Landlording & Rental Properties

3 Tips to Help Keep Yourself & Your Property Safe on Airbnb (With Video!)

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Real Estate News & Commentary, Real Estate Investing Basics
42 Articles Written
protect-airbnb

Most people we know get over their Airbnb concerns once the money starts coming in. Still, taking that first step can be scary. That’s understandable, given that you are inviting complete strangers into your home to do as they will with possibly your most valuable asset.

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The good news is that there are a few simple ways to mitigate the risks. I’ve outlined them below. Following this approach has protected us. Hopefully it will also help you.

Related: The Top 10 Dos and Don’ts for Airbnb Short-Stay Landlords

1. Check Reviews

The beauty of Airbnb is that there are a couple of safeguards built in. First, the company requires that all users upload a profile photo. Second, the review system allows not only for guests to review hosts, but also for hosts to review guests. This is a wonderful feature: It incentivizes everyone to be honest and respectful. VRBO also lets hosts review guests. (To learn more about how to rent your place and list for free on VRBO, click here.)

Finally, there are ways to limit your guests to those who are verified (verification on Airbnb can be through government issued IDs or social accounts). This extra measure really helps limit fraud on the site.

2. Lock Up Your Valuables

We added a lock to our walk-in closet to help limit risk at our primary residence. You can easily Google a list of what to lock up, but here are a few ideas: your laptop and other expensive electronics, your checkbook, your passport, and your underwear. Basically, anything valuable, anything that could compromise your identity, and anything that just isn’t meant for a stranger’s eyes.

 Related: The Upsides & Downsides of Airbnb: A Landlord’s Perspective

3. Get Insurance

research-insurance

Yes, yes, Airbnb offers an insurance product. But since it caters to both hosts and guests, we recommend getting an insurance product designed to specifically help you.

(Note on this: Your homeowners insurance may not cover short-term rentals, and you may even get booted from your policy if your insurance company finds out you are doing them. Instead, you should Google short-term insurance products, explain your situation, and get yourself covered separately.)

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What ways have you protected yourself and your property while hosting short-term renters?

Share in the comments below!

Erin Spradlin co-owns James Carlson Real Estate. She loves working with first-time home buyers or sellers because it is fun to help people realize their dreams and loves working with investors because she's a fellow spreadsheet nerd. In addition to working with clients on buying and selling real estate, Erin Spradlin also runs Denver Women Invest, a monthly female investing group (email her if you want in!) and educational classes on Airbnb investing and buying or selling your first home. In keeping with many successful real estate investors, James Carlson Real Estate believes strongly in giving back to the community. For that reason, Erin and James donate a portion of their commission to a charity of their client's choosing on every single transaction.

