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  • Writer's pictureLeon Cook

My Guest stayed past checkout, now what?

What Happens if a Guest Stays After a Reservation Has Been Cancelled or Completed?

As a short-term rental host, dealing with overstays is a critical aspect of managing your property efficiently. Overstays can disrupt your booking schedule, lead to financial losses, and potentially cause legal issues. Understanding why guests overstay and having clear policies in place can help prevent these situations and ensure a positive experience for both hosts and guests.

Understanding Overstays

What Constitutes an Overstay?

An overstay occurs when a guest remains on the property beyond the agreed-upon checkout time without prior approval. This can range from a few extra hours to several days. For example, if your checkout time is 11:00 AM and a guest is still occupying the property at 1:00 PM without having arranged a late checkout, this constitutes an overstay.

Common Reasons for Overstays

  • Travel Delays: Guests may experience flight cancellations or delays, making it difficult for them to leave on time. For instance, a guest's flight might get canceled due to weather conditions, prompting them to stay an additional night.

  • Misunderstanding Checkout Times: Sometimes guests may not be aware of the exact checkout time or forget it. A guest might assume the checkout time is noon instead of 11:00 AM.

  • Personal Emergencies: Health issues or unexpected personal emergencies can lead to overstays. A guest might fall ill and need more time to recover before they can travel.

  • Booking Errors: Occasionally, booking errors or miscommunications between the guest and booking platform can result in an overstay. For example, the guest might have thought they booked for one more night than they actually did.

  • Although rare, guest scams can have serious implications for hosts. Here are some common scams and how to prevent them:

  • Identity Theft: Some scammers use stolen identities to book properties. Verify guest identities through the booking platform and request additional ID if necessary.

  • Chargeback Scams: Guests might dispute charges after their stay, claiming they did not authorize the payment. Protect yourself by documenting all interactions and keeping evidence of the booking and stay.

  • Fake Damage Claims: Guests may falsely claim property damage to get a refund. Conduct thorough check-ins and check-outs, documenting the property's condition with photos and videos.

  • Overbooking Scams: Scammers might book multiple properties with no intention of staying, aiming to get refunds or discounts. Screen guests carefully and stay alert for red flags such as last-minute bookings with minimal communication.

Legal Implications

The Difference Between a Guest and a Tenant

Understanding the distinction between a guest and a tenant is crucial. A guest is someone who stays temporarily under a rental agreement, while a tenant has more extensive rights under local tenancy laws. For example, in many jurisdictions, a guest who stays longer than 30 days may gain tenant rights, making eviction more complex.

Legal Actions Hosts Can Take

  • Eviction Notices: Depending on local laws, you may need to issue a formal eviction notice. For example, in California, you might be required to give a written notice and follow a legal process if the guest refuses to leave.

  • Legal Proceedings: In extreme cases, legal action might be necessary. This could involve filing for an unlawful detainer action to legally remove the overstaying guest.

  • Booking Platform Policies: Platforms like Airbnb have their procedures for handling overstays. For instance, Airbnb may assist in relocating the guest or provide support for enforcing your rental agreement.

Reservations Over 30 Days

Stays longer than 30 days can change the guest's legal status to that of a tenant. This transition grants them additional rights, making eviction more complex and requiring adherence to local tenancy laws. For example, in San Diego, a guest staying over 30 days might be protected under local tenant protection laws, which could require a formal eviction process.

Preventive Measures

Setting Clear Expectations

  • During Booking: Clearly outline your policies on checkout times and overstays in your listing description. For example, state that checkout is strictly at 11:00 AM and any unauthorized stay beyond this time will incur additional charges.

  • Check-In Communication: Reinforce these policies during the check-in process. You might provide a welcome packet that includes all important information, including checkout times and penalties for overstays.

Importance of Communicating Checkout Times

  • Reminders: Send reminders to guests about checkout times as their departure date approaches. For example, send a friendly reminder 24 hours before checkout.

  • Penalties for Overstays: Clearly state the financial penalties for staying beyond the agreed time. For instance, you might charge an additional $50 per hour for unauthorized late checkouts.

Use of Rental Agreements

  • Specify Consequences: Detail the consequences of overstays in your rental agreement. For example, include a clause that outlines fines and potential legal action for non-compliance.

