Airbnb has become quite a phenomenon for travellers or business people who want to rent accommodation anywhere in the world and is proving equally popular with people who have a spare room, villa or other accommodation to rent out.
More than 60 million guests have stayed in more than 34,000 cities across 190 countries since it was founded in 2008, according to the Airbnb website.
For landlords it is seen as an easy and cheap way in which to find short-term tenants. It is free to create a listing and you pay a 3 per cent service fee when a reservation is confirmed. For guests, just enter the details of where you want to go and when into the search bar and book it.
It seems straightforward – until you look at the pitfalls. What happens when something goes wrong?
The biggest risk for hosts is that their property is damaged or stolen. Search online and you can find numerous horror stories about people who have let their property through Airbnb. Allegations include a woman in San Francisco whose house was trashed. Her passport and grandmother’s jewellery were among items stolen from a locked closet door.
Another report alleges that two women in Stockholm found that their home was used as a temporary brothel and had been raided by police.
A London rental ended with a rare Banksy limited edition print worth up to £8,000 being stolen.
A tragic accident also occurred when writer Zak Stone rented a property through Airbnb one Thanksgiving. His father got on to a rope swing attached to a tree in the garden and was killed when a large piece of the trunk fell on him.
Another report claims a Canadian woman died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a property rented through Airbnb in Taiwan.
The problems arise because there are virtually no health and safety regulations in place in Airbnb rentals.
Airbnb does state that more than 60 million guests have used Airbnb and accidents are rare. It also said that safety is of the utmost importance to the company.
When you book through a letting agent or regulated landlord, there are far more stringent health and safety measures in place. The landlord needs to adhere to strict guidelines including having smoke alarms in place; gas appliances need to be checked; and the property must meet certain standards.
Landlords who use inventory software can easily keep a check on appliances and the state of their property. They can simply download the software on to a tablet or smartphone to make the inventory while they are in the property.