Setting Your Airbnb Guest Maximum and Managing Additional Guests
See our insights on regulations, Airbnb policies, fees and software to protect your homeowner and business interests — STR property management SOP included.
October 17, 2023
When unauthorized guests join a confirmed booking party, it doesn’t just leave you out of pocket—it can also be a safety issue that disturbs neighbors, too.
Not only that, but any damage to the property or its contents could bring into question your services as a property manager if the homeowner finds out there were too many people staying at their home.
To manage the guest maximum at your Airbnb properties, you need a simple, repeatable solution you can easily apply across your entire portfolio as you grow your operations—and that’s what we discuss in this article.
In this comprehensive guide to managing extra guests, you’ll learn about the following key areas:
Airbnb’s policy on guest limits and your legal obligations
Four key factors in setting your maximum guest limits
Guest messaging from pre-booking through check-out
Ways to deter unauthorized extra guests
How to apply an extra guest fee on Airbnb
Tools and services you can use to maintain visibility and manage issues
A standard operating procedure you can implement for every unit and stay
Having explored our insider tips on best practices and expert recommendations on what software to use, you’ll be able to safely manage your properties, save staff from face-to-face confrontations, and protect your business.
What you need to know about Airbnb maximum guest limits
While Airbnb did have a blanket limit on the number of guests a property could have (set at 16), that’s no longer the case: You can set your own maximum occupancy limits based on the property, its amenities, and your services.
Equally, you can decide your own policy on extra guest fees and what actions to take to prevent unauthorized guests, which we talk about later in this article.
However, you’ll need to be aware of the short-term rental (STR) regulations on occupancy limits in your local jurisdiction, as these can vary considerably. To find out more, go to your local government website.
For example, in New York City, “Short-term rentals are only permitted if you are staying in the same unit or apartment as your guests, and you have no more than two paying guests at a time.”
Meanwhile, in Chicago, “The maximum number of guests in a vacation rental shall be no more than one person per 125 feet of floor area of the dwelling unit for which the license is issued.”
With a clear understanding of how to remain compliant, you can follow our advice on managing extra guests, beginning with setting your occupancy limits in the Airbnb platform.
How to manage Airbnb occupancy limits and extra guests
This is your comprehensive guide to managing guest limits on vacation rental properties across your portfolio.
You’ll see what to factor into your maximum guest policies, how to implement those policies with effective communications and additional fees, and what software and services you’ll need for a scalable solution to property management as you grow your STR business.
Deciding the occupancy limit at your Airbnb listing
Here are four considerations to bear in mind when setting your Airbnb rental guest limit:
Local government STR regulations As discussed above, many local governments have STR regulations that you’ll need to research. For example, Los Angeles city planning laws permit “a maximum of two persons (excluding children) per habitable room” as part of its Home-Sharing Ordinance.
On the other hand, in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, “You can rent out to a maximum of 4 people at a time.”
The number of beds and sleeping spaces Decide what a comfortable limit would be for your guests. If you set a high limit that your Airbnb struggles to accommodate, it could result in a bad review.
The number of bathrooms Again, this is a question of the guest experience—even if you can find a way to squeeze in extra sleeping space, would the bathrooms be able to accommodate that number of people?
Note: There’s no fixed rule on this, but typically one toilet for every six guests is adequate for basic accommodation, but for a luxury stay, that number could increase by double or more.
What’s right for you, the homeowner, and neighbors Even if you could sleep more guests at your property, for example by using camping beds, sofa beds, and futons, it’s important that the number is right for your services.
Could a large number of guests cause excessive noise that disturbs neighbors? Might the idea of large groups at their property create stress for the homeowner? Would lots of people demand too much of your cleaning team or create a home safety or security issue?
By thinking through these key points, you can set a maximum guest limit that’s legally compliant, safe, comfortable, and in line with your limits as an Airbnb host.
Pro tip: No one likes surprises, so set realistic expectations for your guests from the outset.
For example, if your sleeping options include folding beds or air mattresses, say so in your listings and guest messaging.
That way, you can maintain strong guest relationships and avoid negative reviews.
Implementing maximum guest policies with clear comms
It’s one thing to set a maximum guest limit for your listings in your Airbnb account, it’s another to communicate that policy effectively. If you don’t, you could end up with an unauthorized party, upset neighbors, extra cleaning and maintenance costs, or a legal compliance issue.
So, begin by making your policy clear in your property listing. Airbnb makes this easy by displaying the guest limit, number of bedrooms, beds, and bathrooms for each property on the first page of your listing, beside your host information.
However, if you list on other platforms and channels, for example on Vrbo or a direct booking site, you should be equally clear there, too—and consistent, as you don’t want different guests to have different ideas about your guest limit policy.
Airbnb’s format is a good one to follow, as the information is easy to see and practical for the guest.
You should also look to reiterate your policy on guest limits in your digital guidebook and pre-stay messaging.
For example, you can use a scheduled message that shares check-in instructions for a guest’s upcoming stay to remind them of your maximum guest policy and house rules.
