Guide to Drafting a Short-Term Rental Agreement [2024]

Find out how to draft a short-term rental agreement, from what to include to tips for writing it like a pro, and get access to a free template.

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Having a clear, legally binding document that outlines the agreement between you and your guests acts as a safeguard. It provides protection and peace of mind, saving you time, money, and stress in case of any conflicts. That’s why a short-term rental agreement can come in handy.

In this article, we’ll break down the essential components of a short-term rental agreement and provide practical tips for drafting one that suits your needs. We’ll also provide a free vacation rental agreement template to help you get started on the right foot.

What is a Short-Term Rental Agreement?

A short-term rental agreement is a legal document that outlines the terms and conditions of renting a property for a short duration. It establishes the rights and responsibilities of both the property owner (or landlord) and the guest. 

The agreement can include details such as the rental period, rental rate, payment terms, security deposit, rules for occupancy, maintenance responsibilities, and procedures for resolving disputes. 

This contract helps protect both parties by clarifying expectations and providing a framework for addressing any issues that may arise during the rental period.

When to Use a Short-Term Rental Agreement?

It’s a smart move to use a short-term rental agreement every time you rent your property to new guests, regardless of the length of their stay, even if it’s just for one night.

To prevent misunderstandings, be upfront about the agreement terms before booking. You can do this by including it in your listing description or providing the agreement upon inquiry. 

The only time you’d skip the short-term agreement is if a guest plans to stay over 30 days. In that case, you should opt for a formal lease.

Short-Term Rental Agreement vs a Vacation Rental Agreement

A short-term rental agreement and a vacation rental agreement are essentially the same thing. While they may have slightly different names, they serve the same purpose.

Some other terms commonly used interchangeably with short-term rental agreements are:

  • Short-term residential lease agreement
  • Short-stay rental agreement
  • Short-term rental contract
  • Airbnb rental agreement
  • Vacation lease agreement
  • Short-term house rental contract

Things to Include in a Short-Term Rental Agreement

Your short-term rental agreement should reflect the terms and conditions for using your property. Here’s a breakdown of essential elements it should include:

  • Names and Contact Information: Start by identifying both parties involved, the property owner and the guest. You’ll also want to include contact information for both you and the guest to ensure easy communication during the rental.
  • Rental Property Details: Provide a brief description of your rental property, highlighting its location, unit number, unique features, amenities, and others. 
  • Rental Term: Specify the start and end dates of the rental period as well as the check-in and check-out dates and times.
  • Rental Rate and Payment Terms: Outline the total rental amount, payment due dates, acceptable payment methods, and any applicable taxes or fees.
  • Security Deposit: State the amount of the security deposit, along with the conditions for its refund and any deductions that may apply.
  • House Rules and Use of Property: Lay down clear and concise house rules covering everything from noise levels to pet policies as well as the maximum number of guests allowed to stay at the property.
  • Utilities and Maintenance: Clarify which utilities are included in the rental fee and who is responsible for maintenance tasks such as landscaping, cleaning, and repairs.
  • Cancellation Policy: Clarify who’s responsible for what when it comes to upkeep and maintenance tasks during the rental period.
  • Liability and Insurance: Clarify who’s responsible for property damage, personal injury, and liability insurance coverage to ensure everyone’s protected and clear on their obligations.
  • Additional Terms and Conditions: Address any other relevant issues or agreements specific to your rental arrangement, such as parking arrangements, access to common areas, or restrictions on subletting.
  • Signature and Date: To make it official, both of you need to sign and date the agreement.

How to Write a Short-Term Rental Agreement

Writing a short-term rental agreement doesn’t have to be daunting. Here’s a simple guide to help you craft one:

  • Use Clear and Concise Language: Avoid using complex legal jargon that may confuse or intimidate the guests. Keep the language simple and easy to understand.
  • Collect Contact Information: Reach out to guests and ask them for phone numbers, email addresses, and mailing addresses. You can also ask for an emergency contact in case of any urgent situations during their stay.
  • Consider Local Laws: Familiarize yourself with local rental laws and regulations to ensure your agreement complies with relevant legal requirements.
  • Customize It for Your Property: Tailor the agreement to fit the specific details and features of your rental property. Consider your unique amenities, restrictions, parking, or any other requirements that may apply.
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  • Update When Needed: Periodically review and update your rental agreement to reflect any changes in local laws or regulations, as well as any updates to your property or rental policies.
  • Anticipate Potential Issues: Consider potential challenges or disputes that may arise during the rental period and address them proactively in the agreement. This can help prevent misunderstandings and conflicts down the line.
  • Seek Legal Advice if Needed: If you’re unsure about any aspect of the rental agreement or its enforceability, seek advice from a legal professional specializing in real estate or landlord-tenant law.

You don’t have to create one from scratch; instead, you can use this sample short-term rental agreement as a template and customize it to suit your needs.

What Happens When You Don’t Have a Short-Term Rental Agreement?

When you forego a short-term rental agreement, you’re opening yourself up to various risks and uncertainties. Here’s what could happen:

  • Ambiguity: Without a formal rental agreement, there’s a lot of guesswork about the terms and conditions of the rental. This lack of clarity often leads to misunderstandings and disagreements.
  • Security Deposit Disputes: The absence of a rental agreement often sparks disagreements over security deposits. Without clear rules about deductions and damages, it’s tough to find common ground.
  • Liability Concerns: If there’s property damage or personal injury during the rental, things can get messy without a rental agreement specifying who’s responsible and what’s covered by insurance.

Editor’s note: Speaking of insurance, find out more about how it’s wise to get a tailored insurance policy for your property in our best insurance providers for vacation rentals post. You can also get a quote from our top choice: Proper Insurance.

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  • Rule Enforcement: You can face an uphill battle when trying to enforce rules without a formal agreement. This can lead to issues like unapproved guests, pets, or rule-breaking without consequences.
  • Payment Problems: Rent disputes are common without a rental agreement spelling out payment terms and deadlines. It’s a recipe for late fees and financial headaches.
  • Legal Disputes: A written rental agreement is your insurance as it can protect you if things go wrong. Without it, disputes can quickly escalate into legal battles.


Whether you’re using multiple platforms, sticking to one online travel agency (OTA), or managing direct bookings, a well-crafted rental agreement is key for your confidence and security. This legal document lays out the ground rules between you and your guests, saving you from potential drama if any issues arise.The best part is that you don’t even have to draft it on your own.

You can save yourself valuable time by downloading our template and making it your own.

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