Airbnb claims to be a company built on trust.
But renters may be having trouble trusting the home rental giant after a shooting occurred at a Halloween party at an Airbnb in California and Vice reported on how hosts can assume fake identities and scam consumers on Airbnb with a network of fake profiles. The latter kicked off an FBI investigation.
As a result, Brian Chesky, co-founder, CEO and head of community for Airbnb, announced on Twitter on Nov. 2 that the company would roll out a series of safety initiatives.
On Friday, as part of the company's "trust initiatives," Airbnb announced new steps for building trust not only in Airbnb rentals but also in Airbnb Experiences.
"We're talking about a platform that connects human beings, guests with hosts, it has to be built on trust in order to work," Ben Breit, spokesperson for Airbnb, told USA TODAY.
The initiatives related to home rentals include:
- A party house ban: The company finalized policies and is implementing enforcement protocols to fight unauthorized parties by Dec. 15.
- 100% verified homes: A team is working on technological and human review protocols to review all listed homes and hosts to make sure they are up to Airbnb's standards.
- Airbnb neighbor hotline: The company is doubling the size of its response team for incidents and launching a 24/7 hotline.
- High risk human review: Airbnb says it is tripling technological and operational investment to screen high-risk reservations in the U.S., Mexico and Canada by the end of 2019 and globally by the end of 2020.
- Guest guarantee: Starting Dec. 15, if a guest arrives at a listing that does not meet "accuracy standards," Airbnb will rebook guests or give them a 100% refund.
Creating trust related to Airbnb's Experiences is important to the company, too, though it's a different type of trust.
"It's the same concept of a host but instead of hosting a guest in your home, it's hosting someone in the community with tailored activities from a hike to arts and crafts to cooking," Breit said. "It's not staying overnight, it's different, but the concept of host and guest trust still needs to be there."
To improve trust with Experiences, Airbnb is verifying all the Experiences, just as they are verifying home rentals, requiring more permits and licenses and prohibiting more dangerous activities to be listed as Experiences.
"Verification is something people are looking for and it's something we want to provide for peace of mind," Breit said.
How you can protect yourself
Even with companies launching initiatives to improve user safety and experience there are some things you can do to protect yourself from invalid rentals or experiences.
A lot of them involve using common sense:
- Red flags: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Pay attention to photo hiccups: "If photos are low quality, it’s a red flag as it might mean they were taken from another site," Bryan Fedner, co-founder of vacation rental company StayMarquis, told USA TODAY.
- Last-minute changes from your host: "If a host contacts you with a last-minute swap, water leak, big problem forcing a change of unit, contact the company you have booked through and go through them directly," Scott Dobos, director of rental operations at Legacy Properties Sotheby's International Realty, told USA TODAY.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate: Airbnb isn't a hotel service. Stay in touch with your host.