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What to Do When Holiday Cottage Guests Bring Extra Visitors

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Paper cut out house and family

It’s inevitable that as a holiday let landlord you will have to deal with guests who breach your holiday cottage occupancy limits and bring extra guests.

What typically happens is the lead guest doesn’t include young children in the booking numbers, wrongly assuming that children don’t count as they are sleeping on the couch, on airbeds or travel cot. Another example is the guests have friends who are staying in another property or camping nearby, but they spend all day at your property and maybe stay over.

Whether the guests have not realised the implications of over occupancy or have deliberately sneaked in extra guests to avoid paying extra, it can be a difficult situation for hosts to deal with. We’ll explore the steps to take to deter guests from bringing extra visitors and provide thoughts on how to handle over occupancy.

Why you should enforce a strict over occupancy policy

There are plenty of valid reasons for having a maximum occupancy limit.

  • Maybe your holiday cottage can only accommodate a certain number of guests. Extra guests mean increased costs, cleaning, wear and tear.
  • Over occupancy can mean more noise and the potential to upset neighbours.
  • The extra guests are unlikely to have read your house rules and may breach them, for example, charging their electric car with a granny cable through a window.

How to prevent guests from exceeding your maximum occupancy rule

Outline your occupancy rules in the terms and conditions

Clearly outline the maximum occupancy allowed on your direct booking website, on any OTAs that you’re listed on, in your house rules and booking terms and conditions.

For example:

“The maximum number of persons occupying the property must not exceed (X persons) and only those listed on the booking form can occupy the property. If you wish to invite additional visitors to visit you during your stay, please ask us first. Please be advised that no extra overnight visitors are allowed to stay at the property. ”

Also, emphasize that parties are strictly forbidden.

It is important to state clearly in your booking terms what happens in the event of over occupancy e.g. there will be £x per person per night charge.

Ensure your lead guest confirms they’ve read the booking terms and conditions and are aware of any consequences or penalties should they be broken.

Include all the guest’s names in the rental agreement

Make sure all the names of the guests are stated in the rental agreement. This way, you’ll know exactly who is staying and the guests won’t be able to justify bringing unauthorised visitors.

Charge a deposit

Taking a security deposit is a safety net if someone decides to break your house rules. Being charged from the security deposit is likely to deter guests from bringing additional visitors.

Monitor occupancy

A smart doorbell installed on your front door enables you to see who is entering your property so you can monitor numbers and gather evidence if needed. You should set up your system so it only captures images within the boundary of your property.

It’s important that you disclose that you have a smart doorbell on your website, OTA listings and house rules. You should also display stickers on your door or window to let guests know they’re on camera.

Ask your neighbor to keep a lookout

If you manage your holiday cottage remotely, having a friendly neighbour to keep an eye on unauthorised visitors is always handy. Similarly, you can ask your property manager to keep an eye out too.

What to do when holiday cottage guests bring extra visitors

Even if you’ve implemented the above, there is always a chance that guests may bring extra visitors. Sometimes it may be intentionally to avoid paying extra, however, some guests might have unintentionally overlooked your occupancy rule. In either case, here’s how you can deal with too many guests in your holiday let.

Stay calm

Try to find a peaceful resolution by communicating with your guests and staying calm. If your holiday home can accommodate extra visitors remind the lead booker of the extra guest fee that will be charged if the extra guest is staying. If you can’t accommodate any more, then let the guests know that the extra visitors will have to leave. If it’s only day visitors then most hosts will allow it.

Remind guests of the house rules

Remind the guests of the house rules and terms and conditions they agreed to during the booking process. Do this politely, emphasising the importance of these to ensure guest safety and to protect your property.

Report to the guests to the OTA they booked with

If your guests break the rules, and there appears to be no amicable solution, then report them to the OTA they booked with e.g. Airbnb. Airbnb allows hosts to set the maximum number of guests permitted and guests are expected to adhere to these rules. They’ll contact the guest and tell them what to do and charge them with extra fees if necessary.

Provide proof e.g. a screenshot from your smart doorbell or a statement from your neighbour.

Don’t throw the guests out

A court case highlighted the danger of throwing guests out after an owner was sued for unlawful eviction and breach of contract. The holiday let landlord was ordered to pay £2,000 damages after forcing a family out of their holiday cottage following concerns regarding over occupancy after a relative temporarily stayed overnight.

Does over occupancy impact insurance?

Holiday cottage owners being concerned regarding insurance issues for over occupancy is one of the most common questions we get. To clarify, a Schofields policy wouldn’t be impacted due to over occupancy where an extra guest stays. It’s important you check the cover with your insurer.

To summarise

Holiday home owners are within their rights to be upset if extra guests are staying but haven’t been disclosed. However, there is a difference between naive guests who haven’t considered the implication of letting a visitor stay overnight and guests who deliberately sneak visitors in to avoid paying extra.

However, it’s essential that your terms and conditions set out the consequences of over occupancy so you can resolve the problem.

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.

  • Mark |

    We booked a holiday cottage for august 2023.
    On 2 occasions we had 1 person stay the night.
    The place had space for five people so there was only ever maximum of five there.
    The owner of the let is now asking for extra money 2 months after the fact.

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