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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Before guests can book your home, they have to confirm that they agree to your Airbnb house rules. By the time the guests check-in, they may have already forgotten about these rules, especially if they booked a long time in advance. Simply reminding your guests of the house rules can prevent them from causing trouble. Not only because they are reminded, but also because the fact that you mention them specifically communicates that you're serious about your rules.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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Question: What do you do to keep bad guests out of your house? Do you have any bad experiences? Comment below!