they do not leave on time.

Length of Stay Requirements

It is normal for a short-term vacation landlord to set a minimum and maximum stay for renters.

Depending on your property and the work that goes into getting it prepared, it may not be worth renting for one night only. You may want to add a minimum occupancy of three nights, for example.

On the other hand, guests overstaying their welcome can also be a problem with certain vacation rentals. These lease agreements are only meant to last a short time, but people may choose to extend their stay.

This can be a good thing, but it can also become a problem. To avoid this, you should set a maximum lease term in the agreement.

House Rules

House rules are essentially the guidelines you provide for guests on how you expect your property to be treated. You can be as detailed or relaxed as you want, but you need to remember that these are requests, not legally binding promises.

Airbnb hosts have a bad reputation for going well over the top with house rules. Try to find a balance between your best interests for your property and being a good host for vacationers.

If there are things you are concerned about, work them into your rules. Be explicit about things that are non-negotiable, and don't hold back anything important to you.

Some of the most common house rules for short-term vacation rentals include noise curfews, smoking restrictions, pets policies, and a rule against throwing parties.

Rental Expenses and Charges

Of course, like any lease agreement, you must include full details of the costs and fees that your guests are expected to pay.

A quick way to gain bad reviews and lose bookings is to be accused of adding on charges that the renters didn't know about. To avoid this, make a clear and undisputable list of fees and a description of each one.

When detailing the costs, offer a breakdown of the total expense to your short-term tenants. Start with the basic costs of renting the property (including the VAT amount and any tourist tax included in the cost). If you charge a cleaning fee, list this separately and state how much it is.

Some vacation property renters offer extra services at additional costs or add fees for the usage of certain items in the home. If this applies to your rental property, you must make this a clear part of the lease agreement.

Say you have a stocked drinks fridge. If you don't mention anything on the lease, people may not know if it is free to use or not- or at least, they could claim they didn't know if it is not there in writing. Pick-up and airport transfer fees are another possible example.

Long story short, anything you charge your guests for, put it in the lease agreement with as much detail as possible. It is all about protecting yourself and your vacation renters.

Payment Details

As well as the charges themselves, you need to specify how your guests can pay you. If you take payment in advance online through your own website or an agent site, you can simply state this.

Vacation rental landlords who take payments on-site should let people know the accepted payment methods and any relevant charges. Be clear about the payment types you don't accept to avoid problems when the guests arrive.

Most vacation rental guides recommend sticking to secure card payments using gateways such as Stripe. Let people know if there is a surcharge for certain types of cards.

If you don't have this facility, you have other options, such as PayPal and other alternatives to handing out bank details. Cash is always a possibility, but be careful if you go down this road, as it brings its own set of complications and risks.

Whatever method you use, make it clear in the vacation rental agreement to avoid confusion.

Cancellation Policy

These days, it is pretty important to specify a cancellation policy for your vacation rental. Travel is more unpredictable and interchangeable than ever, and people are prone to changing their plans late on.

Without a cancellation policy, it can be a little sticky between property owners, landlords, and booked guests- since there is no clear agreement.

If you take a non-refundable deposit, explain in the rental agreement that this amount will not be returned upon cancellation. Those who offer cancellation refunds should stipulate the cut-off point, the method of payment for the refund, and how long it should take.

Another detail to include in this section of the policy (if you want to) is your right to cancel the reservation. It is not only guests who can have last-minute obstacles arise- it happens to landlords as well.

Perhaps there is an unforeseen issue with the property, you need it for something else, or for whatever reason, you are unable to fulfill the contract. If your rental agreement includes this unilateral right for the host, guests cannot dispute it, although they may still complain.


The final piece of the puzzle is the signing by all involved parties. Your signature, printed name, and date of signing should be there clearly, and all guests should do the same.

You must get these signatures before moving forward- and that they appear clearly on the contract. You should also have the contact details for your guests.

Other Things to Consider

These are the most important parts of a vacation rental agreement, but there are other things you can include.

Cleaning and Maintenance

One of the common additions is maintenance and cleaning requests. This is another area where landlords face criticism- these guests are on vacation at the end of the day.

You can, however, add a section stating your expectations for basic cleanliness, such as putting litter in the trash and not leaving food or drinks lying around the property.

Maintenance-wise, it is a good idea to provide the numbers renters should call if any issues arise during their stay.

Host Access Agreement

It is not really acceptable to show up unannounced at your property while you have guests, but sometimes there is a need. To avoid arguments, you may want to include a procedure in case you have reason to access the property during an occupancy period.

This should include a clear explanation of the expected notice period and the circumstances under which you may request access.

Eviction Terms

Nobody wants to evict short-term tenants, but there are some circumstances under which it may be necessary. Include a clause in the contract listing the events that would lead to an immediate lease termination.

This may include throwing parties, evidence of drug abuse or other illegal activity, or exceeding the maximum occupancy limit.

Download Your Free Rental Agreement

Click here to download your free rental agreement!


Vacation lets are a great way to earn rental income if you have an attractive, furnished property in a desirable area.

If you want to turn your rental property into a vacation home, there are some great management tools for short-term rentals that can make a difference. Using a free vacation rental agreement template provided by DoorLoop is a good place to start!

Browse DoorLoop Forms at your leisure, or schedule a free demo to learn more about what the platform offers.


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David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his three children, he's writing articles here!