How To Keep Your Airbnb Business Safe

Is Airbnb Safe?

Over 35 million guests have stayed at Airbnbs so you’d expect a number of horror stories to appear. And they did. Most recently, there’s the story of the house in Calgary that got trashed causing damages of $50,000.

Although Airbnb did reimburse the host, it’s not just the financial aspect. It must to horrifying to come home to find your place completely destroyed and this is the biggest worry any (aspiring) Airbnb host has.

Is Airbnb safe?

Every time a horror story comes out, the question is asked: Is Airbnb safe? Nothing in life is 100% safe of course, there is a risk in anything we do in life. But here’s how you can make your Airbnb business as safe as possible.

What can Airbnb hosts to do make their business safer?

There are several things you can do to make your Airbnb business safer. Screening guests is the most obvious one, but there are other things as well such as charging a security deposit and Airbnb’s host guarantee.

Do your due diligence on the potential guest

After you get a booking request, check out the user’s profile page. There are a number of things that you should look for.

Positive reviews: Does this person have any positive reviews from former stays? Some hosts choose to only allow users with positive reviews to book their place. This is totally fine, but I’m personally not that strict and I like to offer people who are new to Airbnb a chance to get their first experience. I will however look more carefully at other factors.

Is Airbnb safe?

Verifications: Airbnb users can add several verifications to their profile. The most important ones to look for are ID, email and phone number. If one of these are missing, I won’t accept the booking. In addition, users can also connect a few social media accounts such as Facebook, Google Plus and Linkedin. These are things I will look for if the person doesn’t have any positive reviews.

Airbnb Verifications

About me section: Here you can find a little more information about your guests, like the language they speak and what their educational background is. Of course this information isn’t checked, but I think someone who’s creating an Airbnb account with the intention to do something bad is less likely to go through the trouble of filling out this section.

References: If the person doesn’t have any positive reviews, I will look for references. References can be written by anyone and there is no way to check them, but again it’s a positive sign at least if someone has a bunch.

Ask your guest additional questions

If you are on the fence about your potential guest, you can always ask a few questions before accepting the booking.

Things that I like to ask are:

– What is the purpose of the visit?
– Who else will be staying at my place? (I usually hosts groups of four or five)
– Is the visit part of a larger trip?

Based on their answers I’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect. For example, I’m much less likely to accept a group of single twenty-something guys flying over from London for the weekend than a group consisting of two couples who are on a three week trip through Europe.

My biggest worry is that my guests will either throw a party or go out late at night and come back drunk and cause disturbance to my neighbors and by getting more info from my guests allow me to make an assessment of this risk.

Security deposit

You can set a security deposit to protect against small damages. After the guest(s) check-out, you have 48 hours to make a claim on this deposit. Airbnb will mitigate and charge the guest if necessary.

If you’re not comfortable, decline the request

You always have the option to decline the request. Airbnb does not penalize hosts who decline bookings. It won’t help you either of course, but it’s perfectly ok to decline a booking every now and then.

What if things do go wrong?

Airbnb has a host guarantee in place that protects hosts against damages that couldn’t be resolved in another way, i.e. by using the security deposit or the hosts’ own home insurance policy.

Airbnb horror stories

So let’s see if applying all this could have prevented any of the horror stories that have been published online and if Airbnb ended up covering the damages.

Horror story 1: An Airbnb Guest Held A Huge Party In This New York Penthouse And Trashed It

Estimated damages: $2000

The guest “Jeffrey” had no reviews, so not accepting guest with no reviews could have prevented the drama. I don’t know about the other information and verifications on his profile, but his picture looked innocent according to the host.

Resolution: Airbnb initially didn’t want to pay since the host failed to file a claim within 72 hours, but eventually agreed to cover the damages after the Business Insider inquired about the case. They also contacted the guest and he agreed to pay for the cleaning bill as well.

