Why You Should Be Leery Of Booking A Peer-To-Peer Home Share Rental (ie: AirBNB, VRBO, etc.)
Updated: Jun 7
Let me preface this by saying, Home Sharing has opened up the world of travel in a way mainstream traditional accommodations never have. You can book some amazingly unique places, often for a lower cost than traditional accommodation. These unique accommodations let you experience a place in a way that tradition accommodate would not give you. But this method of travel comes with pitfalls and risks that you may not be aware of. There are thousands of people who use these services every day with no issues, and have great experiences, but everybody who is looking into booking a home share should be aware of the potential risks.
Note: I am NOT referring to the legal and regulated Bed And Breakfast operators. Those are totally fine, as they are regulated and designed for tourists.
1) Personal Space - You Are In Their Bubble
Home sharing comes in all shapes and sizes, with options to share a location with other people or have the place to yourself. But even if you book a place for just yourselves, you may find out later you are actually sharing it. Or, you may be staying in somebody’s home - with all of their personal stuff around. Or their pets are still staying there and now you need to care for them - surprise! There is also no obligation for the renter to keep the place in a hotel quality state.
2) Safety, Security and Neighborhood
Is the neighborhood that you are renting in safe? Is there any type of security in place? Is there a deadbolt? Who else has the key? Especially if you are in an unfamiliar city, you may not know this until you arrive. On top of that, if you are travelling with a child, or somebody who has mobility issues - that house may not be child friendly, or accessible for those with mobility issues.
3) How Private Is It Really?
In many locations it’s perfectly legal to have a security camera installed inside the home (because remember - this may be somebody's home). And they may not let you know they are there. Are there proper curtains? Can anybody see into your location? Do you need to share a stairwell?
4) Location, Location, Location
Many times the location of the rental is outside of the main sites you want to see - are you going to be driving, using transit, or taxi/Uber to get to where you want to go? How long will it take you to get there? This will eat into your time away on vacation, and ultimately your money as well.
5) Oh - No! They Canceled My Booking!
There are so many reports of renters being contacted right before they check in to their accommodation saying something has happened to the space (often some type of plumbing problem). Then the owners end up either canceling the rental, having to make you scramble to find new accommodations, or they may offer to move you to another “upgraded” location. But sometimes that new location ends up being a dump, and it may be in a different part of the city than where you wanted to be. The old bait-and-switch.
6) Is That Legal?
Home Sharing typically doesn't fall under the traditional hospitality laws, and often occupies a grey area of the law. In some places they are in fact not legal to operate. There are reports of some renters being asked to lie and sneak around because the owner was not allowed to host home sharing rentals. New York, which is one of the biggest markets for home sharing, DOESN'T ALLOW RENTALS FOR LESS THAN 30 DAYS, so the majority of stays were not not legal. It isn't just New York either, there have also be issues like this is Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, Kyoto, and many others.
7) He Said, She Said, They Said
If something goes wrong - who do you go for for help? Who do you turn to? The owner, who doesn't live close by, or the big rental corporation that facilitated the accommodation? How long will you stay on hold waiting for an answer, and if you don't get a good answer, who do you appeal to. What if the owner accuses you of damage? What if you arrive at your accommodation and there are mouse droppings, or pet urine stains? What if you arrive at your accommodation and the accommodation doesn't exist? Host running late for check-in, or not even responding at all - who do you turn to?
8) What Do You Mean This Doesn't Support Local?
Originally home sharing accommodation was intended to be locals sharing a room, or an empty second vacation home house to somebody who is travelling. This supports the local and get travelers in unique parts of a destination that they may otherwise not go to. With anything that could be turned into a business, will be turned into a business. Organizations now run many rentals, and the owners may not even live in the same city. Permanent short-term rentals can take away from local long-term rentals. Foreign investment in certain locations have also created ghost towns when the rentals aren't there. Especially during Covid, whole neighborhoods in cities like Lisbon, Barcelona, Paris, Dublin, Athens, with no short-term rentals, neighborhoods appear to be abandoned.
Also, while having your own kitchen is very nice and can be extremely useful for people with allergies, it also removes the aspect of eating local, and supporting local restaurants and bars.
9) I Need To Clean Up My Mess? But I'm On Vacation!
No concierge, no housekeeping, no room service. Some people certainly are OK with this, but I know when I'm on vacation, I don't want to be dealing with these things. Many home sharing accommodations require you to clean up, take out the garbage, start a load of laundry, and some have even more obligations to fulfill. While this is exhausting and frustrating, the bigger question now is, what exactly does this mean in a Covid world?
10) It's Big, It's Bad, It's Not Insured
Travel Insurance is a very important thing to have when you are travelling as it helps protect you from the unexpected. However, many travel insurance providers don't provide insurance for home sharing (some do, check with your insurance provider).
Owners of home sharing locations often don't have the proper insurance for short term rentals, or that type of insurance doesn't exist in that location. So if something happens on their property - who will cover it, and will you be compensated?
11) Like For Like
Most home sharing companies work on a review system, where the renter can review the owner and property, and the owner can review the renter. Seems like a great idea on the surface, but if a renter leaves a poor review of the property, the owner will often retaliate and give a poor review of the renter (often unjustified). With a poor review on their record renters often find it difficult to rent other accommodations on that platform. This has resulted in reviews that are positive but only mention the the positive aspects of the rental, and simply leaving out the negatives, so that subsequently the renters can get a good review.
As you can see, there are many risks with a peer to peer home share rental, if you are looking to book one of these, please make an informed decision and consider these points.
Evening Star Travel does not book home sharing accommodation except in very specific circumstances which have been vetted by industry experts (in Cuba on a custom tour, or through a tour company like G-Adventures, etc...).
Hotels, even if they are owned by a worldwide chain, support the local economy by keeping locals employed. The best option to support local is to book a boutique, locally owned hotel, or a certified Bed and Breakfast when available. Hotels typically offer the best safety and security, with cameras only in public facing areas, and security guards watching. Hotels have high cleaning standards, your privacy is protected, and there is a process to bring up grievances. And when you book with a travel advisor like Evening Star Travel, we book to ensure that ensure you are in the right accommodation for your needs wants and budget, and we are there for your every step of the way.
What are your thoughts? Do you feel the same? Let us know in the comments below! If this article was helpful, please share it with your friends and family through social media.
To book your next dream vacation - when the time is right to travel - reach out to me through email at Alicia@EveningStarTravel.ca, or by calling 587 772 2525. I am located in Sherwood Park, Alberta (a suburb of Edmonton), and am a Travel Advisor specializing in River Cruising, Beach Escapes, and Custom Vacations. I am the owner/operator of Evening Star Travel, and I book travel for clients all across Canada.