One common question people have: is Airbnb legal? Is Airbnb safe? The website shot into fame within just a few years. The company is now worth billions of dollars and its network of guests and hosts have spread throughout the globe. So what makes their service so attractive? First of all, guests would be able to stay at a room in New York or Paris for half the price they would have paid if they stayed at a hotel. Since guests will be staying at a local neighborhood, they would also be able to have a “local experience” as opposed to the usual touristy fare. Hosts who have a spare room or who would like to rent out their vacation home find that Airbnb is a great way to make ends meet and get extra cash. So, for those unfamiliar with Airbnb the question is: Is Airbnb safe and reliable?
Yes or no? This is perhaps the first and most asked question by both guest and host alike. If you try to look for answers online, you will find mixed reviews since there are a small percentage of people who dislike Airbnb but who are all very load and vocal about their dislike on the internet. But look further. You will eventually realize that the majority of answers are a resounding yes, it is safe and reliable. But it’s not as simple matter. First we have to look at three things: the payment scheme, Airbnb’s safety measures, and some legal issues.
Airbnb’s payment scheme is quite reliable. Basically, Airbnb holds’ the guest’s credit card account (or whatever payment method is chosen) and only takes out the fee once the booking transaction is finalized. In case some problems arise from the host’s end or if the reservation is declined in some way, the charge is not completed. The payment is held until 24 hours right AFTER the appointed check-in time. This is done so that both host and guest will be able to inspect things and make sure everything is in order. Of course are some people who will still complain about this payment scheme but there aren’t many who do. Some will try to do cash payments which Airbnb does not endorse since it will be harder to maintain payment security that way. There are also guest refund policies and cancellation policies that serve to protect either host or guest.
The very nature of the sharing economy, where strangers let in strangers into their homes, is inevitably fraught with risk. There is no changing that. But Airbnb does its job to lower the risk involved by setting up the review system. All Airbnb users have a profile where past guests or hosts will be able to leave unerasable reviews. This will give you, as a host or a guest, insight on the past activities of the person on the other end. For example, a host who wants to make sure that he or she only get good, decent, guests will want to look religiously at the profiles of every guest who sends a reservation request. In addition to this, Airbnb also requires people to submit their valid ID’s as well as credit card accounts. This acts as a deterent for guests from violating their hosts room for example. Airbnb also has offers insurance to hosts for specific condition where a guest damage the rooms. Of course the host will have to provide proof such as pictures, etc.
This is where Airbnb encounters a gray area. The most famous account of legal problems with Airbnb is the case in New York where Airbnb user Nigel Warren, a tenant who listed his apartment an Airbnb guest, was fined $2,400. Apparently, the judge fined him because of their interpretation of a New York State law which disallows some rentals of apartments that is shorter than 30 days. Airbnb’s response to this is that they disappointed with the ruling and are still working with the city to make sure the law does not target New York home owners who just need to make ends meet and rents out their extra spae. Originally, the law was meant to target apartment owners from converting large complexes into illegal hotels without paying the right taxes. This means that there are legal matters that Airbnb still needs to address and hosts need to be extra careful. There are ways to make sure that you are not targeted by this law which we have written about here [link to article].
So there you have it. The sharing economy is new but judging from the amount of money Airbnb is worth, this industry is just starting to grow. The growing pains will still come. There might be future problems Airbnb will face. But for the most part, it’s users are very happy with the reliability of their service. Is Airbnb safe and legal: Yes.
Airbnb verifications exists for obvious reasons. It’s hard enough to build trust in the real world. Building trust online where people can be anonymous is even harder.
This is of course a problem Airbnb is trying to solve. And it has come up with various ways to solve the problem. One of the newest and perhaps most effective is its verification program. Hosts who want to make sure they get secure guests and vice versa would have probably heard of this before. If you are not sure exactly what verifications are, and if you want to find out just how Airbnb makes sure these verifications are legitimate, then read on.
