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Airbnb: What are the risks involved in renting your home?

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What are the risks involved in renting your Airbnb home? When you read this you may decide short term rentals are too much risk. Yes, there are risks. And you must be aware of them. As in life, you cannot insure against all risks. As a clever man said, “A boat is safe in the harbour, but that’s not why boats are built!”


  1. Is your home foolproof? Things can go wrong; guests use self-tan with your white towels, they accidentally break a plate or vase. Ensure you have good quality, standard items that can be replaced in the blink of an eye rather than fancy items that may cost too much to replace when accidents happen. Be especially careful of your choice of carpet and ensure they are easy to clean. (This goes for upholstered couches too) It’s recommended that you do a foolproof audit of items in your rental.
  2. Cancellations: To protect against any last-minute changes we have opted for a cancellation policy of 60 days (On occasion for bookings on our direct site some guests are permitted to pay the final amount 30 days before arrival) As you know we also market on various booking sites and Airbnb is responsible for 80% and more of all bookings and (perhaps, unfortunately) critical to your success. What you read next may have you a bit worried but know the risk for cancellations is very low although the impact can be huge: Airbnb guests can cancel anytime due to “extenuating circumstances” and get a refund IN FULL. (Which is indirectly designed to replace travel insurance for guests). Guests only need a doctor’s note of proof of some possible natural disaster or safety concern to cancel. Unfortunately with this policy guests have no reason to consider travel insurance as Airbnb gives them a free option. If a guest arrives at your home, they may even cancel if they can prove to Airbnb that the house is not as advertised. Read more here. (See pt 7. for more). On 26 November 2019 we had a meeting with Airbnb senior representatives about this risk. They were very concerned and said they will work on this to find a solution for professional Airbnb agencies like us. We will keep you posted.
  3. Breakages, break-ins, injuries, accidents, and liability. You must have short term insurance and liability covering your home, guests, agents and others who may access your property. Although guests pay a small breakage deposit it will not cover expensive items. Owners must ensure that anything not recovered from the guest must be done against insurance. Agents, contractors, etc are also covered against injury, breakages, and damage. 
  4. Malicious Damage: From experience this kind of damage is infrequent; less than 1 in 1000 bookings. Since 2009 we can count bad incidents on one hand; a gentleman pretended to book for adults- instead of six young boisterous boys moved in, another was an infamous local South African band, the last incident was a group that enjoyed the view and booze so much they invited girls over and danced in the nude. The problem is a lack of evidence and early warning to the host (agency). Today cheap motion detection (fully declared) CCTV is recommended outside the entrance to the home. These must be monitored by the official host. Neighbours should also be notified of who to contact should they sense an issue developing.
  5. Short term regulations. Any day the local or national government may change the rules regarding short-term rentals. (Cape Town doesn’t allow bookings exceeding 30 consecutive days for the same guest/traveller. And who knows what the government has in mind). 
  6. Reviews. Very few hosts understand the importance of many 5 Star reviews. Everything possible must be done to get these reviews. They are building blocks of trust. Get this wrong and you may fail. Any issues, no matter how insignificant, must be addressed immediately and sometimes compensation may be required.😲 A bad review may stop all future bookings. Don’t underestimate a demanding guest who takes revenge with a review; it will be an expensive lesson.
  7. “Disasters” In case of a natural disaster, major political turmoil or local security concerns you will be required to refund any money when the guest cancels.
  8. What about cockroaches or similar? Are they natural disasters? Not really. But looking at how the odd guest re-act to seeing this EVIL you may see a side of humanity not making any human proud. You don’t want a croach or flea issue ever. And less so with your first booking. The review will kill any future attempts to attract good people. Fumigate. If the house is lived in during the year and only make it available year end then FUMUGATE! Guests will ask for a discount to start with. 

Let me remind you: we are in this short term rental business from 2009. If the above nightmare was a regular experience we would not only NOT be in business, we would have departed this madness. The risk is low. Very low. If all boats sank we would not have boats today!

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