Should you have security cameras at your Airbnb?

It’s June in London. For the last month it’s been rain and more rain. My airbnb has been busy as usually but this is mostly due to my low prices. I can say that my success is due to keeping a low price and being flexible with my guests (letting them arrive early etc). Also the fact that I accept single night bookings means that I have a constant turnover of guests. This constant turnover is more demanding on me with so many sheets to clean and check-ins/outs but this sends all the right signals to airbnb. Bookings lead to bookings and a high number of reviews keeps my space high in the rankings.

Airbnb trust and safety team

I received an email from the Airbnb ‘trust and safety’ team telling me that they have received a report telling them that I have a surveillance device in my listing. I was frankly told that if they find that I have broken airbnb’s hosting policy my account will be suspended or deactivated (there is little difference, in practice both mean curtains). I was shocked and started to get very worried. Breaking a small rule here and there might mean a slap on the wrist but being accused of spying on a guest like this could be very serious. I had 24 hours to contact airbnb and explain myself or face a certain end to my airbnb hosting career.

hosts are required to provide notice to their guests of any surveillance device(s) present in a listing prior to booking, regardless of whether they’re in-use or operational during the reservation, the guest’s consent is required before the reservation and payment are confirmedairbnb hosting rules

This issue with my security cameras came from a guest review. A guest checked out and immediately left a review saying he spotted two security cameras when he was checking out of my listing. He does mention that they were both facing the doorway of my house (and therefore not in the bedroom for example) but this seems to be enough for a report to be sent to airbnb. I suspect the report is auto triggered from keywords or actions from the review and not a separate report sent to airbnb. So the guest might have been unaware of the hot water he had now landed me in.

Do you have security cameras in your Airbnb?

I do have two security cameras in my airbnb listing. Both face the main entrance way to my house. The first is outside and is a ring video doorbell. This is primarily a doorbell but it also records video when it detects movement and you can speak to whoever rings the bell from your phone. I find this very useful for when say I have a Amazon delivery and I’m not at home (I can tell the delivery person to leave my parcels next door). The second is a Canary security camera. This is inside the house and faces to door. This is more a full time surveillance device. In some ways this is doubling up on watching my front door but both are necessary i find to get a full picture of whats happening in your listing.

I wrote to airbnb and explained that I did have security cameras in my house. But they only face the front door and are NOT in any private space for the guests (not in the bedrooms for example). It’s best to write a detailed description of the issue so anyone reading it will be in no doubt that your intentions are honest. Any hint of deception will not play well. I made it clear the cameras are for security purposes since I live in the house with my wife and may occasionally need to check who has come into my house; especially at night. I also explained the camera on the outside of my house (the ring video doorbell) for when I have have parcel deliveries or when a airbnb guest arrives unexpectedly (or possibly has trouble entering the house). I was quite willing to provide some sort of evidence to airbnb (pictures maybe) that what I was telling them is correct. Thankfully Airbnb did not ask any further questions and reinstated my account.

I had actually told Airbnb in the past that I have cameras in my listing. I have had several instances where guests broke my house rules by bringing extra guests into the listing. After raising a dispute with a guest I once sent video evidence of them bringing another person into my house in the middle of the night to airbnb. At that time Airbnb did not check that I had disclosed the presences of cameras to my guests (or quite possibly there rules did not exist at that time as this was several years ago). I have now mentioned in all of my listings that security cameras are in operation.

Airbnb Check-in Guide for Hosts

Airbnb Check-in Guide. Some tips for hosts who want a simpler and easier check-in process.

Update: Its now March in London and all my listings are usually full every day. There are two major reasons why I am full every day. The first is I have many regular customers who come every week on the same days. These are all people who live outside London (some live in other EU countries and fly here and back) but work in London for two or three days every week. The second reason is I have slashed my prices by 10% to stay competitively priced.

How to check-in your Airbnb guest?

How you check-in your airbnb guest depends in some ways on how you manage your airbnb listing. If your a live-in host then it should be much easier to personally check-in your guests. However if your listing is not close to you then a self check-in will probably be your best option. Some positives and negative of each method are explained below. I personally use both the self check-in and the personal host check-in methods depending on what other plans I have that day etc.

Airbnb Host Personal Check-in

The Airbnb host personal check-in method is probably the best. This method gives your guests the personal touch that has helped to make Airbnb great. It’s always good to actually meet the person you are dealing with. It also gives the guest a chance to ask important questions or local knowledge which can really improve their stay. I also find that the less anonymous a transaction the less likely there is for any problems. Such as bad behaviour. But also I find the guest is more clean and tidy.

I always try and check-in a guest personally whenever I can. Meeting my guest usually gives me a better idea of what this person will be like other than just looking at their profile. When I first started  as a Airbnb host almost 5 years ago at least half of my guests were first time airbnb users (today it’s maybe a quarter). This means that they had no previous reviews to judge from. But also it means they perhaps were not 100% sure of what was expected of them. This way I got to explain the house rules to them in a more descriptive way that just what was written on the listing description.

