There does seem to be quite a lot of confusion online from short-term rental guests who don’t understand what the so-called cleaning fee is all about. Note that not all hosts charge this as a separate fee but wherever you stay – hotel, guesthouse B & B, short terms rental – somewhere along the line you are paying for cleaning.

Personally, I don’t mind this being shown as a separate line-item on the invoice but some guests do – and some even see it as an invitation to leave their accommodation in poor shape because they are ‘paying for cleaning’.

But what we need to bear in mind is that the cleaning fee (so-called) is not intended as an extra fee to clean after guests. In fact, it should be referred to properly as the ‘preparation fee’. From the host’s point of view, this transparency gives the guests a lower per-night rate and encourages longer stays.

For example, a $50 preparation fee for a stay of one night might seem steep but for a stay of ten days equates to only $5 per day.

But whether a guest is staying for one night or three weeks, the preparation required will still be the same.

Can we really compare a STR’s cleaning fee to hotel housekeeping? After all, hotel housekeepers enter the room every day whereas in a STR, especially a self-catering unit, there may be no cleaning during your stay.

A hotel housekeeper will – daily – make the bed, change the towels (unless you have requested otherwise), clean any obvious areas in the bedroom or bathroom, replenish supplies and empty the garbage. On average, this is done within a 20 to 30 minute timeframe.

Preparing a self-catering rental, a suite or small apartment, for a guest will usually take an average of four hours. In addition to cleaning the apartment thoroughly and making up the bed with fresh linens, this may include:

  • Stocking the apartment (coffee, paper products, toiletries etc.)
  • Dealing with items which in hotels are normally not done by the housekeepers but another department such as minor repairs, lightbulbs, window cleaning, cleaning of soft furnishings, polishing floors, general maintenance, laundry and stain removal
  • Complete cleaning of kitchen including oven, all crockery and cupboard interiors, thorough cleaning of fridge, supplying materials for doing the dishes, teatowels, cleaning and maintaining equipment such as microwave, coffee machine, dishwasher, waste disposer
  • Cleaning and preparing outside areas such as balconies – and exterior furniture
  • Plus a hundred and one other tasks

And it’s not all labour costs. Short term rental amenities vary a lot but all will have certain items and expenses in common that are associated with preparing a rental for guests.

  • Laundry expenses
  • Cleaning materials
  • Cleaning equipment and maintenance (vacuum cleaners etc.)
  • Specialist stain removal substances
  • Wear and tear replacement towels, sheets, pillowcases etc
  • Wear and tear on all equipment and supplies
  • Replacing breakages and, sadly, stolen items
  • Repairs
  • Consumables such as toilet paper, tissues

Some hosts provide some or all of the following to their guests – which further eat into the preparation fee:

  • Fresh flowers in the accommodation
  • Arrival snacks and/or a bottle of wine
  • Bottled water
  • Breakfast items
  • Toiletries (shampoo, body wash, conditioner, soap, skin moisturiser, cleansing wipes etc)
  • Bathroom items such as air freshener, sunscreen, simple over-the-counter medications
  • Emergency ‘did you forget anything?’ items (toothpaste, deodorant, feminine hygiene etc)
  • Kitchen consumables (pepper, salt. oil, coffee, tea, herbs – also foil, parchment paper etc.)
  • Fully stocked first aid kit
  • Tissues in the bedroom, paper towel in the kitchen
  • Local magazines & newspapers
  • Fluffy bathrobes (additional laundry)
  • Disposable one-time slippers
  • Items for the beach or pool (all of which have to be cleaned and maintained)
  • Board and cards games, books (…………………………  ditto …………………………..)

In a hotel, there are likely to be add-on costs that you find on your bill when you’re checking out. Sometimes you don’t – for example, if you’ve tipped anyone at the hotel you won’t find that on your bill (so you can’t claim those payments on your expense account!)

Chances are that you’ve tipped a bartender, wait staff, valet parker, concierge, doorman or someone. Did you know that you are recommended to tip the housekeeping staff at least $1 – 5 per day for your stay?

It’s also likely that you’ve been charged extra for parking your car. There might be other extras at your hotel. Yes, some may be advertised as ‘free’ but remember that you’re paying for them in your nightly fee – but they are hidden there even if you don’t use these ‘free’ facilities.






JJ is originally from the UK and has lived in South Florida since 1994. She is the founder and editor of JAQUO Magazine. You can connect with her using the social media icons below.

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