Know the risks when renting accommodations on home-sharing platforms.
If you are considering booking your business travel accommodations using Airbnb, HomeAway and other home- sharing online platforms, you should be aware of certain risks. Home-sharing software platforms connect property owners with potential renters. Renters will be putting their faith in the individual hosts with trust that they will follow their local laws and provide the experience and property they represented in their listing online. You should keep in mind that Airbnb rentals are not subject to the same safety regulations as hotels or motels—they follow the same local laws required for any house or property of a private owner.
While Airbnb does have an ID verification process for both the host and the renter, their website specifically states that if a host wants to verify a renter’s ID, they (the host) must also verify their own ID. Hosts do not have to get verified unless they want to verify a renter. This creates a risk for the renter as home-sharing companies do not require hosts to be ID-verified. As a renter, you will not know if you are dealing with a potential dangerous person, such as a convicted felon, a registered sex offender, a thief, or a scam artist. While staying at a hotel, you can have a reasonable amount of confidence that the hotel business will have required their employee’s identification and will have done the required checks in order to hire an employee. This will not be the case with a host who has a listing on Airbnb.
You should be aware that bad experiences may happen regardless of the type of business you choose for your stay. However, with home-share rentals, you will not have the same course of action that you may have with a hotel. For example, these apartments or homes are not required to have fire extinguishers nor signage to direct you toward an exit or window safety features. It is on the renter to know how to contact emergency responders and how/where to evacuate in a crisis. Furthermore, hotel staff are readily available to access a room for wellness checks should a medical emergency occur. A private host may not visit the property until the final day of the agreement, if at all. If the place you rented online does not meet your expectations and your host does not accommodate you, you may have to find other arrangements at the last minute, which could significantly impact your travel plans and create unnecessary stress. Some of the situations that have occurred with people staying at home-sharing locations are: host cancels reservation, scams, unsafe conditions, property not as described, fake listings and discrimination.
- Home-sharing should be a secondary option considering availability of comparatively priced hotels and motels.
- Investigate the safety of the neighborhood and surrounding environment.
- Identity the rating and review the feedback from multiple past guests. It is only recommended to choose a property with a rating of 5 stars and Superhost status.
- Always communicate and book the rental through the home-sharing service web platform. Never send money directly to a host or rental property owner.
- Understand the home-sharing company’s security camera policy. For example, for Airbnb rentals, the host must disclose in their listing—under Amenities—if they have security cameras. They are not allowed to place them in any area of the property where privacy is required, such as a bathroom or bedroom. Make sure to contact the host prior to your travel date if you have questions.
- Stay at locations that identify in their listing—under Amenities—that the property has the following emergency equipment: smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguisher, and first aid kit. When you arrive, do a safety check and make sure you know where all the relevant emergency equipment and safety information are located. If you are not sure where these are located, be sure to contact your host. Many travelers bring their own carbon monoxide detectors and first aid kit to ensure they stay safe.
- Check for cleanliness. There are no standards for hygiene and cleaning/sanitation procedures, potentially increasing the likelihood of illness.
- Students traveling Internationally without faculty must have approval from BCN Risk Management.
- Home-sharing rentals may only be approved for level 1 and level 2 travel advisories for foreign travelers.