Why “Sign Language” Matters

One of the toughest challenges in managing rentals is posting rules and warnings without making the space feel too restrictive or too commercial.

You want people to feel unrestricted while on vacation, not like they’re in school or under the thumb of their corporate job and following rules.

From a management perspective, we’re trying to limit stupidity to keep guests safe and owners happy. It’s difficult (actually impossible) to prevent some people from doing absurd things. Usually they’re not damaging, just strange, like rearranging furniture and kitchen supplies.

We set up a guest book specific to each unit, providing specific policies and information about that property. Our guest books on a large unit average 3 pages long, and already I fear the length of it is why many people seemingly don’t read it.

So how do you post rules, information, and warnings where people will actually read it?

The first rule of thumb is to post the rules as close as possible to the violation. If you’re going to label the remotes, do so on the front of the remote. If you’re going to post what not to flush down the toilet, do so right next to the toilet, not in the guest book. This keeps the guest book shorter and more likely to be read and ensures that all the guests see the warning. Often only one or two of the adults will read the guest book, and will not communicate its contents to the other guests of the house, so you must post rules where applicable.

The next rule of thumb is to make it as short as possible. If you have 36 hot tub rules, they might read three, possibly none. Put the most important highest in the list, if there is a list. If it isn’t critical, or if you haven’t had multiple violations, don’t even bother saying it because you’ll just water down the content that needs to get across.

Also, use humor as often as possible, so as not to feel controlling. As an example, this is our list of rules that we have posted in the living room of one of our rentals, trying to make light of some minor issues we’ve had with guests.

Things we shouldn’t need to say, but need to say (because people have done all these things):

Tongue-in-cheek sounds friendly and is the only effective way we’ve come up with to get information across without feeling rude or bossy.

Most people understand that you have to have these rules, and that you’re trying to keep people happy and safe (pretty much the job description).

It also goes a long way having your signs professionally made—it takes you up a notch in professionalism in the eyes of your guests.

Professional signs don’t cost an arm and a leg! We have a local print shop with surprisingly low costs and minimum quantities. If you really can’t afford professional signs, print something that looks nice on cardstock paper and add your logo or a background photo of your property. Whatever you do, don’t handwrite anything, like you’re the disgruntled employee of a sketchy gas station who doesn’t get paid enough to care.

The last, but not least thing to keep in mind is that people will still miss signs and rules.

Most people will read them if done properly, but some people just refuse to read anything. They will text and ask what the Wi-Fi password is before ever looking at the guest book on the counter or the information sheet on the fridge. These situations are where your patience and customer service will shine through when you patiently tell a guest information that is readily available to them, and then they later realize how needy they were and give you a five-star rating on customer service.

Great customer service is what gets you rave reviews and will cover most small errors or guest inconveniences that inevitably occur.