Check your public profile. Verifications will appear there like so:
These contain all ways other users can pin valid identification to you. These includes your online IDs, your email address, and your contact numbers (mobile or landline). With the verification of these, guest and hosts alike will be able to make a much more informed decision on whether they can trust you or not.
Aside from building trust, there are other things verifications are good for. Did you know that as a host, you can actually require your guests to have specific types of verifications before they can make any reservation with your accommodation? This is a very nifty trick for hosts who get too many requests which can be a hassle to respond to. However, there is a caveat for this strategy as you will also have to complete the verification on your own information, particularly the information you want to be verified on your guests.
If a potential guest does not have a specific information in your profile which you feel they should have, you can kindly message them on your thread, requesting them to add that particular missing information or photo or suggest that they verify their phone, etc.
Simply visit airbnb.com/verify. This is where you will have to complete verifying your Airbnb ID as well as your offline ID. You can also connect to your LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google profiles for additional online verifications beefing up your profile. Connecting your Airbnb account to your other accounts will give you an added boost since your network in Airbnb will widen.
Guest reviews and Airbnb photos are also counted as verifications for your account.
How is The Information Verified By Airbnb?
Some of you might have some doubts about how Airbnb conducts its verification process. The process is done through confirmation process sent through your contact mode. So your email, online and offline IDs, and phone numbers will receive an email, a text message, or a call. A confirmation code will be relayed this way which you will have to then input to your Airbnb account.
Airbnb then matches information from the users online IDs to data from offline IDs. These are done with the help of AIrbnb’s partners. The names on both online and offline IDs will have to match in order for the verification process to be completed.
There are some circumstances when Airbnb will need a guest to go through Checkpoint which means that their reservation requests will have to wait on hold for half a day (12 hours). This hold could be broken sooner, just as soon as the verification process is completed.
Airbnb’s vision for the future is that eventually, all of the users in the site will have verified information. This would be a great scenario as it will help increase security for everyone, not just for us hosts. After all, any anonymity or lack of information is something that destroys trust. And in this business, trust is everything.
If you’ve been through dozens of Airbnb profiles, you would notice that there aren’t many Airbnb bad reviews. For host who want to try their hand at using Airbnb, this fact may raise an eyebrow. Airbnb users themselves will not be able to hide, alter, or remove any reviews on their profiles. Are the reviews being hidden? Are Airbnb guests just too timid to leave scathing criticism? Many people have been scratching their heads over this question. Of course it’s likely that there is no one absolute answer. This is why we decided to compile all the most plausible explanations and lay them out to you one by one.
Some guests might just find it awkward, especially since the host has their contact number. So if a guest’s stay was so-so, they wouldn’t really bother dwelling on negatives if there are many positives anyway. Also, some people might find it awkward to mention even just tiny constructive criticisms in their review. This is because, more often than not, they would already have some sort of friendly rapport with the host they stayed with. A lot of foreigners would feel immense gratitude to just have the opportunity to stay in an affordable New York room thinking, “they let me inside their home, I should be grateful”. In short, writing a critical review that contains bad points is a hassle. Also, leaving a bad review could get you a bad review in return. However, if a guest had a truly horrible experience leaving him or her no desire to go back to a particular host in the future, none of these will stop a bad review from popping up.
Then they create a new one, just to get rid of the bad review. It’s a technique some people employ so their “new” house will have a fresh and clear slate. But it’s not foolproof. The bad reviews will still be visible as “user” reviews. However, there are some guests who only check the reviews for the property only.
One just can’t discount the fact that maybe, just maybe, almost all Airbnb experiences have been positive. Perhaps their system really works and hosts really do get motivated to provide top quality. Perhaps most people’s lack of faith in humanity needs to be reconsidered. Whatever the case, it is not impossible. Of course if you search online, you will find horror stories. This is because horror stories are much juicier and therefore are more likely to get shared around. Also, if you had a good Airbnb experience, you might not have to rant about it. But if you had a bad one, you will really want to rant about it online. So even if only 10 percent out of a hundred Airbnb experiences are negative, that 10 will be very visible.
