© Mark Fletcher-Brown, via Unsplash

A landlady’s life: Setting boundaries

The second part of our series “A landlady’s life” is about trust, rules of the game and the appropriate communication with guests.

“I don’t like buying a pig in a poke” writes a guest.
I had politely pointed out to him that he still had to pay the balance. He would rather pay cash on the spot. You never know what to expect. Aha, I think. What terrible things must have happened to this person? Astonished – and to be honest, a little offended – I read the lines again. I am not a trained tourism expert. Like a virgin with a child, one day I had suddenly acquired holiday homes. A few good pieces of advice here, some information from the internet there and hey presto, a company with rental conditions and cancellation rules was born. I wasn’t prepared for guests who didn’t want to buy pigs in a poke.

So, what should I do? Be generous and go along with it because I’m convinced he’ll like it? I could write an email, explain myself, mention the many positive comments from guests as proof of quality? Or I could insist on observing the rules that everyone else has followed so far without complaint? I pictured in my head what might happen when the guest arrives. Would he walk through the apartment with a magnifying glass in his hand, looking for the proverbial hair in the soup? Or would he smile and hand the rest of the money to my employee on site and happily spend his holiday?

I know that guests like to interpret rules individually. That’s part of the game. Those who plan their own holidays like to have everything perfect. The most popular interpretation of the rules is the arrival and departure time. It’s wonderful when the flat is ready for occupancy at the chosen arrival time and the departure can take place in peace and quiet after a leisurely breakfast. Unfortunately, we have to be the spoilsports here because the next guest would also like to arrive earlier and, of course, have a properly cleaned apartment. This is catch-22 or, to stay in the animal kingdom, the dog is trying to bite its own tail. On one occasion a guest had optimised his planning so that he could arrive early on Saturday morning and leave late on Sunday evening. All for the price of an overnight stay. He thought that was logical. I didn’t.

Guests also like to be geniuses at optimising the number of people travelling with them. Two couples told me that, firstly, with a total of four children under the age of three, they would fit perfectly into a four-person apartment and, secondly, they wouldn’t have to pay any extra because children under the age of three were free. With my veto, I at least saved the young parents’ holiday – and perhaps also their friendship. Because maximising the number of people per square metre rarely correlates with the satisfaction of the fellow travellers. After brief consideration, they decided on two apartments.

As a landlady, I have learned, I am a mixture of counsellor and therapist, implementer of creative ideas and strict educator. By the way, I am still grateful to the pig in the poke man back then. His email was a kind of wake-up call for a landlady. It made me realise that there are limits and I have to set them. After careful consideration, I wrote a friendly cancellation letter to him and asked for his bank details. Nowadays one would say “better no booking than a bad booking”. I simply didn’t want to welcome anyone as a guest who thought he was being cheated before he even arrived. What happened next, however, was a small miracle. The guest wrote to me by return of post: no, no, he didn’t mean it that way. He would love to come and had already paid the balance. That’s more like it, I thought.

Published: May 2022


  1. Es ist sicher manchmal eine Herausforderung, auf die mitunter erstaunlichen Vorstellungen mancher MieterInnen gelassen und professionell zu reagieren. Es gibt allerdings durchaus auch den umgekehrten Fall, dass man als MieterIn mit den besten Absichten alle Regeln befolgt und aber feststellen muss, dass die Vermieter es damit nicht ganz so genau nehmen. Wie in vielen anderen Bereichen gilt sicher auch hier, bei der Vermietung/Miete von Ferienobjekten, dass ein wohlmeinender Austausch hilft – wie oft fehlt es einfach an Einblick in die Perspektive des Gegenübers und löst sich im Gespräch bestenfalls in Wohlgefallen auf (bestenfalls sogar ohne ein still triumphierendes „geht doch“).
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  2. Ein toller Beitrag. Sehr erfrischend. Auch wir sind keine gelernten Tourismusexperten aber nach 5 Jahren Ferienwohnungsvermietung sicherlich mit sehr viel Erfahrung und den unterschiedlichsten Fällen. Man lernt nie aus und die Erfahrungen machen unseren Beruf spannend. Sicherlich könnten wir mittlerweile ein ganzes Buch damit füllen. Eine gute Saison allen!
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  3. Danke für den sehr netten Beitrag. Dem kann ich nur beipflichten. Bin selber eine Vermieterin, die diesen Job nicht “gelernt” hat. Motiviert mich, doch ab und zu unpopuläre Entscheidungen in höflichem Ton treffen zu müssen.
    Ich wünsche allen eine gute Sommersaison – Herzliche Grüße – Claudia
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