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Strange & Stupid Guests – Holiday Cottage Owners Reveal All

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Don't panic post it

Your holiday let is likely to be one of your most valued assets. Somewhere you may have painstakingly renovated from a ruin, where you spend many hours meticulously cleaning and preparing for guests or a special place you intend to retire.

Unfortunately, some guests don’t abide by a ‘treat it as you would your own home’ rule when renting holiday homes. By opening your holiday cottage to strangers, you’re opening yourself up to disgusting guests and bizarre behaviour.

The strange, stupid and disgusting things guests do

We’ve scoured the internet to collect stories of disgusting and bizarre guest behaviour. If you have been renting out your holiday home for several years then you are likely to have experienced some of these.

Strange guest behaviour 

  • Dirty dishes are put back in the cupboard between the clean ones.
  • Boiled eggs left in the kettle.
  • Getting fake-tan/hair dye on towels and bed sheets.
  • Missing the toilet and leaving poo on the floor.
  • Guests have the heating, log burner or air conditioning on full with the windows wide open
  • Checkout instructions are to lock the door and place keys in the key safe, but guests departed, leaving the keys on the table and the door unlocked.
  • The guest checked out and left the shower running.
  • Allow pets on furniture and beds.
  • Phoning owners repeatedly because ‘appliances aren’t working’ – in reality they haven’t read the user instructions or have messed about with the controls.
  • Blood stains on the bed sheets duvet and mattress.
  • The large chef’s knife was hidden underneath the mattress.
  • Bogey collection was wiped on the headboard.
  • Used earplugs stuck on the back of the headboard.
  • Guests brought a portable fire pit and had an open fire on the wooden decking.
  • Rearranging the furniture, taking internal furniture outside and bringing outside furniture inside.
  • Putting charcoal briquettes in the gas BBQ.
  • Trying to light the LED candles.
  • Ironing clothes on the bedroom carpet and subsequent burn marks.
  • Wetting the bed, then making it.
  • Washing a bike in the bath.
  • Putting hot pans on wooden worktops and tables.
  • Guest failed to close the shower curtain and flooded the downstairs kitchen.
  • The bed frame was broken after being used as a trampoline.
  • Nail clippings left down the side of the sofa.
  • Electric kettle melted after being put on the gas hob.

The worst items left behind by guests

It’s not only strange behaviour but guests also leave behind bizarre items:

  • A used disposable nappy hidden behind a curtain.
  • Broken tooth.
  • Dirty underwear left in the oven.
  • A badger’s skull.
  • A sex toy in the freezer.
  • Leftover rotting food in the oven.
  • Used sanitary towel in the bedside drawer.

The top items guests steal

Taking items home isn’t exclusive to hotels, but some holiday let guests wrongly assume it’s within their right to steal take items home.

  • Batteries from the tv remote and the smoke detector.
  • Coat hangers.
  • Pillow protectors.
  • Tupperware containers.
  • Light bulbs.

Having to replace missing items during a quick changeover can set housekeepers schedules way back. Also, the next guests may be the ones who discover essential items are missing – subsequently giving a negative experience.

What can holiday home owners do to prevent such behaviour?

Mistreatment of holiday homes is an ever-present problem for holiday home owners, and one that guests either don’t seem to be aware of or have little concern about the consequences for owners.

For owners who live on-site and witness such behaviour in person, a quiet word with guests may be enough to resolve any problems.

But what can you do if you manage your holiday let remotely? Clearly communicate your expectations of how your property is to be treated during their stay. Outline your ‘guest rules’ in your booking terms and conditions and your welcome book so there’s no room for confusion.

Consider taking a security deposit and make it clear that any theft, damage or extra cleaning costs will be paid for using the security deposit. Losing their security deposit may be at the forefront of guests’ minds during their stay and make them more careful.

Don’t lose sleep over it

Unfortunately, it comes with the territory when holiday letting – guests do stupid things and dome of their behaviour can be shocking. As you become more experienced, you will know what to expect and what you need to do to limit the effect it has on your holiday letting business.

Holiday letting insurance can safeguard against many incidents, but insurance doesn’t cover every eventuality. Deducting from a security deposit can also be justified in certain circumstances, but more often than not you will just have to accept it, learn from it, and move on.

If it makes you feel better, then have ‘a rant’ with fellow owners on holiday rental forums and Facebook groups to share your feelings. Writing an email outlining your grievances that you would like to send to guests also helps, but don’t send it. Simply writing it should make you feel better about the situation.

The majority of guests are lovely, but some will make you question why you rent out your holiday home. Thankfully the latter are few and far between.

Do you have any tales of ‘stupid guests’? Please them in the comments section below.