    Cindy Larsen Rental Property Investor from Lakewood, WA
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    Despite the steps you list to make it safe to use your property for air bnb, it is way too risky for me. I do thorough background checks on my renters (credit, criminal, foreclosures bankruptcies), require at least a 3 year job and housing history, and then call the landlords and employers listed. I also require a sizeable deposit, and first and last month’s rent. I talk with my tenants before signing the lease to set expectations: to make sure they know to contact me if there are any problems with the house, and to make sure they know that I expect them to keep it is nice as it was when they rented it. I inspect at least twice a year (4 times the first year). I do all that to keep my investment safe, by knowing as much as I can about my tenants up front, and by making sure they are respecting my investment on an ongoing basis. With airbnb you are letting strangers who you know very little about into your house. Most of the time it is probably fine. But what if they are meth smokers? What if they have lice or bedbugs, or even just a pet with fleas that they sneak in? What if the pet pees on your carpet? What if they trash your house, for whatever reason some tenants trash houses? This is why I talk to previous landlords. Some people are just crazy. I once had a neighbor who was buying his property from the previous owner (owner carried mortgage). The buyer paid neither mortgage nor property taxes. When he finally got forclosed on, he destroyed the house with a chain saw to the floors walls and cabinets, and a sledge hammer to sinks and toilets. Still vacant two years later. No matter what checks you do, you never know for sure. But I do everything I can to reduce risks, and understand who the people are before I rent to them. I don’t think that is really feasible with airbnb. Getting good tenants is, to my mind, the most important contribution to being a successful landlord. My investment properties are my retirement income. I want to manage my risk, and maximize my ROI. Airbnb may make a lot of income. But can you predict the expenses?
    Alpha Journal from Connecticut
    Replied 14 days ago
    That's a scary story Cindy. But it sounds like you go above and beyond making sure you do a thorough background check. Thanks for sharing.
    Erin Spradlin Real Estate Agent from Denver, CO
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    Well, I think that Airbnb does have some features to help qualify a person- namely, the reviews. History is usually a good indicator of future behavior, so if you only rent to people that have 10+ outstanding reviews, you are probably in a good position to assume that they will respect your property as well. A lot of people are understandably concerned about bed bugs. I’m concerned about bed bugs, but they are a force to be reckoned with that no one has really conquered. The Waldorf Astoria in NYC got bed bugs, so I think it’s a risk that you take anywhere. Sounds like your checks keep you safe and that you have a great system in place. I just think that different people have different levels of work or effort they are willing to put forth for the risk factor. It sounds like you have managed risk and expectations to your comfort level.
    Erin Spradlin Real Estate Agent from Denver, CO
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    Thank you for the nice feedback! It’s great to hear that you like it.
    Erin Spradlin Real Estate Agent from Denver, CO
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    I think you’re right, David, that taking them is the best way to protect your stuff, but I can tell you from past experience that it gets really laborious. It did for us at least, so we just started locking them up.
    Chris Mylan Investor from Washington, DC
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    Erin, just curious – what’s the most damage someone has done to one of your properties and what was the payout you received from AirBnB (or another insurance co.)? Was it easy to file and recoup funds? I have had only minor damage of less than $150 (on two separate occasions) and it’s been a seamless process to file and get the money/ security deposit returned, so I’m wondering your experience. Thanks! And nice article – -Chris
    Erin Spradlin Real Estate Agent from Denver, CO
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    Hey Chris- the most damage we’ve had is $2400. Someone ran into a garage door at a condo unit. While our exchange was captured through Airbnb, we actually ended up resolving it outside of Airbnb with the guest. Full disclosure, it was more of a hassle than we would have liked, but ultimately we did get the money back. Sounds like going through Airbnb worked out for you fine though? Nice to hear that recouping it wasn’t too much trouble because we’ve heard mixed reviews on that.
    Laura O. Investor from Atlanta, Georgia
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    I’m glad that worked out well for you guys. With our Airbnb investment property that we have listed on the site, we had a guest who trashed our newly renovated home. Airbnb only gave us $20 for the damages and they were basically like too bad. Every time I asked to speak to a supervisor, Fabio (the Airbnb patron) said that he was the only manager in charge of the account. We didn’t even request reimbursement for all of the damages such as the repainting that was required. We just asked for them to reimburse us for breaking our master bath freestanding bathtub drain plumber’s fee, the false alarm reduction fee from the city of Atlanta for not following the rules and not putting in the alarm code in on time before police were dispatched, reimbursement for the kettle they broke and a fee for forgetting to return the house keys. There was a laundry list of other items worth several hundred in damages that we didn’t even bother with because we were most concerned with the aforementioned items. We took pictures with date stamps of the trashed condition she and her guests left my home and I was shocked that Airbnb took the position to side with the reckless guests instead of protecting their hosts that serve their company. We have tried to call airbnb to speak to someone more senior and even threatened to sue. Fabio and Airbnb just didn’t care. Any escalation tips that you have?
    Erin Spradlin Real Estate Agent from Denver, CO
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    Hey Laura- I was doing some research on something else today and came across this list of contact numbers, etc., for getting issues resolved on Airbnb. Hope it helps. https://airhostsforum.com/t/airbnb-resolution-center-and-contact-information-with-phone-numbers/4484
    Erin Spradlin Real Estate Agent from Denver, CO
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    Wow. That sounds like an absolute nightmare, and an expensive one at that. I hate to ask, but did you do all of your communication through Airbnb? Pointing them back to the official communication helps. What was Airbnb’s reasoning for only giving you $20?
    Jerry W. Investor from Thermopolis, Wyoming
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    Erin, Thank you for sharing. I have started my first vacation rental. Currently I rent out half of a duplex. I am renovating the other side. I do not live there. I currently use VRBO, but am considering adding AirB&B. Do counsel for or against having a property listed with both sites? Currently I have only averaged 2 renters per month as it is the cold season here. We are a summer recreation spot. Of course I have just started so my experience is limited.
    Erin Spradlin Real Estate Agent from Denver, CO
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    Hey Jerry- I would recommend using both platforms. First of all, it’s a volume game, so the more people you can get in front of, the more bookings you’ll get. Also, more data will help you decide what your price should be. Once you find out what nightly rate keeps you booked, you can use the second platform to charge slightly more and go with those requests as they come in. One thing to be careful with using two platforms is that calendaring issues occur frequently. It’s automated, but people have had problems- so keep that in mind.
    Michael Baum from Olympia, Washington
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    Thanks Erin for all you (and your husbands) posts. My wife and I purchased a lake house in Idaho (Lake Coeur ‘d Alene) that we will be doing STR in starting in Jan. It has been a great challenge (and fun) getting it all ready to go and I am really looking forward to starting it up! AirBNB will be our first foray into advertising our rental. Do you only use AirBNB or do you use VRBO/Homeaway? Have you used AirBNB’s free photography and if so, how did it work out?
    Erin Spradlin Real Estate Agent from Denver, CO
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    Great question, Michael (and I’m jealous you have a place in Idaho, which I’ve heard is awesome like CO but without the people.) We recommend using both services as you get more volume that way. IT used to be that Airbnb trended more toward cities and singles or couples and VRBO was more for larger places and families, but Airbnb is everywhere now. So, go with both for volume and keep an eye on your calendars (it should be automated, but I’ve heard and experienced issues.) Also, set one of the platforms higher (we charged more on VRBO), so that you get more pay if people book through that site and keep your other platform at your standard rate, which you know will rent out. And, yes, we do use the free photography. I have a blog post coming out on that any day now… but it made a huge difference. The lighting they did really made our place look nicer than it was… and while some people may see this as false advertising, we never had anyone complain. I think you get them in with good lighting and win them over with great customer service. Good luck!
    Michael Baum from Olympia, Washington
    Replied 14 days ago
    Hey Erin! 2 years later and we have been doing pretty well with our rental. We get 90% of our bookings through VRBO/HomeAway. I will say that the Verbo people are much easier to deal with than AirBNB folks. So far we have had only one guest who did damage. They managed to break the window locks requiring a complete window replacement. AirBNB guest. The previous guests were also AirBNB and they were OK, just called all the time with questions. I ended up using my mirrorless Sony camera for the pics. They came out pretty good! I thought about using pro's for the pics, but I think that they are too polished if you get my meaning. They can take a mediocre place and make it look like a $1000 a night stay. I wanted to make sure the people saw what it looked like for real without any kind of editing. So far, we get a lot of compliments on our place, especially the kitchen. Thanks for the blogs!
    Jerry Maze Flipper/Rehabber from Portage, MI
    Replied 7 months ago
    Sounds like good advice. Thanks!
    Jason Barnett Flipper/Rehabber from Memphis TN
    Replied 14 days ago
    Thanks for the great tips! Thanks!