This one is controversial. Does Airbnb delete negative reviews? They do. As stated in Airbnb’s review guidelines:
“Airbnb’s default position is not to delete, censor, or edit reviews. However, there are rare cases in which we may take the extraordinary step of removing a review or disallowing review responses, according to the review guidelines found in our policy center. We reserve the right to remove portions of reviews that violate the guidelines.”
And just what are the “rare cases” when Airbnb will remove bad reviews?
- The Review Goes Against Airbnb’s Content Guidelines (violations include messages that have: spam, endorsement of illegal or violent acts; personally identify a user’s full name and his contact details; religious, social, political commentary; content used for extortion; and false, deceptive or slanderous content)
- The Person Leaving the Review Has Been Suspended Due to Violations or Any Safety Reasons
- A Legal or Law Enforcement Request is Given to Airbnb
So this means that if your review is false, was used for extortion (a guests tells you he will give you a bad review if you don’t give them their money back), or is “deceptive”, then it can be removed. Now, some people disagree or feel that this policy is a loophole for Airbnb to remove negative comments and promote business. However, the fact is that the policy is reasonable and necessary for keeping order and stopping the misuse of reviews.
All in all, there can be many explanations for why there are so few negative reviews. In the end, these explanations are probably all true in their own way.
So, you tried Airbnb searches for your new profile and you found that your competitor, who is at the outskirts of the location you searched for, is ranked higher than you. You think “that’s not fair! I’m at the center of the place”. That’s because there are certain factors that affect the algorithm of Airbnb search results (the algorithm is what determines how high or low you listings are ranked). There are a number of factors that gives or takes away points for your profile’s visibility. These include the number of nights you have already booked, the number of ratings and reviews, etc. Well, if you are just starting out and you want to make your profile more visible, there are still things you can do. Just follow these tops tips.
It does not make sense to accept short time guests over long staying guests. Short time stays are much more of a hassle to manage compared to long stays which will give you maximized use for the linen. Long term guests also mean you more money. But for those hosts who are just starting out, it will be get long term stay requests. Guests who are going for a long and expensive stay will want to make reservations in a place with a higher reputation and reliability. So, go for one or two night renters. And this strategy has the added bonus of getting you more reviews, faster. Additionally, this will give you points with Airbnb algorithm since (at the moment of writing) they count the number of guests you have received without giving much weight to the length of stay.
Reviews are the backbone of any best selling profile and you want your guests to leave you good reviews. But many new guests don’t bother to leave reviews. And even if they do, some give you short one liners like: “I had a good stay”. You don’t want that. So how do you get your guests to leave you a full review? Simple, give them one yourself. After they see you giving them a full review, the natural reaction is for reciprocity (guilt) to kick in. Giving them a review as soon as you can will also serve as a great reminder for them to give you one back as soon as possible. That is, before they get swept back into their busy lives. Of course if you have just recently created your profile, and you don’t even have a single review yet, you will get a hard time getting guests who could leave reviews in the first place. In that case you should -
Get your friends who have Airbnb accounts or ask them to create one. Ask them to give you a positive review. Getting the first couple of reviews that will attract the rest of the guests can be the hardest part of the game. It’s understandable that hosts starting out will find this first hurdle the hardest. Just a few reviews from friends will work wonders and attract your first real guests who will in turn give you your first real reviews. Just don’t forget to treat your friends to lunch.
Would you rent to a guest who has no reviews, no picture, or little information in their profile? Of course not. Will guests rent your room if you don’t have a completed profile? They won’t either. This common sense rule seems so simple but not everyone follows it to the letter. You have to complete your profile as soon as possible. Not only does this give you points in the algorithm ranking, it will also help guests trust you. Moreover, make your profile information substantial. Write more about yourself and your space and when you do. Revise and review what you wrote; give a great effort. A half-hearted attempt will show everyone a half-hearted rental business.