  • Sandra |

    I have just been itemising all the items in my Holiday Cottages and I’m a bit , well actually, a lot annoyed at the items which are missing. Why do people think they can steal your stuff? Irons, Pans, Baskets, Ornaments and Puzzles, a shelf out of the fridge and one even changed the expensive Bed Linen for a cheaper brand. It makes my blood boil when I think of when they are leaving ,how pleasant they are to your face and all the time they’ve got something belonging to you in the boot of their car. Rant Over !!!

    • Philip |

      Annoying isn’t it Sandra when you have a limited amount of time to do changeovers, then you have to rush about to replace items that have gone ‘missing’. There are times when you need thick skin to be a holiday let landlord.

  • Shirley |

    We had three workmen stay in our cottage. Left the property with windows wide open, immersion on and heating through out the house. Dirty pots side of sink,dirty toilet cigarette ends onthe lawn. Beer bottles on the dustbin containing ash from wood burning stove and a hefty electricity bill. We were fortunate to be able to report the chaos we found to the company. They paid us for the electricity bill and also for the several hours it took me to clean it all. Told the agency that I did not EVER want workmen staying again. Oh and by the way they had also broke into our shed and stolen the coal we use for gusests as part of a starter pack. This happened February 2016. Still get upset over it writing this.

    • Philip |

      Although stressful for you, you were luck to get reimbursed. Looks like they treated your cottage like a hotel which is upsetting.

  • caro neill |

    We had “guests” staying in our holiday home, they never bothered confirming their booking. Tturned up after 10.15pm despite the booking conditions stating their booking would be terminated if there was no contact from them.
    Kept the curtains shut for 3 days with lights burning day and night. When I went into with the plumber to look at repairs whilst they were out for the first time. They were painting garden gnomes on my coffee table and dining table using the crockery and glass ware for the paint. There was paint all over the furniture and the wood floors. They had piled their rubbish up by the front door in a pool of water despite the fact that the guests are all given free bin bags by us. I asked the holiday company who advertise as “they take the stress” to speak with these people. they refused and told me to do it. When I did the man started shouting at me they “were the Police and they could do what they liked!” in our holiday property. They then complained to the holiday company we were intrusive! I then asked the holiday company to ask them to leave. Their final act was to wipe everywhere down with a cloth stinking of rotten fish.
    I could not believe the cheek of these people. It took 2 people 48 hours to clean the place after them.
    They gave our cottage 1 star despite getting 10 the week before. The holiday company printed their review leaving out anything that alluded to them. the holiday company gave them their money back watch out they will be coming to a cottage near you now thinking they can do the same!!!!! We had too replace all the china, glass ware, pans linen and quilt after these people.

    • Philip |

      I’m shocked! Hope you managed to put this behind you and you had some lovely guests afterwards.

  • sasy |

    We had guest who: pen marked a teapot lid , so the next guest knew how to put the lid on. A dog chewed the door and edge, german workmen stole 5 items, trashed the property, a drippy mum with new baby filled the bins up with stinking nappies and never put them out[feel sorry for her hsuband]. A guest ruined the front lawn by driving up over it, dogs peeing on the carpets and curtians in front of the pets owner, moving items around in the kitchenn, turining off the heating and hot water cos they didn’t want it on[we now have locked cupboard! Stained bedding on several occasions, odd questions and odd guests. Needless to say i am going to sell it, so we get no stress , peace and rid of these demanding pain in the asses! and i will be quids in ! fabulous. If i knew what we would have to put up with i wouldn’t have bothered . I don’t recommend it, put your money in bonds, good return , no stress. I will be glad to get rid of the holiday let.

  • Rosemary Ryan |

    It’s a fact that people lose 20 IQ points whenever they go away on holiday. Suppose it depends on whether they’re starting from a low base.

    We’ve been renting out our large barn since August ’18 (with lots of stops and starts courtesy Johnson’s shambles) and our Top 10 guest antics as follows:

    1. guest reversing car with tow bar demolishing the front of the stable (‘forgot I had it on’)
    2. smashing large heavy glass vase and trying to clear up every shard so we wouldn’t notice it missing
    3. shaving just before bedtime so bleeding on the pillow cases
    4. leaving filthy tampons and full nappies in the small waste paper bins in the bedrooms
    5. leaving their dog alone for hours indoors to soil the oak floors
    6. managing to set fire to the LED/plastic battery operated candle lanterns which melted onto the wooden window cills, scorching them
    7. smoking weed out of the windows
    8. removing make-up with the white flannels instead of the provided organic pads and cleanser
    9. taking (to date) most of the cutlery, flannels, teaspoons, colouring sets for children, kitchen knives, baby bedding, hand towels, tea towels, dishcloths, dog toys, picnic containers
    10. driving into next door’s wet field and having to be towed out by a neighbour

    And a bonus 11. Trying to fit in an extra 4 guests (our place sleeps max 8 people plus babes in arms) hoping we wouldn’t notice and despite our Ts and Cs being explicit on this point. We Had A Word and they left the next morning.

