Should you have Airbnb guests during the coronavirus outbreak?

It’s April in London and the sun has made its first appearance since late October last year. A mild but very wet winter caused a lot of maintenance issues with my Airbnb as rain water got into the house and did some damage but my bookings were mostly as normal.

For the first time since I started hosting over 5 years ago I started creating artificial gaps in my bookings (blocking off days) to reduce my workload and give me a break from guests. I did this because I was starting to get sick of strangers constantly coming and going and never really feeling at home in my own house. My wife was also showing signs of similar fatigue.

I need not have worried because the coronavirus (cover-19) outbreak would leave my airbnb completely empty.

Should you still have guests during the coronavirus outbreak?

The UK government introduced social distancing guidelines in early March and encouraged people to work from home wherever possible. As soon as these recommendations came into effect my airbnb bookings started to dry up. I find that guests generally tend to book 2-4 weeks in advance. So it was not long before my airbnb was starting to become very empty. I heavily reduced my prices to a record low of £15 a night to try and make at least some income but even this was not enough.

Most of of my guests are either tourists or those who have to visit London for a short time (for business or visiting friends etc). Since the virus outbreak started to get serious in late February guests had started to cancel. The tourists cancelled first as their governments encouraged people not to travel early on in the pandemic. Others cancelled as business meetings were called off wherever possible. And then finally my regulars ,who come to London from other parts of the UK on a regular basis for work, cancelled too. So now I am empty.

On the 8th of April Airbnb sent me an email saying that they will block my private room listings. The UK government told everyone who is providing holiday accommodation to close except for limited types of stay and NHS staff. Airbnb has taken it on itself to stop anyone providing accommodation during the period of lockdown. This is very sensible as i’m sure some hosts will try to stay open for the extra money. I’m lucky because I do have my regular employment income during this time but others may be more reliant on their airbnb income to pay bills etc.

You should not be taking in any private room guests during the lockdown. This is not only very stupid since you can expose yourself and your family to the virus, but it also goes against the social efforts to stop the pandemic. It’s tempting for those hosts who rely on their airbnb income to pay the bills to try and stay open for business but you may contribute to extending the pandemic so it could do more harm than good.

Help for Airbnb hosts who have had bookings cancelled because of coronavirus

Airbnb has a webpage dedicated to information for hosts during the coronavirus outbreak.

Airbnb has promised to give hosts who have had cancellations because of coronavirus some help in the form of 25% of what they would have received. This only applies to bookings between 14 March to 31 May. But ONLY if the guest selects the reason for cancellation as because of the coronavirus. AND only if the host would normally have gotten payment if the guest cancels under their Cancelation policy (the host would need to have a cancellation policy of MODERATE or stricter).

When a guest cancels an accommodation reservation due to a COVID-19-related circumstance, with a check-in between 14 March and 31 May, we will pay you 25% of what you would normally receive through your cancellation policy.

This ‘help’ from airbnb does not help me at all. All my bookings cancelled before it was possible to choose ‘covid-19’ as a reason to cancel. This help will only benefit a small number of hosts, probably those hosts with Entire Place listings who are used to longer bookings. A special fund to help Superhost rated airbnb hosts was also announced. I am not Superhost and probably never will be since the bar is too difficult to reach for me (my house is located in a less than beautiful part of London which usually gets me 4 out of 5 for location despite being cheap and central).

I was surprised however that airbnb has sent me a $17.22 cover-19 payment (how much in pounds i don’t know yet as i’ve not actually received any money in my bank account). I’m not sure how they worked this out. I am grateful but it’s not going to make up for the thousands i have certainly lost in this period.

How long will it be before you should start taking airbnb guests again?

Even if the lockdown ends tomorrow you should consider not taking any guests for a short time. Airbnb has extended the coronavirus restrictions to the 15 May so i think i won’t be taking any guests until then at least.

If you want to take reservations as part of the Frontline Stays program you can. If you do this you will have to make sure you can operate under the social distancing rules. Probably best to keep away from your guests as much as possible and allow them to self check in and out.