So, you are a professional photographer and you take beautiful pictures? Or maybe you want to do this part yourself because you want to get things right just the way you envision it. Well, even if you do take mind blowing pictures, you should still consider using Airbnb’s professional photographer. Aside from the fact that it is a free service and that the professional photographers generally do a great job, you also get to have the watermark “Airbnb.com Verified Photo” which helps soothe some fears for first time guests. At least they know for sure that your amazing loft is real. After that, you can upload your own mind blowing photos.
Here’s a useful thing to do at the start of your Airbnb hosting. Block out any date in the far future even if you don’t really have anything planned on those days. Then, later on, unblock those dates. What this seemingly useless exercise does is that it signals to the Airbnb algorithm that you are managing your calendar and will therefore give you points to help you rank higher in the searches. This is a great trick when starting out and when your calendar isn’t being used much since you don’t have any guests coming in. Afterwards, just make sure that your calendar is up to date and active.
Responding to both reservation requests and messages give you algorithm points. So do not get lazy with those replies. Even if your guest replies to you with “Ok, I got it”, reply just to acknowledge that you have received their message, however short.
Tag your neighborhood even if you think people won’t be searching for it. You should, no matter how obscure your neighborhood is. Remember, you never know just when a guest will type that in the search bar. And while you are at it, be as detailed as you can be.
So there you have it. Remember that Airbnb looks at your activity during the past 30 days so if you don’t do well in a certain month, don’t worry. You can recover next month. This also means that you have to have regular activity. Just keep at it and be as great a host as you can be.
As a vacation rental host, you might encounter a Airbnb problem guests. If you are starting out, that might be the first thing on your mind. So what do you do? Here is a list of problem guests and what you can do about them.
You know the type. They have a lot of questions that feel either redundant or unnecessary. Some guests ask if they could have their friend take a look at the apartment first. There are also those who keep asking questions that are already answered in the listing. And, perhaps some of the worst, guests who seem to be flirting in their Airbnb messages. These guests feel like such a drag because they take up your precious time and energy. And the worst part is that you have to keep replying so that Airbnb gives you search juice.
What Should You Do?
Airbnb does not encourage guests meeting hosts prior to booking and for good reason so just decline. But you have no choice but to reply to their messages. If people continually ask you for things already listed in your description, perhaps there is a problem with your wording. Take time to think of that common question guests keep asking and rewrite your listing, making the answer so prominent that only an ignoramus would miss it. This way, the next time someone asks, you won’t look dismissive if you refer them back to your listing because “IT’S ALL RIGHT THERE”
It’s human nature to ask for discounts. It’s also human nature to try to avoid paying for Airbnb fees. There will always be one or two people who might ask to talk to you outside of Airbnb so that they can book your place and thus circumvent Airbnb’s fees.
What Should You Do?
The short answer: refuse. Just say no, unless you really want to circumvent the system too. But of course, this leads to much bigger problems. Airbnb’s ID and credit card policies are great deterrents against bad guests, or worse, criminal guests. Another thing you want to consider is if you book this way, you will not get a review, and you will not get the search rank juice that Airbnb awards to hosts who book. Therefore, in the long run, you will lose more money since you will be less visible in the listing.
A huge percentage of new guests ask this question. But the fact is, you just can’t answer them.
What Should You Do?
It’s probably the best practice to keep an answer written and ready for these questions. Just tell them that only Airbnb will know once they enter the dates in the site. It will automatically calculate before the booking.
There are a few guests who seem to be totally fine with your room and your service. They do not communicate with you that much. Then after they go, you get surprised to find a negative line in their review: “not enough towels”.
What Should You Do?
It’s not like you want to skimp on the towels. You’re just not psychic. But some people are just too shy to ask. Or they just figure that it should be up to the host to be proactive and offer stuff since asking for something might be beyond what they paid for. Well, it’s sometimes hard to tell if you have a guest that’s like this so when in doubt, why not ask them “Do you need anything else? More towels maybe?”