Dealing with Overstays

Step-by-Step Guide

Immediate Actions

  • Contact the Guest: Politely remind them of the checkout time and inquire about their situation. For example, send a message or call them to ensure they are aware they need to leave.

Next Steps

  • Inform the Booking Platform: Notify the platform about the overstay to seek their assistance and ensure you follow their procedures. For instance, report the issue to Airbnb, who can help mediate the situation.

Final Steps

  • Impose Additional Charges: If necessary, charge the guest for the extra time according to your rental agreement. This might involve sending an invoice for the additional costs.

  • Seek Legal Help: If the guest refuses to leave, consider legal action. Contact a local attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant law to understand your options.

Contacting Local Authorities

  • When to Contact Authorities: If the guest refuses to leave and all other measures have failed, it might be time to involve local authorities.

  • Handling the Situation: Remain calm and professional when involving authorities to avoid escalating the situation. Provide all necessary documentation, such as the rental agreement and communication records.

Financial Considerations

Potential Financial Losses

Overstays can lead to financial losses, including missed bookings and extra utility costs. For example, if a guest overstays and you have to cancel a subsequent booking, you might lose revenue and incur cancellation penalties.

Handling Refunds and Charges

  • Refunds: Determine if any partial refunds are due based on the circumstances. For instance, if the guest had a legitimate emergency, you might consider a partial refund.

  • Additional Charges: Impose charges for the extra stay as per your rental agreement. Ensure these charges are clearly communicated and justified.

Implications of Overstays for Long-Term Reservations

Legal Transition to Tenancy

Guests with reservations over 30 days may gain tenant rights, complicating the eviction process and requiring compliance with local tenancy laws. For example, a guest staying for 45 days might claim tenant rights, necessitating a formal eviction process.

Long-Term Lease Considerations

  • Different Agreements: Use tailored agreements for long-term stays to mitigate potential tenancy issues. These agreements should be more detailed and comply with local tenancy laws.

  • Legal Advice: Seek legal advice to draft agreements that protect your interests and comply with local regulations.

Real-Life Examples

Host Stories

Case Study 1: The Delayed Flight

Scenario: A guest's flight was canceled due to severe weather, causing them to overstay by one night.

Actions Taken: The host immediately contacted the guest upon noticing the overstay. The guest explained their situation, and the host allowed the extra night with an additional charge for the inconvenience.

Outcome: The guest was grateful for the host's understanding and left a positive review, appreciating the flexibility. The host ensured the next guest was informed of the situation and managed to accommodate them without any issues.

Lesson Learned: Clear communication and empathy can turn a potentially negative situation into a positive experience. Flexibility, when possible, can lead to positive reviews and repeat business.

Case Study 2: Misunderstood Checkout Time

Scenario: A guest misunderstood the checkout time, thinking it was noon instead of 11:00 AM, and did not vacate the property on time.

Actions Taken: The host politely reminded the guest about the checkout time and requested them to leave as soon as possible. The host had already communicated the checkout time multiple times, including a reminder the day before.

Outcome: The guest apologized for the misunderstanding and promptly left. The host did not impose any additional charges due to the short duration of the overstay.

Lesson Learned: Regularly reminding guests about the checkout time can prevent misunderstandings. Being courteous and understanding can help resolve issues quickly and maintain a good relationship with guests.

Case Study 3: Unresponsive Guest

Scenario: A guest overstayed and became unresponsive to messages and calls.

Actions Taken: The host contacted the booking platform (Airbnb) to report the issue. Airbnb intervened, contacting the guest and eventually assisting the host in resolving the situation.

Outcome: The guest was eventually located and asked to leave, with Airbnb supporting the host's decision to impose additional charges for the overstay.

Lesson Learned: Utilizing the support of the booking platform can be crucial in resolving overstays. Ensuring that all communication is documented helps in getting the necessary support from the platform.


Being prepared for overstays is essential for every short-term rental host. By setting clear expectations, understanding legal implications, and knowing how to handle overstays, you can ensure a smooth experience for both you and your guests. Regularly review your policies and have a plan in place to address any overstay situations effectively. This proactive approach will help you manage your property efficiently and maintain positive relationships with your guests.

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