Channel 4’s “Airbnb - Dream or Nightmare?"

We were really interested to watch Channel 4’s programme “Airbnb: Dream or Nightmare?’ that aired last week. The programme raised some of the reasons that inspired us to launch the company back in October 2015 which was great to see. It also continues to motivate our team in providing the best service to ensure that our clients whose properties we manage (and the guests we look after) get the most positive and problem free experience.

Horror stories and preventative measures

Channel 4 documented some real horror stories of properties being used for huge parties and essentially being trashed by guests; Nigel took a last minute booking for New Years eve - sadly, a decision he quickly came to regret. The enquiry for his high-spec central London apartment came from a man in his early 20s with no reviews, just hours before for one of the biggest “party” nights of the year - circumstances that immediately set our alarm bells ringing. We take vetting guests very seriously and take an approach that combines openness and trust with caution and reasonable doubt. We engage in conversation with all potential guests in order to establish the purpose of their trip and get a feel for who they are before we accept a booking. And we are extremely careful of taking last-minute bookings requested less than 3 days in advance. While most guests have good intentions, these preventative measures provide us and our hosts with the sense of security we believe is necessary (and achievable) when opening up your home to guests.

What about when things do go wrong?

Sometimes though, things can go wrong, and it would be unfair to charge Airbnb with not taking any accountability when they do. As far as insurance cover goes, Airbnb offer host-guarantee cover which provides £600,000 protection but won’t cover small damages and breakages incurred by guests. We recommend that home owners take out Short-Let insurance to protect themselves and their home - some home insurers offer an ‘add on’ package to existing policies or alternatively there are a number of reliable independent short-let insurance companies.

The programme featured one very unfortunate case in Canada where some hosts accepted a booking. The night the guests arrived they were phoned by neighbours who informed them that a huge party was in full swing at their home. The guests incurred as much as £50,000 damage. This is thankfully an extreme case certainly the worst we have ever heard of by a mile! Airbnb paid for all of the refurbishments to the property and furthermore paid for the family to stay elsewhere while they did the works. That said, if you want to protect yourself from broken mugs or an accidental muddy carpet - get yourself some short-let insurance. Better safe than sorry!

Airbnb - a faceless company?

A number of the hosts interviewed expressed dissatisfaction with communication/contact/response from Airbnb. Companies like Airbnb that operate primarily online do have technical support and customer services departments that are contactable via e-mail and online, through the Resolution Centre but they are more difficult to reach, because they are just a platform. Working with an online booking platform offers numerous benefits - ease, organisation and low cost to name a few - but we understand the importance of having someone to deal with things on the ground, which is exactly what our team does. The Air Agents operate both online and offline (we’re sort of the ‘on the ground’ managers). Due to our wealth of experience having managed hundred of guest bookings, our team understands that when issues arise there is a need to persevere until the issue is resolved. We also know that our hosts are busy individuals who don’t always have the time to do this, so with our expertise we act as a bridge for communication between Airbnb and our property owners, reflecting one of the many key benefits of working with The Air Agents; step by step we are there for you.