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Breaching Holiday Cottage Occupancy Limits

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Breaching occupancy limits is a situation that many holiday cottage owners will be familiar with. But it’s a difficult scenario to deal with, especially when children are involved. Should you terminate the booking or turn a blind eye?

holidaymaker-leavingAs reported by the times, a family booked a holiday cottage through an agency, and on the first night they had a guest and her baby to stay. As it was just for one night and there was a spare bedroom, they did not think that it would be an issue.

Unfortunately, this breached the occupancy limit as the property only had beds for five people, but there were now three adults, one child and two infants – both in their own travel cots. Although the agency said there wouldn’t be a problem, as long as the extra guests left, once the owner discovered they asked the whole family to leave. Even after the guest departed.

Although this seems harsh considering that small children were involved, there are two sides to every story.

From the owners perspective: the booking terms made it clear that customers must not exceed the occupy limit or change the confirmed booking. By doing so, the owners are entitled to take back possession of their property.

From the holiday makers perspective: they may not have realised how seriously the owner would take it, especially as there was room in the property for the infants. Ideally, they should have asked the agency for permission for the extra guests to stay, and expect to pay a charge for extra laundry etc.

The owners are within their rights to be angry over the extra guests, but the decision seems a bit harsh considering it was for one night, there was room in the property and infants were involved. I expect most owners would have the opinion that a small charge and a word of warning would have sufficed in these circumstances.

Unfortunately this situation is common. There have been many instances in the past of guests sneaking 2-4 extra people in for the week or inviting friends staying nearby to use the pool. This is likely to increase wear and tear at the property, often at the owner’s expense.

For this reason, it is important to state clearly in your booking terms what happens in the event of over occupancy. If you are feel that you have been deceived, then your terms should allow you to take back possession of your property. In trivial situations as above, it might be better to be flexible and make a small charge.

How would you deal with a breach of your occupancy limit? please add your comments below.


  • K |

    We have one property that sleeps 9, booked for a weekend.
    After the holidaymakers, 9, were shown in, a camper van turned up and parked in the drive with about 3 extra people. They slept in the van over the weekend, but used the holiday home as their base, showering and eating there.
    We let it go as the aggro ends up making you ill.

    • Philip |

      Over occupancy is annoying for owners as it results in additional wear and tear. Many rental owners confront those who are guilty, either requesting money for the extra cleaning costs or informing the holiday party that ‘extra guests’ aren’t allowed as their insurance only cover a maximum of X. Not necessarily true, but a useful excuse to use to resolve the problem.

  • Lucy |

    What owners MUST note that if there are more guests than originally booked in, or the property is over-occupied, then the insurance companies will refuse to pay up if there is an incident requiring a claim. We insist on payment, once the guests have been “found out” as guests who do this, tend to do this without asking if it’s OK. We have not had a situation where anyone has refused to pay, but we would ask them to leave if they did refuse and our Terms and Conditions indicate this very clearly.

    • Philip |

      Re:What owners MUST note that if there are more guests than originally booked in, or the property is over-occupied, then the insurance companies will refuse to pay up if there is an incident requiring a claim.
      That’s not true of all insurers, over occupancy wouldn’t be a reason Schofields would decline a valid claim – it’s wise to check your insurers stance though. Asking for additional payment is warranted, but make sure it’s mentioned in your terms and condition.

  • Rosie |

    The campervan factor is interesting. We currently have 8 adults staying in our maximum 8-person holiday let. Our Ts and Cs clearly state that in the event of over-occupancy we have the right to end the booking, and effectively turf everyone out.

    We received a call this afternoon from one of our guests, declaring this was a ‘courtesy call’ and that 2 friends ‘were in the area, coming for dinner, but would be sleeping in their campervan’, and could they park it on our drive.

    Caught on the hop we said yes, that’s fine. However, having had time to reflect, this feels like a pre-arranged gig for their mates to use our facilities (sauna, BBQ, dog spa, gardens, living room, showers etc.) for no charge.

    What remains to see is how many nights they might ask to play this game. If we get a call tomorrow, I will tell them that they can stay for xx more nights, and that we’ll be deducting £25 per night in extra cleaning, wear and tear etc.

    Any advice from anyone would be welcome.


    • Philip |

      I’m sure it happens more often than owners are aware of. There are some tips in this post on monitoring your holiday let remotely https://www.schofields.ltd.uk/blog/4884/smart-devices/ Sounds like a good course of action to cover the additional wear and tear etc.

  • Rosie |

    Our current (arrived yesterday) guests booked as 2 adults + 4 children + 1 dog. Our property sleeps 8 adults plus babes in arms. We charge £20 per dog per stay.

    They were taken aback on arrival when they found out we lived next door. They fessed up that some ‘friends ‘ would be staying one night (tonight) and had brought an inflatable mattress for the ‘little ones’. We thought we’d keep an eye on this development, and reluctantly let it go (only 2nd booking after 4 months of no income courtesy the lock down).

    Doing a quick count this afternoon of their gang returning in dribs and drabs from the local pub – there are now 6 adults and 6 children and 2 dogs stuffed into our Barn.

    Our Ts and Cs for direct bookings are clear. If any guest exceeds the maximum occupancy they will be asked to leave.

    This group booked through the goliath VRBO (Homeaway until last week). Can’t find anything on their website regarding this subject.

    Am inclined (if the 3rd car hasn’t gone in the morning) to email the booker of the stay and tell him that our PLI restricts us to 10 humans at any one time. And could he please stick to his orignal booking and ask his friends to leave. Not true re the PLI, but am irked that they’re taking the piss frankly.

    Any advice welcome!

    • Philip |

      It all depends on what your terms and conditions say about asking guests to lave or charge extra. Also, are they breaking the local Government rules on the number of households who can stay in accommodation together?

  • Di |

    We have a cottage for 8 with one cot (but do have two if required). We have 6 adults, 1 infant and three babies booked. Would this be classed as over occupancy?

  • Al |

    My cottage sleeps six – adults only – this fact is mentioned three times in the booking and property information. The holiday company’s booking system doesn’t allow for children to be booked in. Yet this weekend’s guests were a family with four children and at Christmas, the booked couple brought their two small daughters. I live a long way from the house and so cannot check and rely on the cleaner and my neighbours.
    The house is not equipped for children and the garden is steep. Should these unpermitted guests meet with an accident, I am concerned that I will be sued. Is the booking company’s procedure goo enough to protect me?

    • Philip |

      The booking procedure and terms should make it clear the maximum occupancy. I would raise this with your agent. Regardless of the number of occupants, you should ensure the property meets all the relevant health and safety requirements and that you have the right insurance that covers public liability.

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