In any living condition, whether you are sharing a place with a roommate or an Airbnb guest, there will always be cases where boundaries are not respected. This happens in so many ways. There might be some guests who feel like you are their personal friend or tour guide, obligated to do them favors even though you don’t have the time. There can also be a lot of cultural differences. I heard this one horror story of a female host who had a guest ask her to wash his clothes and generally be a slave because that’s what women are expected to do in his country. That may be an extreme case, but you get the picture.
What Should You Do?
Stand firm. First of all, are you truly mentally prepared to be an Airbnb host? Of course this is not just about making money. You probably have already thought about it, but things you imagine can be vastly different from reality once you are actually there. Being an Airbnb guest means you have to be able to say no, kindly and firmly, to requests. What you also have to do is set clear markers or labels to divide the space guests are allowed to and the space reserved for yourself. This is important for hosts of shared rooms. And you might write a clear bathroom schedule in the bathroom door, especially if you need the bathroom before you rush to work everyday.
It does not happen a lot. And with the new safety features Airbnb is putting in place, it’s become more uncommon. But it has happened. Horror stories of hosts exist in the news. Some find their place trashed by addicts or used as a brothel by guests who happen to be prostitutes.
What Should You Do?
Every sharing system like Airbnb will always be subject to this small risk. In fact, all hotel businesses have to deal with it too. There is really only one thing you can do. Be vigilant with your safety. Secure all your items of value. And most important of all, choose guests wisely. Take the time to look through all the reviews of your potential guests. Take it a step further and check their facebook page if possible. If you are serious with this enterprise, you might want to consider adding a security deposit to your listing or add another insurance plan (outside the one Airbnb provides) so that you have all your bases covered.
Bad things happen. But Airbnb requires guests to provide verified IDs and phone numbers as well as their credit cards. These things keep the transaction, generally safe. But it does not hurt to be extra careful. Problem guests are not many, but they exists. Some nag, complain, are dirty, or have bad habits in general. Once they’ve booked and showed up in your door, just be prepared. They will leave eventually anyway. It’s all part of the experience. Then, give them a bad review.
by Carlos Cruz
The issue of legality has been a big question for Airbnb in New York. Many building have different codes and there are also laws that seemed to have been in the way of Airbnb. But really, the biggest question that Airbnb in New York faced is:
Is giving strangers from around the world, access to what used to be more private residential buildings, making people feel unsafe? What is the real effect of Airbnb? And in answer, the video seems to suggest that it is:
New York is one of the top places for Airbnb. There has been a some resistance here and there, but the Big Apple has proven to be an incredibly rewarding City for both Airbnb hosts and guests alike. This is probably why Airbnb made this beautiful video in appreciation and praise of the connections being made between New Yorkers and the rest of the world.
This inspirational video explains what Airbnb is really all about. It’s not just a snazzy space for snazzy people or for super star hosts. It’s not just all about going out and having fun. These are part of the experience, but Airbnb, for its most loyal members, is much more than that.
The video explains how Airbnb is the highest ideal of a community where making connections is top order. The very people that make up the community fuels the movement that makes every Airbnb experience change the way travel is thought of.
Airbnb has thousands of available accommodations in New York and this means that there are thousands of people connecting in a meaningful way every day because of the website. New York, a city known as one that never sleeps and is full of diversity is perhaps one of the best locations for such magic to take place.
It’s not just Airbnb guests that experience the genuine joy and learning from being exposed to new people, the hosts also take part in this wonderful experience since they will be receiving people from different cultures all over the world.
Airbnb is more than just a website. It is an opportunity to connect to people to places to neighborhoods in a whole new way. It’s exploration. It’s being your own personal tour guide. It’s a friendly face after a 12 hour flight. It’s creating moments of interaction in a very busy world. Its’ creating a unique experience that cannot be replicated. It’s new friendships from people all over the globe. It’s your own business. It’s another option that didn’t exist before.