Here’s an example of what that message could look like:
“We kindly remind you that the guest limit for Mountain View Cabin is 6 adults plus children. If that presents a problem, or if you’d like to change any of your reservation details, please let us know in advance of your stay.”
So, what if the guest does have a problem with that limit? Sometimes a guest will book a stay, then at the last minute, want to add someone to the reservation. In this case, it makes sense to have an extra guest fee in place, which we discuss next.
Extra guest fees
To apply extra guest fees, go to the pricing information of the listing within your Airbnb account, where you can add it by clicking “Edit”. There you can enter the amount you wish for each extra guest.
Note: Your saved extra guest fee is only applicable to future stays—to add an extra guest fee to a booking you’ve already confirmed, you’ll need to request a trip change.
Of course, you’re under no obligation to accept an extra guest if you don't want to. Nevertheless, some guests may still try to add an extra person to their group. We look at this scenario below.
When guests bring unauthorized extra people
If guests add people to their group without your permission, they not only breach their booking agreement but also present potential legal, home safety, and nuisance risks. This places you in an awkward position, as you must balance upholding the homeowner's interests with the concerns you’ll have over engaging in a possible confrontation.
In this case, you should contact Airbnb directly and consider canceling the reservation. However, this might not immediately resolve the issue if the booking party’s already in the property, and could still leave you or your team dealing with an uncomfortable face-to-face meeting with guests.
Also, if the guest booked your vacation rental from outside of Airbnb, your support is instantly limited, and how can you tell if there are extra guests, anyway?
In answer, you should:
Have a pre-prepared standard operating procedure (SOP)
Use crowd-detection software
Turn to professional assistance in the form of trained responders
We look at these solutions next.
Tools for managing extra guests
To help deter unregistered guests from staying at your vacation rental property, you can use tactics like informing guests you’ll meet them on arrival. But this isn’t a practical solution if you’re operating multiple units. Alternatively, you can place security cameras on your properties, but you can’t track these 24/7.
But you can use crowd detection sensors and noise monitors to alert you as soon as an issue arises. This is an automated solution—so it’s scalable and therefore practical no matter how many units you oversee—and with Minut, you’ll gain access to a range of other property-protection features, too.
Below, we look at three ways Minut’s standalone, privacy-safe device helps you safely manage extra guests.
1. Crowd detection
The Minut sensor counts the number of wireless devices on a property, alerting you if that number exceeds your customized guest limit for that unit.
All you have to do is enable the Crowd Detect function, which you can do from your mobile device, then set the guest capacity based on your maximum guest policy or the details of a given booking party.
2. Noise monitoring
The Minut sensor also monitors noise levels in your home, sending you automated notifications if they go over your set decibel and noise duration threshold.
As with the device’s crowd detection feature, you can operate it remotely from your phone.
3. Call Assist and Guard Assist
Minut’s Call Assist and Guard Assist services save you and your team from directly handling a problem, whether that’s because the issue has occurred late at night or you simply don’t wish to be involved in a potentially confrontational situation.
Having received an automated alert from your Minut sensor, our trained communication experts will call guests to peacefully resolve the matter, and, if required, guards trained in friendly conflict resolution will visit the property in person.
With Minut’s software solutions and professional assistance services, you can remain informed of what’s going on at properties across your portfolio, protect your homeowners’ and business interests, and stay safe.
Now let’s see how you can effectively put it all together in a repeatable process.
STR property management SOP for managing extra guests
Here’s an overview of an SOP you could put into practice to manage extra guests for every new property added to your portfolio. It covers the recommendations discussed in this article and takes advantage of Minut’s automated solutions for vacation rental protection:
Research local vacation rental regulations
Confirm maximum guest limits in online travel agency (OTA)
Activate crowd detection in the mobile app and confirm thresholds
Activate noise monitoring in the app and confirm thresholds
If extra guest is requested, apply extra guest fees or cancel booking
If occupancy/noise levels exceed limits, Call Assist response is initiated
Inform homeowner and consider cancellation options
Guard Assist response is initiated if required
Report policy breach to OTA with Minut event log
Review thresholds for future stays
Review messaging in listings, digital guide, and scheduled messages
Inform homeowner of what took place, highlighting your effective management of the situation
Manage Airbnb guests with a solution that reduces your workload
Managing occupancy limits and unregistered guests can be a complex and sensitive issue. If you approach it in a heavy-handed manner, you could harm your guest relationships, but left unattended, it could cause you a range of problems, including property damage and an upset homeowner.
This is why it’s important to understand the legalities and safety issues, and how these can affect your services.
By implementing a standard operating procedure that recognizes these key factors, you can make light work of the entire process, from synchronizing your policies across channels to reporting what happened to the homeowner after the event.
Minut supports this with a sensor for visibility and alerts, as well as a user-friendly app to simplify your tasks.
With these tools, you can set clear boundaries, maintain positive guest reviews, and grow your business with confidence.