Horror story 2: Airbnb Guests Trashed This Guy’s $2.5 Million Condo Setting Off A Saga That Cost Him $25,000

Estimated damages: $25,000

It’s not clear if this could have been prevented as the story doesn’t provide any information on the guests profile. Airbnb ended up paying about $1,300 and banned the host from the platform. According to Airbnb, they had received several complaints from guests and they interacted with the host several times. In addition, they say that he violated their terms by acceptation cash transactions.

Resolution: Airbnb paid $1,300 and host was kicked-off the platform

Horror story 3: Airbnb nightmare renters leave Calgary home trashed

Estimated damages: $50,000

A bus with over a 100 people showed up to have a “drug-induced orgy” at a home that was rented out on Airbnb in Calgary. The guests were supposed to be a family of four. The article doesn’t mention anything with regards to reviews and verifications.

Resolution: Airbnb covered the damage

Conclusion

My answer to the question “Is Airbnb safe?” is: not 100%, but the risk is worth taking. The risk can be reduced by screening your guests. Someone who sets up an account on Airbnb with the intention of throwing a big party and trashing the place will most likely not go through the hassle of filling out their profile completely and linking up their social media accounts, let alone stay at a different Airbnb first to get a positive review.

If your guests do cause damage, make sure to take action as soon as possible and reach out to Airbnb. In any case, file a claim within 72 hours.

If for some reason Airbnb doesn’t want to pay, contacting major news websites may help. You may just be talking to a customer service representative who is following the rules. Airbnb doesn’t want damage to their brand so the more exposure you can get the bigger the chance they’re reconsider their opinion.

You may also like: How to Send a Guidebook to Your Guests in 15 Seconds

Question: What do you do to keep bad guests out of your house? Do you have any bad experiences? Comment below!

18 Comments

  1. Mack says:

    Jasper- Thanks for writing that, I plan to share this with friends who are still pretty foreign to this whole airbnb idea and platform…I do agree with everything you wrote..One thing I’d add- During peak season, depending on where you live, you can get flooded with request’s. THis allows you to be real picky with the guests you choose to accept. I love that about airbnb, when you get to be picky because business is booming. Unfortunately there is November-May where inquiries go way down, and you cant be as picky , and sometimes you end up picking a guest you may not otherwise want to because you see $100-$300 a night and could use that income…

  2. Jeanne says:

    Looks great, Jasper. All good points. I also correspond a bit with potential guests before accepting their reservation requests – for the same reasons you mentioned (why are you coming, where are you traveling, what do you like to do).

    As you said, nothing is risk free and I suppose someone with a good looking profile and references could still come and be a terrible guest, but the risk is reduced with due caution in advance.

  3. Jasper says:

    Thanks for the comments guys, appreciate it!

  4. Dimitris says:

    Hi Jasper
    As you are reffering to security I recently had the experience as a host and home owner of accommodating a couple from Latvia. They stayed in my apartment in Athens and created a profile on airbnb renting out my place to other airbnb users. Although the flat was not abused this raises concerns of potential security issues and needless to say potential damages. Airbnb hasn’t still replied formally in writen how hey go about screening listings that are fake. I mean my tennant was offering my flat pretending to be the owner received guests in my place got money for it and jeopardised my property
    I would like your inpiut and experience to that if possible
    Warm regards
    Dim

  5. Jasper says:

    Hi Dimitri,

    I think this is something between you and your tenants . As a homeowner, you can decide what your tenants are allowed to do and what they aren’t. Some landlords allow their long-term renters to sublet, some don’t. I recommend you make it clear in your rental contract that you don’t allow subletting. If your renters violate your contract terms, you can take legal action against them.

    There is no way for Airbnb to find out what the particular agreement is between landlords and tenants so I don’t expect that they will take down listings. You can try though, but I think it will be easier to talk to your tenants and tell them to take it down.

    Hope this helps!

