Airbnb has quickly become a threat to the hotel industry, but it’s not without its flaws. Safety is the biggest concern for hosts and renters alike. Renters are concerned about physical safety while sleeping in a stranger’s spare bedroom, and hosts are worried about their belongings disappearing in the middle of the night.
These concerns are particularly heightened for hosts who post a vacant property for rent. It’s smart for generating extra income while you’re living elsewhere, but it’s natural to be worried.
To help assuage these fears, Airbnb has developed a review system that connects honest renters with safe, clean hosts. They also offer an insurance policy that guarantees certain compensation if goods are stolen.
These are good tools to rely on, but it’s more important to follow certain safety guidelines when renting your home.
Don’t Decorate with Valuables
It’s nice to surround yourself with expensive decorations, big screen televisions, and designer furniture, but when you’re not in the house and you’re renting to strangers, it’s best to remove these expensive items.
You can’t trust renters to leave your valuables where they found them. If someone steals something, and you’re handling the rental from afar, you may not notice it’s gone for months, making it difficult to know who took it. It’s best to leave your expensive decorations out of the equation.
If you can’t remove your valuables, make them inaccessible to guests. Store jewelry and personal documents in a safe, or lock furniture or larger valuables in a spare room. This isn’t completely failsafe, but it’s a better alternative than leaving them out in the open.
Talk to the Neighbors
See if your neighbors will offer a neighborhood watch and report any suspicious behavior while your home is rented. There are plenty of things your neighbors won’t be able to witness behind closed doors, but they’ll probably notice if the renters invite people over for a wild party or move furniture out of the property. They can inform you and/or the authorities to resolve the situation more quickly.
Use the Airbnb System
Airbnb has created a fairly safe system for renting empty properties if you’ll follow their guidelines. Always have renters communicate and pay through the Airbnb system rather than through a private line. This ensures that communication and payment are secure and well-documented if there’s a problem along the way.
Make House Rules
Airbnb offers a useful template for house rules and a house manual to guide guests and make expectations crystal clear. Think carefully about the rules you make. You don’t want to be too strict or limiting as you write them, but you should cover all your bases.
Your manual will also serve as a resource for guests. It will designate off-limit areas, state the guest Wi-Fi password, clarify the limit on number of guests, etc.
The house rules and manual are great for protecting your home. They’re also a good deterrent against theft or inappropriate behavior, since they indicate an owner who’s more involved and invested in the property.
Airbnb’s Host Protection Insurance program promises coverage for up to $100,000 per occurrence in property damages incurred by a third-party or claims of third-party bodily injury. This policy reduces your liability, but it’s not always adequate, particularly if you have a larger property. Some damages or injury claims could cost more than $100,000.
Talk to your home insurance provider about adding extra protection for short-term renters. Most will offer this added coverage for a small monthly fee, giving you greater peace of mind.
Enact a Screening System
It’s hard to screen guests online, but there are a few things you can do. Start by reading their profiles and previous reviews. You can often recognize trouble by what they’ve said about other venues.
Above all, Airbnb recommends, “Trust your intuition: If you don’t feel right about a reservation, don’t accept it!” You have complete power over who comes and goes, and it’s your right to prevent any potential problems.
List Emergency Contact Info
Liability is a huge risk for you as a host, and handling problems quickly and efficiently is the best mitigation. In the event of accidents, damage to the property, or issues with heating or cooling systems, they can use this info to contact you right away.
In your guest manual, list the following emergency contact information:
- Your number and email
- Secondary information of a trusted third party in case you can’t be reached
- Contact for the local police department
- Contact for the local fire department
- Address and number of the nearest hospital
Price It Right
This might seem like an odd safety tip, but price often dictates the kinds of guests who book your rental. If it’s priced too low, you’re more likely to attract risky renters. If it’s priced on the higher end and is located in a nicer neighborhood, you’re more likely to attract better renters.
It’s true that you’re not living in your rental, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a presence to dissuade inappropriate activity. When tenants can sense that the property owner is very involved and concerned about the property, they’re less likely to cause problems.
Creating rules and a guest manual is a great place to start. You can also install an outdoor security system with video surveillance. Just make sure to warn the guests about the camera first to avoid liability.
Require a Review
This is part of screening your guests. You have the right to reject any guest, and if they haven’t left reviews in the past, it may be in your best interest. Oftentimes, the reviews are your only insight into these guests’ thoughts, and you don’t know much about them if they’ve never left reviews.
Ask that they leave a review after staying in your place as well. This will give you insight into what happened during their stay, which can influence future dealings and give hints about inappropriate behavior.
Use the Property Managers at Green Residential
Hosting tenants through Airbnb can be a lot of work, particularly if you live far away. If there are maintenance issues or landscaping needs, you can’t be there to fix things. If your property is in the Houston or Katy area, however, we can do it for you.
We’re expert property managers with more than 30 years of experience keeping rental homes attractive and functional. For more information about what we can offer, contact us today!