WATCH: Coming soon! Airbnb investigations

2016-08-19 08:30 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - Airbnb is a phenomenon that has opened up a world of affordable travel in destinations across the world.

"Who exactly is my Airbnb host?' is a question on many a guest's mind, no doubt. Along with, who is this person, whose intimate space I will be sharing?

If one video encapsulates this in a rather relatable and offbeat way, raising all the issues of snooping and how far is too far, this New Yorker Shorts and Murmurs video does it rather nicely.

Check it out and then share your most recent experience with us - either as a host or a guest - email

Admittedly things have gone wrong in the rise of this share-economy accommodation offering model. Remember the one time when New York comedian Ari Teman came back to his Chelsea apartment to quickly pick up his bag before heading away for the weekend, only to find it infested by a 'a disgusting, illegal, dangerous sex ring'. 

At the time Teman wrote in an open letter to Airbnb posted on his blog: "You just sent a porn sex fest into my apartment, and now I’ve got over $87 076 in losses. I had to call 911 and have these 'XXX Freak Fest' people removed from my apartment, my super is having me evicted by my landlord, and I do not feel safe here anymore since hundreds of people got a text saying there’s an XXX sex fest in my apartment and continue showing up, according to the doormen who I’ll  never be able to look in the face again."

Teman has since claimed issues about being unable rent apartments, after being evicted and blacklisted as such following the 2014 incident. 

Contracts and loopholes?

But what security mechanisms are in place you may be wondering? Can hosts ask guests to sign a contract or rental agreements prior to check-in? 

According to Airbnb yes, "If you require guests to sign a contract, you must disclose the actual contract terms to them prior to booking. The easiest way to do this is to mention the contract in your listing's description, and include the terms in your message thread with the guest." 

"Airbnb can't help enforce any special policies in your contract." 

Airbnb also advises guests,  "If you’re not comfortable with the contract, you may want to discuss your concerns with the host or look for another place to stay. If your host asks you to sign a contract that you weren’t notified about before you made the reservation, you can decline to sign the contract and ask your host to cancel your reservation instead." 

But what if something does go wrong?

Airbnb offers hosts provides primary coverage for Airbnb hosts and landlords, "protecting against liability claims up to $1 million USD that occur in a listing, or on an Airbnb property, during a stay."  

On its website Airbnb states, "Though over 60 million guests have had safe, positive experiences staying on Airbnb, it’s best to be prepared when the unexpected occurs. Our Host Protection Insurance program provides you peace of mind, protecting you against third party claims of property damage or bodily injury up to $1 million." 

Airbnb in SA?

So who are the South Africans opening up their homes for holiday rental so visitors can experience what it means to "live in SA like a local"?

Airbnb says in 2015 there were 7 500 active hosts in South Africa and almost half were freelancers, entrepreneurs, or self-employed, with the same number stating that "welcoming guests helps them afford to stay in their home" as latest data also indicates that 66 % of hosts share space in their primary residence.

"The way people travel is changing, too, driven by a new economy where people place greater value on experiences over ownership," according to Nicola D’Elia, General Manager for Airbnb Africa and Middle East.  

In a nutshell, the typical South African Airbnb host who occasionally shares space in their home is said to boost their yearly income by more than R28 000. 

What to read next on Traveller24:

Airbnb joins World Tourism Organisation + 3 emerging share-economy accommodation trends

Airbnb launches new 'Live there' campaign

Why you should always have a plan B with Airbnb