    Best,
    Jasper

    • Dimitris says:

      Thank you for your prompt reply
      I spoke to Airbnb and they told me that it is against rules for tenants to sublet a rented apartment on airbnb. Also they told me that it is against rules for tennants to create listings that promote another persons flat without his writen consent. Therefore this subletting has been an illegal action. It is unfortunate that they can’t control which listing is the real one.
      I suppose as you say nothing is risk free and we hosts need to be extremely vigilant when hosting

      • Jasper says:

        Thanks for sharing this. I did some research too and found this: https://www.airbnb.com/support/responsible-hosting. It states: “Read your lease agreement and check with your landlord if applicable.” So that’s in line with what you mentioned. The question is, will they take down a listing after a complaint by the owner? Did they say anything about that?

      • Matt says:

        What a ridiculous response. You all realize that about half of the listings on airbnb are RENTERS trying to cover their rent in expensive cities? Or you really think the thousands of people listing in places like san francisco and new york are actually the owners of the apartments they’ve listed? The page started and only functions because of renters “subletting” apartments they don’t own.

        • Jasper says:

          It’s clear that a lot of hosts are subletting. As long as this is done with the landlord’s consent, there is nothing wrong with that in my opinion.

        • Alex says:

          Agreeing with Jasper on this. Cities usually have specific laws about Airbnb. I do think there are a handful of cities at least in the US that do not allow renters to turn their place into an STR. However, this is almost always completely legal as long as there is written consent from the owner, landlord, and/or HOA.

  6. Hi Jasper, it’s Kimberley from Buffalo, NY. Thank you for sharing the post. And you are right, Airbnb is so vast across the globe right now and yes,there have been a few instances where bad things have happened and my heart goes out to those Hosts! Airbnb has stepped up to the plate and done the right thing! A company with integrity for sure!

    There is one thing that to me exemplifies what Airbnb is all about and that is relationships with people and the ability to “make the world small.” My life has been blessed with the many people I have met by Hosting and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

    Yes, we do need to do our due diligence and listen to our instincts when it comes to opening our homes, our sacred spaces to strangers.

    My gut instinct told me once that I should not approve a guest, I did anyway and thank God it turned out ok.. Although, I was uneasy about it the entire time. I won’t do it again. My model is different than most, as I live in my home, so I can monitor what is going on. However, there are times when I am out of my house and living my life and I am trusting those guests to respect my home and my animals. I always greet my guests personally so I can ensure that I am truly comfortable with them.

    I understand that people with a different model can’t do that.. So, there needs to be measures put in place to ensure safety.

    Blessings and Thanks to all those Hosts and Guests out there that are such great , trustworthy people!

    And prayers to the family in Calgary, we are with you in our hearts , do not give up, there is some good here.. even in the “darkest moment” there is good!

    Kimberley

  7. Thibault says:

    Great article, Jasper. I have added this article to the weekly reading recommendations in my RentalPreneurs.com newsletter.

  8. Johanne says:

    Hi Jasper,

    my story is one where I think I dodged a bullet a month ago. This guy inquired about coming for the Osheaga weekend in Montreal. This event is a bit like a modern day Woodstock. I checked his profile and he had 4 verifications but what got me thinking was that he has been a member since August 2015 but he had no reviews.

    I had a funny feeling so I asked him about that and how many trips he had gone on since becoming a member. He cancelled!!

    I’m glad I followed my gut, especially since I have only been hosting for 2 months.

    • Jasper says:

      Hi Johanne, you did the right thing, if you don’t feel comfortable it’s always best to ask questions and evaluate after.

  9. Sarah says:

    Airbnb actually doesn’t penalize directly for refusing guests but if it’s too frequent and the reason is not justified well enough-causing the Guest to be flagged and checked, if not removed from the platform- then the host looses his chance to get a superhost status and some other privileges on the platform.

    • Jasper says:

      Hi Sarah, as far as I know you can’t loose your super host status for declining request. I’d love to know where you got this information, is there any documentation you can refer to? Thanks!

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