Airbnb Check-in Methods
Airbnb Check-in Methods

Airbnb Guest Self Check-in

There are two main methods for Airbnb Self Check-in. The first is easily the most common and that involves using a key safe. The second is owing a door with a smart lock system – usually a keypad but could be a smart phone enabled lock.

If your a host and you live far away from your listing (or you simply don’t like waiting around for your guests who often arrive late etc.) then investing in a key safe is probably your most likely self check-in solution. A key safe is exactly that – a little safe just to store keys. I have my key safe bolted to the wall near my front door. It’s not easy to see from the street as it’s down low, but is easy enough for a guest to find it without too much effort.

Which type of key safe should you use?

There are many different styles of key safe. A simple search on Amazon reveals multiple brand names and styles. Some are very cheap in price. What you need to consider is safety. Many of the cheaper key safes I have seen are made of a plastic and would not be very difficult to break with a decent hammer. So you might want to consider a strong metal key safe. The one I purchased was at the time the only one that was ‘Police Approved’. This one was expensive at nearly £100, so about ten times the price of some of the cheapest options. But I believed this one would be best for me. Not just for peace of mind but it looks like it will last a very long time and i’m in this for the long haul.

key safe
A strong and reliable key safe means you don’t have to worry about the wrong people getting your keys

Electronic Keypad Check-in or APP

Some new modern doors no longer the outdated insert metal key and turn system but can now be opened by punching in a code. The advantage of a keypad check-in is obviously there needs to be no physical transfer of keys. You can simply send the code to your guests either at the time of booking or a short time before arrival. There is some possible drawbacks to this scenario. The first being a communication problem might leave your guests stranded outside, unable to enter the listing.

Allow your guests to enter your airbnb listing with a key code
Allow your guests to enter your airbnb listing with a key code

Keypad door locks average about £100. They often do not look particularly stylish and look like they should belong on a office building. Depending on where you like a keypad door lock might stand out as usual and may attract unwanted attention. This might be a problem if your trying to give your airbnb listing a low profile. Smart locks are possibly the way of the future but might not be compatible with everyones phone. Technical issues could make you wish you stuck with the old fashioned key.

Should you accept Airbnb bookings for other guests?

It’s December now in London and it’s very wet. No snow yet. My airbnb has been busy except on Sundays which have been quiet recently. Sunday and Monday have traditionally been slow days for Airbnb but I usually get last minute bookings so my occupancy rate is 100%. However recently I have had empty listings on a Sunday. This may seem not a big deal but this is easy money i’m missing out on.

What to do if you get a booking request but it’s not for the person making the booking?

Several times in the past I’ve had booking requests come in that are not for the person making the booking. What I mean is the Airbnb profile used to book the room is not the person who will be staying. Usually this is a husband or wife making the booking for their other half. Or sometimes a parent making the booking for a son or daughter. Occasionally its for a friend. I am hesitant to accept a booking made for a ‘friend’ because it seems much less safe.

I am currently looking after a Airbnb listing at my friends apartment in central London. It’s a very nice apartment and the price she is charging is more than double what I usually charge. A booking request came through for the whole month of December. But the request was from a company, not from an individual. This company was looking for a room for the month for one of it’s employees. The employee was relocating from Russia to London. I was hesitant to accept the reservation.

The Airbnb community works on a system of reviews. The idea is simple that a person who has been reviewed favourably by one host will then be welcome by other hosts. The problem of one person booking for another person destroys this system. When I have a guest who is not the same person who made the booking then I do not leave a review because this does not make sense. You want the review to match the person.

I did accept the reservation as the company which was doing the booking did have a full airbnb profile and some positive reviews (presumably other relocating employees). I did a quick google search on the company too and was satisfied it’s story checkout out. I had no problems with the guest he was actually no problem and very quiet.

What are the risks of accepting guests who didn’t book?

The risk with accepting bookings for other people are several. First the person staying in the listing might not understand the airbnb system and rules. They also might have very different expectations for what you will actually be providing. Second it might be difficult chasing the person for any damage costs. The person making the booking might refuse to pay on the grounds that you accepted someone who was not the person booking. Third if a crime is committed you might be held liable for not verifying who was in your listing.

It is worth noting that bookings made for two guests made by only a single person could have similar risks. Often a guest will book for 2 people and not provide any details on who the other person is. The person making the booking has a verified airbnb profile but the second guest does not. So if the second guest causes problems what can you really do? Well very little. Even if the guest making the booking admits liability it may be very difficult getting money from them in serious cases. In the end everything come down to chance.

 

Should you accept cash payments from Airbnb guests? and How to automate your Airbnb home.

Its January in London and cold and wet. The number of bookings I am getting has reduced and I have the occasional empty day. This is the same as last year i recall so I’m not worried. The low GBP will keep the tourists coming to London and I keep my prices low so I’ve always got a steady stream of customers. I have many ‘regular’ customers who found me on airbnb but have kept coming back and now pay me cash.

