Does Airbnb take your safety seriously?
It’s easy to log in to Airbnb, find accommodation and come to an agreement with the host. But what happens when something goes wrong, or the accommodation isn’t what you thought it was when you arrive?
Moneybags journalist Jessica Anne Wood speaks to Airbnb about its policies when it comes to users’ safety and dispute resolution.
The Airbnb website emphasises that it is a community based on trust. There are five working and evolving standards that underpins Airbnb and the experience that both hosts and guests have. These are: safety, security, fairness, authenticity, and reliability.
There are a number of steps in place to help resolve any issues that guests or hosts may encounter. Nicola D’Elia, managing director for Africa and the Middle East at Airbnb explains that one way that this is managed is that when accommodation is booked, the guest pays the money to Airbnb, 24 hours after the guest has checked in, this money is paid over to the host.
D’Elia notes that this offers security to both the host and the guest. Guests can contact Airbnb if there is anything wrong. If there is a problem within the first 24 hours of the guest arriving, Airbnb will attempt to help resolve the issue.
When it comes to disputes between guests and hosts, D’Elia points out that Airbnb advises them to first try to work out the issues between themselves as often an amicable solution can be found. If that does not work, Airbnb has a resolution tool which can then be used.
However, D’Elia highlights that as a lot of communication takes place between the host and guests before the booking is made, there are usually few disputes that need resolving. When searching for accommodation a guest will match their specifications to those of the host, i.e. what accommodation they require, together with what amenities they expect. As such, when it comes to the accommodation and what they have available to them there should be very few issues that crop up.
When a dispute does arise and the guest and host cannot resolve it between themselves, Airbnb’s resolution tool allows the aggrieved parties to upload any relevant documents and detail their complaint. Airbnb will then work to resolve the issue.
According to D’Elia, serious incidents, such as assaults, are very rare. However, if something were to happen between the host and the guest, it is important that the local authorities are also contacted. The same applies if a host/guest has something stolen. D’Elia stresses that guest and host safety are the primary concern of Airbnb.
Cases such as these are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and if the need arises, a person’s profile will be removed from Airbnb.
Safety and reviews
Another safety feature that Airbnb makes use of is host and guest reviews. D’Elia clarifies that this is a two-way review process that is double blind. The host and guest each have two weeks following the end of the stay in which to review each other. During this period neither party will be able to see the review that the other has written, as this could influence the other’s review.
There is also the option to have private information within the review, which will only be visible to the host/guest, as well as Airbnb.
It is not compulsory to write a review on your guest/host, however, it is a curtesy that most people undertake. First time users often ask to be reviewed in order to build up their profile on the Airbnb website.
A person’s profile plays an important part in the safety aspect of Airbnb. The reviews allow other users to see what others have thought of guests or hosts the past.
In addition to the reviews, there is other important information that makes up a person’s profile. Some of this information is verified to ensure that you are who you say you are. The website explains: “Profile verifications are a way to connect your Airbnb profile to other information about you, such as your Facebook profile, phone number, email address, or government-issued ID.”
Airbnb makes use of the following verifications:
- Email address: Confirm that you receive email notifications and messages
- Phone number: We’ll share your verified phone number with your host or guest once a reservation is accepted
- Online ID: Connect your Airbnb profile to Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Verify with Amex, or by having pre-existing reviews
- Offline ID: During the Verified ID process, provide your government-issued ID, or answer some questions that only you would know
- Reviews: Build a reputation in the Airbnb community from your Reviews tab after completing reservations
- Verified photos: If you’re a host, we offer free professional photography in many cities
Safety tips for hosts
Airbnb lists safety tips and responsibilities for the hosts, which include:
- Making use of the Airbnb platform properly by paying and communicating via the Airbnb website, and sharing expectations about the trip or your space. You can also use the platform to read profiles and reviews on your guest/host, and check verified information.
- If you don’t feel comfortable about a reservation, don’t accept it.
- Ensure that you have house rules, a home safety card and house manual. This will help your guest know what to expect. This will include things such as, whether they are allowed to smoke and where, if certain areas are off-limits, any cultural habits you would like them to observe, such as removing their shows before entering the house, as well as what to do in an emergency situation, including contact numbers and where to go.
- Speak to your insurer about “adding an extra layer of protection with your own renter’s or homeowner’s insurance.”
- Adding a security deposit to your listing can assist you in the event of an accident, such as something breaking or getting damaged.
- You can set a requirement that before they book, guests must complete certain verifications, such as verified ID.
Safety tips for guests
Airbnb also offers tips for guests to ensure that they have a good trip and experience. These include:
- Before making a booking, look at the profile and reviews of potential hosts, including verified phone numbers and other information.
- Read everything that a host has posted about their listing, including the description, amenities and house rules, as well as understanding the host’s cancellation policy.
- It is important to conduct all communication through the Airbnb website, as this helps to ensure your safety and reduces the risk of fraud. All payments for bookings must be paid through the website.
- Have clear expectations. By doing your research and communicating with your host, you will be able to understand what you can expect, and get some advice from your host. By knowing what your expectations are, you will also be able to ascertain whether or not you and the host will get along. If you feel uncomfortable, don’t make the booking.
- You may be travelling to places you haven’t been before, so ensure that you are prepared for the unexpected. It is important that your friends and family know where you will be. It is also advisable to have traveller’s insurance in case of an injury or emergency on the trip.
For more information on Airbnb see: