5 essential ‘to dos’ — to keep your short-term Airbnb rental safe and secure

Written by Raj Patel Non-practising lawyer and CEO of My Property Host

“Home sharing juggernaut”, “world’s largest community-driven hospitality company”, “worldwide accommodation leader”… are just some of the terms used to describe Airbnb. From its couch-surfing origins in 2008 it is now, in 2017, a $36bn accommodation heavyweight.

Yes, the “Air” in Airbnb refers to that most basic of beds… the back ache-inducing blow up ‘air’ mattress! And whilst home sharing is still at the core of the Airbnb ethos, Airbnb ‘hosts’ are no longer just those who have a spare bed to ‘share’ in their home. Hosts too are those that are travelling, away on business, or even selling a vacant home. Airbnb provides an opportunity to short let your property, and benefit from additional income.

Airbnb is the new kid on the block, disrupting the hotel and lettings industries, and it is still largely unregulated. Governments and regulators the world over have Airbnb in their sights, but until new rules and regulations for engagement on and with the platform are formally put in place, the main concern for many hosts remains the safety and security of their properties.

My Property Host, based in London, is a short let management company focusing exclusively on home sharing platforms, such as Airbnb, HomeAway and The Plum Guide. The safety and security of the properties they manage is crucial to the success of My Property Host’s business. In this blog, which focuses on Airbnb in particular, Raj Patel, CEO of My Property Host and former lawyer shares from his own experience his 5 essential ‘to dos’ – to keep your short-term Airbnb rental safe and secure.

1. Vet your guests

Are your guests who they say they are? It’s your property, your biggest asset, and you want to make sure that those staying in your home are good eggs, not bad. As a peer-to-peer platform, Airbnb’s business model relies on trust between hosts and guests – in other words its community of users. Individuals using the Airbnb platform build their trustworthiness in several ways – by fully completing their Airbnb profile, through Airbnb’s Verified ID process and from the reviews they receive from peers.

So, check your prospective guests’ profiles and their reviews on their Airbnb account; and don’t be afraid to ask questions. For example,If they are relatively new to the platform and they don’t have very many reviews, ask them to link their Airbnb account to their other social media channels too – their Facebook or LinkedIn account, for example.

  • If they are relatively new to the platform and they don’t have very many reviews, ask them to link their Airbnb account to their other social media channels too – their Facebook or LinkedIn account, for example.
  • As an Airbnb property management company based in London, at My Property Host, we sometimes get enquiries from London-based guests looking to rent a London property. That always raises an eyebrow with us, so we dig deeper? It is often telling when the enquiry goes no further!
  • Ask them to add their phone number too (if they haven’t done so already), then give them a call to chat through their booking. If the number doesn’t work, that’s another warning sign.

‘Trust’ is what enables these ‘sharing economy’ transactions, but don’t be afraid to dig

2. Check guests in personally

Always check guests in in person. There is just no substitute for meeting someone face-to-face, not only from a hospitality perspective (a personal welcome is always warmest) but also in terms of security.

Make sure you tell guests well before check in that they have to be present for check in and show their passport or driver’s license. Don’t allow someone else to collect keys on their behalf. It’s what we call ‘no 3rd party check-ins’.

Sometimes, guests will need to make alternative arrangements for picking up keys. If someone else needs to collect the keys, ensure they are added to the booking and they have their ID for verification on check in.

As with any hotel, make sure ID’s match the Airbnb profiles. This is important as, if you haven’t taken the necessary steps to cross-reference documents, it could invalidate your insurance… more on insurance later.

3. Keep your property secure

Keys… they can get copied, lost… so what can you do to keep your property secure?

There is always a risk with keys but, in our experience, meeting someone face-to-face with a physical key is part of the ‘trust’ piece that the sharing economy is rooted in. If you’ve done our 1 and 2 ‘to dos’ above we think the risk is limited.

There are, of course, alternatives. For example, smart door locks. These are ‘connected’ locks activated via Bluetooth or wifi, with a code that can be changed between guests. However, they can be expensive to install and cumbersome for the purposes of short letting for a maximum of 90 days per annum.

There are key safes too, where keys are held in a box attached to a wall, outside of your home. A code for a keypad on the box will open the box and release the keys. However, they’re easy to spot and highlight to criminals that there is an empty property with the key in a box right outside! This could result in an unforced entry into your home with your keys, which could also affect your insurance.

Key nests or cafes are another option, where keys are kept in a secure location, say the local shop. Again, safety and security is about knowing who is in your home and leaving keys at key nests for guests to pick up does not allow you to verify the identity of the guest.

4. Mitigate damage

Compile a detailed list of what is in your property before any guests check in and do a full inventory check within 24 hours of your guests leaving your home, BEFORE any new guests arrive. If something is missing or broken, it can be reliably attributed to the last guests. Keep a photographic record of any damage. You then have a 48-hour window to report the damage to Airbnb, who will require details of the item(s) that have been damaged and their estimated cost. The photos will also be part of your insurance claim process.

5. Insurance

Airbnb recommends those renting properties on their platform have in place their own insurance, as the Airbnb Host Guarantee is not insurance (it’s what Airbnb call secondary insurance). Do check the small print on their Terms and Conditions. It can get quite complex trying to understand what is covered and what is not, so check with your existing home insurer that your current household policy covers you for homesharing. The likelihood is it doesn’t.

If it doesn’t there are a new wave of insurtech startups, re-inventing insurance specifically for the sharing economy. For example, London-based Guardhog (www.guardhog.com) provides a pay-per-stay, on-demand insurance solution. My Property Host has purchased ‘crowd cover’ from Guardhog, which means that properties managed by My Property Host are insured as standard (subject to certain terms).

In summary

These 5 essential ‘to dos’ – to keep your short-term Airbnb rental safe and secure – are recommendations from My Property Host to help you participate in the short-term rental market through home sharing platforms like Airbnb… making the most from your property when it’s empty, whilst keeping it safe and secure.

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