If you travel a lot (but don’t want to give up your home) or are trying to save up some money so you are able to travel, Airbnb might be a good option. It gives you a secondary income and allows you to meet some interesting people. In theory Airbnb sounds like a fantastic idea, but when you get down to it there are some pitfalls. Not only do many leases not allow you to use services like this legally, there are financial risks as well. Airbnb claims to protect its hosts with a million dollar guarantee, but after using the service and doing some research I’ve learned that there is more fine print than large print. It doesn’t seem like Airbnb is as interested in protecting its hosts as it claims.
What does the Host Guarantee not protect?
The Host Guarantee is not insurance and should not be considered as a replacement or stand-in for homeowners or renters insurance. The Host Guarantee does not protect:
- cash and securities
- personal liability
- shared or common areas
Certain types of property, such as jewelry, collectibles and artwork have more limited protections. Hosts may want to secure or remove such valuables when renting their place, and may want to consider independent insurance to cover such items. The Host Guarantee does not protect reasonable wear and tear.
This is quite a list of things that AREN’T covered, but I can’t seem to figure out what IS covered. I started down this path when a woman contacted me trying to book a listing for her friends from a different country. I was a little concerned, but the woman had good reviews and I figured that she wouldn’t put her account in jeopardy to help friends if they weren’t good guests. It was a small risk, but I decided that I was okay with it. My only concern was how the insurance would work. I assumed that the woman who made the booking would be held responsible for any insurance claims. If you rent an apartment you are responsible for your guests behaviour. If you book a hotel room you are responsible if a visitor does any damage. It only seems logical that if you rent a room with Airbnb you would be responsible for who was in it. However, apparently it is against Airbnb policies to rent on behalf of someone else, and if I had accepted that reservation I would not have been covered under their “guarantee”. While I don’t agree with this policy it was what I discovered next that really shook me.
If someone books a unit for themselves and a guest, but for whatever reason only the guest shows up (or shows up first), any damage the guest does before the booker arrives is uninsured. This concerns me as I’m often not there when a guest checks in and this information is not easily accessible on their website. If a guest had shown up and said that their friend was running late and would be there shortly, I wouldn’t have thought twice about handing over the keys. Now I know I dodged a bullet, but I wonder how many other people are being put at risk daily due to this technicality. When I contacted customer service to ask why they would have a rule like that, they simply said they couldn’t penalize the one who booked the place if they weren’t the ones who did the damage. That’s interesting, since it’s the way every other booking system works.
I have a few other issues with Airbnb’s system (such as penalizing me for not responding to a guests inquiry when I was actually waiting for them to respond), but the fact that their “guarantee” is full of holes is enough to make me question if I should use the service. I certainly did not get the impression that they were concerned with my well being when I was discussing the issue with them. I got cookie cutter responses and no real answers. If you are lucky, or are protected by a third party, Airbnb can be a great tool, but don’t go in to it assuming they will be there for you if you run into trouble. I have’t decided if I will use Airbnb the next time I’m out of the province; it’s a calculated risk and I have to weigh my options.