Good news for vacation renters everywhere: Following vandalism to one of its renters’ properties and the ensuing media storm, vacation rental site Airbnb.com has made some big changes to its safety and security policies – including insuring clients up to $50,000 for damages incurred during a rental.
The ordeal began at the end of June when San Francisco resident EJ returned from a business trip to find her apartment pillaged and ransacked by her Airbnb guests – they allegedly stole a camera, iPod, old laptop, and even a back-up drive filled with personal photos; used her Mastercard for an online shopping spree; and set logs ablaze in the fireplace without opening the flue, which spewed ash throughout the entire apartment. EJ detailed the destruction on her blog, and the news went viral about a month later.
Where was Airbnb during all of this? Admittedly unresponsive, according to CEO Brian Chesky’s blog post.
“With regards to EJ, we let her down, and for that we are very sorry,” Chesky writes. “We should have responded faster, communicated more sensitively, and taken more decisive action to make sure she felt safe and secure. But we weren’t prepared for the crisis and we dropped the ball. Now we’re dealing with the consequences.”
The consequences could have continued to spiral out of control, but Chesky and team finally stepped it up and offered more substantial reparations, including:
Airbnb Guarantee: As of August 15, Airbnb will protect properties from up to $50,000 in vandalism damages. Even better: The guarantee is backdated, so EJ and anyone else who’s had issues may now collect.
24-Hour Customer Hotline: Starting next week, the site will employ a customer service team to address any complaints, concerns, or (presumably) break-ins round-the-clock.
Trust and Safety Department: The company set up a brand new department dedicated to reviewing suspicious activities and, eventually, implementing new security features that users recommend.
Verified Profiles: Users may now sync their profiles with Facebook accounts and list verified phone numbers to prove their trustworthiness as guests.
Customized trust settings: Hosts may use those same verified settings to select who stays in their homes.
This seems like a fair offering from our standpoint, though we’re curious to see how the fiasco will impact the home rental industry as a whole. Would you still feel safe renting out your home, or is this just one more reason for legislators to ban the practice, as New York did last year?
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