The advent of Airbnb has been a thrilling step forward for holiday-makers everywhere. However, as with any new concept, it has taken a good few years to file off the rough edges and attend to legalities that are so necessary in business today. Even now, guests need to read the small print to make sure that they get what they expect. Does the Airbnb have air-conditioning? Is it situated above a frat house? Is there a blind dog living there that will need looking after?
Don’t Assume Anything
Airbnb has a stringent sign-up process for hosts who are obliged to enter accurate and truthful information about their property. While most hosts adhere to this in the spirit of good karma, some don’t – or at the very least are suitably vague.
And it’s for this reason that Airbnb has asked for pictures, detailed descriptions, and ongoing reviews to mitigate this problem. This goes a long way to bridging the gap between expectation and reality.
A good thing to remember is that we all come from very different backgrounds, and our expectations are bound to be different. Some may consider a swimming pool a nice-to-have, yet others expect it to come as standard. Some may expect 100% cotton linen with a million thread count and blankets hand knitted by blind Moldavian octogenarians because that’s what they’re used to, and others are happy with a clean duvet and towels without stains.
As a potential guest, take nothing for granted and make sure you read and re-read the listing and the fine print to avoid nasty surprises.
Do Airbnb Hosts Need to Specify Everything?
One host wrote into an Airbnb forum, concerned that her listing didn’t clearly state that her rental did not have air-conditioning. As an honest and transparent person, the fact that she didn’t check the amenity box that said “air-conditioning” wasn’t enough for her; she needed it to be more than small print because the property had very little ventilation and gets pretty warm during the summer months. She knew that it would cause a problem for some. Well done to her!
Interestingly, some of the comments that followed went along the lines of, “You don’t need to specify everything that you don’t have, otherwise you need to mention that you don’t have Lego for the kids, you don’t have a pony, gold-plated taps or hypoallergenic socks for the guests.”
All valid points.
Besides having no air-conditioning – which to be fair is less of a luxury and more of a necessity in the modern world of vacationing – there are other factors which will appear in the small print to take notice of.
What Else is Included in Airbnb Small Print?
Aside from standard Airbnb regulations regarding payment, refunds etc, hosts are allowed to specify additional criteria on their listing.
For example, one Airbnb host in Rome wrote, “For Check-in after 9 pm will incur a fee of 20 euro. an additional payment of €20 applies for check-out before at 9 am.”
Additional fees can be charged for pretty much anything. One Airbnb guest was charged GBP1400 for a “cleaning fee” after he and his family left a small London apartment. Another was warned that they can only use 13kW of electricity per day and anything over that amount would be billed separately.
Some cities don’t allow short-term rentals, and you could be caught up in the legalities of this issue if you’re not careful. In fact, in 2014, 72 percent of the bookings in New York City were considered illegal according to the city’s local laws!
Your host has the right to cancel your booking at any time. Yes, it may look bad for them, but if you’ve booked and paid for a holiday five months in advance, only to be told as you step off the plane that you have nowhere to stay, you’d be somewhat less than happy.
Unlike hotels, you are responsible for the cleanliness of the property when you go.
Your privacy is never totally guaranteed, as hosts can access the property whenever they choose to. One guest awoke to find her host turning her air-conditioning off to save electricity!
As with most travel decisions, there are pros and cons to making use of an Airbnb. If you are using this flexible facility then we encourage you to read the fine print carefully, bearing in mind what matters to you and your family. If you are going to the Kruger Park in December, you’ll need air-conditioning! If you’re travelling to London, then accommodation in close proximity to the underground is a wise choice. If you’re allergic to pet hair, then don’t book into a pet-friendly Airbnb.
Wishing you happy and safe travels over the holiday period.