    And all this on top of the usual requests for extra freezer space (frozen dog food), bunting and balloons, fresh herbs, extra virgin olive oil, taking their Amazon deliveries, earlier check in/later check out (which no-one sticks to anyway).

    We have learned that there’s very little Self in Self Catering. But it’s all part of being in the hospitality business. And it beats commuting to the client fleshpots of Luton, Slough and Germany via London.

    • Philip |

      Thanks for sharing your experience of guest antics. I’m sure there are lots of owners who will be nodding their head to these.

  • Duncan Busbridge |

    Just a few complaints about my cottage:

    1.The ceiling was too low for my 6’5 husband.

    2.When we arrived it was dark.

    3.The pub was shut.

    4.It took 9 hours to drive there from Devon.

    5.There was no food in our self catering cottage.

    6. The only place to park was the parking space out the back. (Built 1805)

    7.There was no grass on the patio.

    8.There was no dresser to “personalise”

    9.No instructions for the oven.(Turn it on)

    10.The knives & forks were in a drawer.

    11.The radiators didn’t come on. (In June)

    12.No instructions to light the fire, just matches kindling and logs. (Burn it)

    13.I had to enter a WIFI password.

    14.It rained the whole weekend.

    15. It was too quiet.

    17. The door was locked when I arrived.

    16. The front and back doors had different keys.

    17. The dinner table wasn’t in the kitchen, it was left in the dining room.

    18. I had to do my own washing up.

    19. The boiler was in the loft.

    20. The front door was old. (Listed building)

    • Philip |

      Thanks Duncan. You couldn’t make it up could you – guests!

  • Karena Verde Bucknill |

    I wonder… has anyone else had complaints about noisy owls (in Cornish countryside)?! I was asked to rectify this by a guest visiting from London

  • Neil Barnes |

    We had new guests go into our holiday let and they complained that it smells of cannabis so we organised for them to stay somewhere else meaning not only do we have to reimburse them but we had to pay for their new accommodation. We state that there is a no smoking policy.. As like everywhere else but to smoke cannabis is just plain disrespectful. It will take a lot of hard work trying to get the smell to go. Guessing it was the previous guest I was close to getting the police involved but we didn’t have any hard evidence.
    Over the years we have had other minor issues like games consoles being stolen.. TV damage. Vomit on bed linen and being hidden.. Pet dog ripping curtains.. All sorts of stains left virtually anywhere and everywhere.. Ironing boards broken.. Window handles broken and even hob knobs stolen! These are just from the top of my head.. All accumulating to us asking why do we bother providing a nice environment only for others to ‘take the p**s!!?

  • Tara |

    We’ve just had the most rude and disrespectful guests in one of our properties over the weekend. They decided to charge their electric car, against our house rules, and left it plugged in for 24 hours whilst they were out for most of Saturday and Saturday night, in the pouring rain. The state of the bedrooms and bathrooms had to be seen to be believed. The brand new oven looked as if it was 10 years old; we used the maximum pyrolytic setting (thank goodness this oven has such a setting) to clean the oven and this took 7.5 hours. The kitchen was left in a filthy state, dirty pots, pans and crockery were put back into drawers thinking we wouldn’t notice and the dishwasher was not only full of dirty plates but food also. The kitchen caddy was left in a sink drawer with the lid off – it was full and reeked off decomposing food. The kitchen floor was filthy and littered with food, and the carpets were covered in detritus. We will be submitting a claim to AirBnB for additional cleaning costs as per our house rules. Having said all this, the majority of our guests are both delightful and respectful. It’s just weird how some people live, ie, in daily squalor.

  • Nessie |

    Guests turning up with washing when they arrive-very disrespectful.

  • Gill Woods |

    We buy on average three hairdryers every year and have complaints from guests constantly that there is only one in the house (because the previous guests have accidentally taken one home). Like others, we have had some guests who have left the place in a truly disgusting state.
    But the worst problem for us is the long list of relations who ask to borrow the house, often in summer: ‘my son has no money and needs a holiday in August’. When I replied to this that it would be their wedding present, there was a distinct froideur. Of course we want our children to use the house but we are discovering, like Dickens, that we have far more relatives than we had ever heard of. It’s very hard and sounds mean to say no but we have to pay for cleaning and heating and, it now turns out, their electric car charging. Not all of them are prepared to reimburse us for these costs and it can create ill feeling if we ask. It doesn’t occur to them that we are also losing income. We have now had to decide that we will have to say no to everyone other than our own children.
    I wonder how others cope with this?

    • Philip |

      Hi Gill, one way to address this problem is to only allow ‘friends’ and distant relatives to use the holiday let out of season (so you don’t lose bookings) on the condition that they donate to your chosen charity – suggesting £x amount. This tends to weed out the freeloaders.

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