Should I accept guests who pay cash?

Nobody want to pay the airbnb service fee but that’s the price you pay for using their platform. Without the airbnb platform I would find it very difficult to find new customers so it’s only fair I pay them for this service. But what if I already found a customer should I accept them? Well yes if your happy with that person. Airbnb does keep a record of who stays at your place and should have copy of their ID etc so there is some safety. If you accept a cash payment then you open the possibility of getting into some unexpected trouble perhaps. Most of my regulars are UK citizens who are working in London a few days a week so I’m happy with them. Guests who pay cash might also be a way of getting round the 90 day rules in London.

 

 

How to automate your Airbnb Home

If you are a live-in airbnb host like me then from time to time you might feel unsure about leaving your guests in the house alone when you go out to the shops or where ever. It’s hard to relax when there are strangers in your home even if they seem very nice on first impressions. So there are a few small ways to keep an eye on your home and give you some piece of mind.

Install security cameras

Now don’t get me wrong here the idea is not to spy on your guests. I have a camera in my living room, which is off limits to guests. The purpose of this camera is partly to keep an eye on my little dog but also in case any guests decide to break the rules and enter my living area and kitchen. I use this camera from Canary https://canary.is I find it excellent quality and easy to setup. I am also considering putting one facing my front door so I can see who comes in and out of the house.

 

Door Sensors and Motion sensors

I once had a guest who sent me a complaint via my mobile phone that the house was too cold. I was not at home at the time so was unable to switch the heating on. Shortly after I installed Hive Active Heating in my home so I can control my heating using the mobile phone application. As part of the pack I was send a door and motion sensor. Both of these I have found very useful in keeping an eye on my home. The door sensor lets me know when someone opens and closes the door. The motion sensor detect movement. I put the motion sensor near the guests door so I know if they are at home or when they come and go. It’s non-intrusive and can make you feel more comfortable when away from your listing.

Resolving an issue with your Airbnb guest

For the first time since becoming a Airbnb host more than a year ago i’ve had to use the Airbnb Resolution Centre. I was impressed with the results but perhaps my case was an easy one fortunately I haven’t had any serious problems being an Airbnb host.

 

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I raised a Airbnb Resolution Centre case because a guest had booked the room for one person but sneaked his girlfriend in to sleep the night. He checked in by himself but at some point during the night while I was sleeping very quietly brought his girlfriend home. It was almost certainly pre planned and I would never have known about it but they made no effort to hide it the next day.

 

Use the Airbnb Resolution centre if you have a problem
Use the Airbnb Resolution centre if you have a problem with a guest.

Continue reading Resolving an issue with your Airbnb guest

Making your Airbnb listing safe for guests

Finally we are coming out of winter in London. Its getting brighter in the mornings and evening and Christmas is just an old memory now. The heating is still on non-stop in my Airbnb house as the couple from Singapore find it very cold even on a nice day. My gas and electricity bills are double last years despite the recent global fall in energy prices. Being an Airbnb host means higher costs and greater wear and tear on everything. Demand did fall over winter especially when the temperature started to get very low but now i’m getting fully booked every day again.

Do I need extra security in my Airbnb listing?

I let my guests come and go as they please in my house. I have three rooms listed on Airbnb and they are usually full. This means I have guests coming and going late into the night. Most forget to lock the front door despite the little notice I put up above the door handle. To make things worse none of the guests know each other so if a stranger were to enter the house and I was not there the other guests might not even know that person is not supposed to be there.

I am considering beefing up security by placing cameras around the house especially in the entrance way. I’m told that eye level cameras are the best as the police have facial recognition technology. I would much rather deter an intruder rather than catch him afterwards. There is some excellent advise here from the Metropolitan police. I can strongly recommend having locks on all the bedroom doors. I understand that this might cause a problem if the event of fire but it goes a long way towards making the guests feel safe.

 

Keep your Airbnb listing safe. Your guests will appreciate it.
Keep your Airbnb listing safe. Your guests will appreciate it.

 

Most of my guests come from overseas and about 99% have been very nice people. I would warn against allowing guests to bring any friends over as in my experience it’s those people who always seem to be the ones who cause the most trouble. I don’t allow any friends to come into the house. If they ask just say “no sorry it’s a house rule” if they ask why just say “it’s for the safety of everyone.” Airbnb will back you up on this as only paying guests can are allowed in the listing.

The £GBP is falling. Will my Airbnb listing reap the benefit?

If your an Airbnb host in the UK you may be surprised to know your a British export. Tourism is an export and is one of the UK’s biggest. So the next time you ready something in the news about British exports increasing you can pat yourself on the back. Exports generally suffer when a the nations currency is high (as it’s costs more for foreigners to pay for goods/services) and of course improves when a currency falls (goods and services become cheaper). The British pound recently took a fall against major currencies like the Euro and US Dollar partly because of the upcoming European referendum. Most of my customers are from the Eurozone so demand may increase to a point I can charge much higher prices.