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Liability and Safety Issues: Airbnb’s Past and Possible Future

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Liability and Safety Issues: Airbnb’s Past and Possible Future

There is absolutely no doubt that Airbnb – and other sites like it – have changed the way we think about and experience travel. For many who utilize the platform, the mostly reasonable pricing, flexibility, and full-immersion experiences are more than worth it. However, there are several dangerous loopholes in the Airbnb platform that should be causes of concern for Travel Managers and HR Managers.

It is not very difficult to find the consequences of these loopholes. A simple google search turns up a plethora of examples. According to Asher Fergusson, the Airbnb researcher, 3-7% of 2016 Airbnb stays could be classified as “problem stays”, and when you consider that in 2016, Airbnb had approximately 80 million stays globally, that small percentage ends up being somewhere between 2.4 – 5.6 million stays[1]. As a Travel Manager, even that “small percentage of problem stays” should give anyone pause.

Based upon his research, Fergusson found that there are several very serious loopholes that can be exploited by unsavory people. Specifically, Fergusson cites 16 main reasons why Airbnb is not safe. We have summed up a few below, but you can see the whole list here.

  • It does not take a lot of effort to list a property on Airbnb. There is no ID requirement or background check requirement for hosts.
  • There is no requirement for properties to be up to code or even have an accurate description. It is also not uncommon for the listing to be fake or illegal.
  • Hidden cameras in guest rooms (you can read several news stories related to this issue here) is an issue what does not appear to be stopping, despite assurances from Airbnb.
  • Most recently, a study in May 2018 found that only 58% reported having a carbon monoxide detector, 42% reported having a fire extinguisher, and 36% reported having a first aid kit. Although, these actual numbers maybe much lower.

You would think that surely companies like Airbnb have some kind of insurance policies that cover these types of incidents or accidents. The answer is yes and no. Airbnb offers free liability insurance for their hosts, however it is unclear what that insurance covers or how guests would go about making claims[2]. Another popular home sharing site, HomeAway, does not offer insurance, but the “strongly encourage” their hosts to have a comprehensive homeowners/renters coverage already in place before renting[3]. Without liability policies in place, if an accident were to occur, their employer or the employee themselves could be held liable for damages and bodily harm. This could be a serious unseen risk for employers!

How can corporate housing mitigate some of these problems?

Corporate housing is an established business model with clear insurance coverage. Any time issues happen, they are dealt with quickly and with clear expectations for the employee. Travel managers can be assured in the knowledge that the company is protected and then the employee is protected. Additionally, because corporate housing companies only work with established properties and typically deal with professional rental management companies, the rentals are verified with real addresses and photos. The rentals also meet the “habitable home standards” and the employee can expect a “right to privacy”[4] as well as being in compliance with all state and local ordinances. Finally, employees can rest assured that their temporary home would be equipped with the most basic safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors. All of these safety features help to protect both the employee and the company.

Travel managers and HR managers can be assured in the knowledge that the employee won’t be taken advantage of by any unsavory characters and any safety and liability concerns are handled in clear, professional manner.

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[1] Source: https://www.asherfergusson.com/airbnb/#horror-stories

[2] Source: https://www.airbnb.com/host-protection-insurance

[3] Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/14/your-money/death-in-airbnb-rental-raises-liability-questions.html

[4] Source: https://realestate.findlaw.com/landlord-tenant-law/tenants-rights-basics.html