There are times when a host will have to refund a guest, but do you know the Airbnb Guest Refund Policy?. But what exactly are the grounds for a guest to be able to say that he or she should justly be refunded? According to Airbnb, the accommodations “should meet minimum quality standards regarding safety, access, and cleanliness, and they should be consistent with the description provided by the Host.” Airbnb will refund a host who has a “travel issue” involving these factors. This sounds pretty clear at first, but when you have money involved; some gray areas will always come to light. It can be hard to digest the full refund policy of Airbnb so we have outlined here all you need to know as a host.
Number 1 is clear, but number 2 needs some more clarification. And number 3 is quite broad. When can a guest reasonably say that your space is dirty? Is an indelible wine stain you tried to wash off many times at the edge of your linen grounds for your guest to get a refund? What if they saw a cockroach? Of course things like that can happen even to the best and cleanest hosts, but it might be grounds for a refund could it not? According to Airbnb, the accommodation must meet “minimum quality standards”. What is that? Let’s get into the details:
This does not require much clarification. When the host cancels, the guest should get a refund. However, the second part might benefit from clarification. What does it mean for a host to provide reasonable access? For example, the host forgets to give the guest the keys to the house. What about transportation? Does this mean the host has to provide a car? Well of course not. However, many hosts do provide transportation especially in inaccessible places. It makes good business sense. So in the highly unlikely scenario that there are no taxis or car rentals in the area, that might be grounds. Another, uncommon scenario: the house is totally inaccessible because the roads leading to it are blocked for some reason.
Basically, if a host lies about his accommodation description, then this might be grounds for a guest refund, especially if the host listed certain amenities that should be part of the “package” which the guest paid for. For example, it is advertised that there is a pool and it turns out that pool is not usable. Or, perhaps it’s listed that there is a pool but instead the guest finds a hole in the ground filled with water. Lying is always bad. But there are also unforeseeable problems that can happen at the last minute (ei. problems with the pool). Things like that can happen so best be as transparent as you can be and tell the guest beforehand. But, probably some of the more common complaints are about bed sizes or lack of clean linen and towels. It would of course be a hassle for two travelling buddies expecting two beds and find that what the accommodation can provide them for now is a queen sized bed. Uncomfortable beds on the other hand, probably won’t be easy for guests to prove as grounds for refund. But it will probably show up in their review.
Here is where we get down and dirty on the details. First, let’s talk about what’s obvious. Health hazards and safety risks are easy to determine. For example, if there are loose dogs in the area, or maybe there is no lock at the door, then these may be safety risks. Airbnb will be the judge in the end but just use common sense. What about the existence of vermin? They might not be immediate health risks but they can technically be grounds for a refund. An unsanitary house with unwashed linen, lots of dust and or foul smells could also be grounds.
What does it mean to be unsanitary? What if it is just one roach and it has never happened before? Does the guest have to count a certain number roaches before they can get a refund? Of course nobody wants a roach in their room. Some guests will be reasonable as long as the host can talk to them reasonably. If a place has vermin, it is grounds for a refund, provided that the guest has evidence such as photos. So if by accident, one cockroach finds its way into the accommodation, there’s a good chance the guest will still be ok with the room as long as the host is proactive (kill it yourself if you are there). There’s also a good chance it won’t be photographed. But if you have an infestation, that’s another story. And the guest will have plenty of chances to take a picture too.
Again, the minimum quality standard is something people can agree on. There may exist picky and highly reactive, frantic guests of course. In the end, it will be up to Airbnb to act as judge with any of these situations. Airbnb will also be the one to determine how much is going to be refunded. But always remember, most problems can be smoothed out by reasonable talk. If you have wine stain in your curtain which you meant to replace but have not yet been able to, just explain it kindly to your guest. Most will be graceful and find it ok. But if you don’t tell them that, they might think that red blotch in their room is something much more gross than wine.