Vacation Rental Cleaning: How to Avoid Scope Creep


Vacation rental managers know just how essential good cleaners are in this business. Your relationship with your cleaner can be the key to avoiding bad reviews and ensuring repeat customers.

Cleaners generally report good relationships with the vacation rental managers they work for, but there is a nagging problem that can keep a great cleaner from making you their #1 client: scope creep.

Scope creep is a project management term that refers to unforeseen add-on requests after the project has already begun. Cleaners often hear “Oh, and could you just … ?” or “Would you mind stopping by the store for … ?”

Most cleaners are happy to go the extra mile for a good client, but if they see a lot of this type of add-on request early in the relationship, they’re going to think you’re the kind of client who will ask for 3 hours of work for 2 hours of pay. 

Thankfully, it’s easy to keep your jobs within the original scope with advance planning and clear communication. Here’s how to make sure your cleaners  know exactly what you need from them so you can have a great relationship for years to come.

Give a Heads-Up on Time-Specific Tasks 

Scope creep often happens simply because the cleaner wasn’t aware that some tasks need to be performed at the beginning of the job. Some tasks require the cleaner to do a little work at the start and the end of the job, with a lag time in between.

Laundry is the most obvious example, and most vacation rental cleaners know to start the laundry at the beginning of the job and change the laundry to the dryer the minute the washer buzzes.

But there are quite a few other jobs of this type, and many vacation rental managers don’t think to let their cleaners know about them.

A few examples:

  • Checking for damage. If you want your cleaner to report any damage at the property to you right away (so you’ll have time to fix the problem before the guest arrives), you’ll need to ask them to do a walk-through first thing.
  • Running the dishwasher. If you want the dishwasher emptied before the cleaner leaves, they’ll need to start their clean by looking for any dirty dishes and running the dishwasher.
  • Airing out the property. If you know the property tends to collect smells or that the cleaning products you prefer can linger, ask your cleaner to open the windows at the start of the clean.

You may also want your cleaner to check on the supplies you’ve stocked, look for any thank-you note from a guest, or collect the garbage/recycling first thing so it’s on the curb in time for trash collection.

Create a Restocking Schedule 

The most common reason for task scope creep isn’t that the property manager wants a room cleaned that wasn’t on the list originally, or a deep clean when they originally asked for a turnover clean.

The biggest problem is that the supplies the cleaner needed to do a professional job weren’t available.

The property manager might ask that the cleaner stock 4 rolls of toilet paper under the sink, for example, but if there isn’t enough toilet paper in the storage closet, the manager will usually ask the cleaner to grab some from the store.

Even if the property manager is conscientious enough to pay for the cleaner’s time, that’s time the cleaner didn’t factor into their original schedule. When a two-hour cleaning becomes a two-and-a-half hour cleaning because of an additional errand, the cleaner might be late to their next job.

Worse case scenario? The cleaner simply doesn’t have time to perform the “add on” task. Which means you’ll be low on stock for that guest.

As a property manager, you know you’ll need to restock certain items regularly, but you may not have restocking built into your turnover schedule. Instead of waiting until you’ve run out of supplies, ask one of your service providers to do a “restock” on a regular schedule, or ask your cleaner to factor in time to restock supplies when they provide you with a quote.

Cleaners report they don’t mind making restocks part of their job – they just need to know about it up front.

Handling Bigger-Than-Usual Messes

Your last guests left behind a huge mess. It’s going to take way more time to get the house ready for the next guest than anticipated.

This is a situation you can’t anticipate ahead of time, so the scope creep isn’t your doing. Cleaners do understand this, but it’s still stressful for them to have to worry about how to handle a job that’s going to take much more time than originally agreed.

If you clearly communicate in advance that you have a plan for how to handle this kind of unanticipated scope creep, however, your cleaner will be reassured.

When you first hire your new vacation rental cleaner, explain that occasionally guests leave vacation rentals in bad shape and that in those cases, the cleaning job might be more in-depth.

Then explain exactly what you need from them and how they will be compensated for the extra time.

For example, if you’re using Properly, you’ll want photos of the mess throughout the property so that you can bill the guest for the additional cleaning cost. Ask your cleaner to take photos of the mess beforehand and give you their best estimate of the amount of time it will take to clean the property.

Then let them know what rate you’ll be paying them for the additional labor.

Putting in that advance work means that the next time your cleaner encounters a bigger-than-usual mess, they won’t worry that they’re going to be doing extra work and debating about pay. They know you’ve anticipated the problem and that there’s a process to follow so that the property still gets cleaned.


When you work with a new cleaner, you want to start off with a great relationship so that you can hold on to the cleaners whose work you love. These steps make it much easier for your vacation rental cleaners to see you as a fair and considerate partner, ensuring you’ll be working with the best of the best throughout your career in vacation rental management.

Properly makes it easy for you to communicate all of the steps of each job to your cleaner in advance. You can create a checklist library full of the kinds of jobs you need regularly – like restocking! – and easily add those checklists to any job. You can send that job to your cleaners or to our marketplace of vetted professionals to get exactly the cleaner you need for the job. Click here to learn more[:]