I had an in depth email exchange with Lilli, a Trust & Safety Team regarding some misconceptions I had to the way AirBNB operates. I took care to confirm my questions, her replies, and my understanding of those replies three times just to make sure there weren't key points lost.
#1. As of at today, AirBNB's Trust & Safety Team only communicates via email correspondence. While they have had conversations with Hosts int he past the policy is now that "The AirBNB Trust and Safey Team team handles sensitive escalated concerns as well as damage claims. Additionally, our department handles all claims via email correspondence."
#2. Additional Guest Fees are unenforceable against the security deposit. While a guest overstaying their stay by 24 hours or more is something that AirBNB will mediate, Additional Guest fees are optional and must be agreed to be paid by the guest. If a guest books for 1 guest and the reservation is accepted, the Security Deposit will not be held. Even if the guest themselves admits that they have brought guests beyond the reservation, and even if they agreed to pay additional guests fees, this is not a valid claim. The only recourse if for the guest to voluntarily offer to pay these fees.
#3. House Rules are not enforcable against the security deposit. If a host prohibit smoking, pets, parties or any other behavior/activity and a guest violates these provisions, again this must be a voluntary payment made by the guest.
#4. Stains to sheets and towels, even if they do not wash out are not considered physical damage, and are therefore not permitted as valid claims against the security deposit.
For #2-#4 I want to be clear that I am not talking about having a claim determined in your favor as a host. Instead, hosts are prohibited from even requesting any type of mediation or communication between AirBNB, host, and guest because these are not items that can ever be claimed or enforced againsts the security deposit.
I discovered this when I contacted AirBNB following a booking we had for (4) guests. Our cameras showed between 16-20+ guests arriving at all hours of the night. My cleaning lady stopped by and observed 20 guests, mostly men and 3-4 women (who she described as professional dancers). I messaged the guest and they were quite honest--they admitted via AirBNB message that they had many additional guests beyond what they'd booked at hour listing. Our public pre-booking desciption prohibits undisclosed/unapproved parties but we also habe an additional provision where we speciffy an additional guest fee when those parties occur. This was at the recommendaton of an amazing AirBNB Trust & Safey Representaive we spoke to last year who recommended the addition. Although this guest offered via AirBNB resolutions a fairly significant payment for excessive trash (read; 30+ bags or so of condoms, bottles, beer cans, chips, 50+ paper plates etc) damaged towels, unwashed dishes, I wanted AirBNB Trust & Safey to make the determination on what was fair. During that process, I was able to cofirm the Security Deposit policy and the policy of the Trust & Safety Department. They can not enforce House Rules Violation, Additional Guest Violations, or stains to linens as a matter of policy. The security deposit is only intended for physical damage. Stains on fabrics, even permanent ones, are not considered physical damage.
I was grateful with my experience with Lilly, who did her best to accurately communicate the polices that are in place and respond to my questions on numerous replies. I plan on eliminating additional guest fees and requiring a non-AirBNB security deposit (so long as it's clearly disclosed in the House Rules in accordance with the AirBNB TOC). We all know that AirBNB is continually evolving their product and polices so perhaps we'll get some better protections in the future. I'm also grateful to know a smoker can smoke in my home and I'll have no recourse unless he/she burns the mattress or sheets. Even then, perhaps the burn must do more than disclor the sheets. Anyway, 99% of reservations are a breeze but I like regularly testing the protections we have to make sure they work. Without the great protections that AirBNB has implemented, I'd never be a host. And I'l be honest, sometime I get a little complacent and just assume that I'm more secure than I am. Constant evaluation of the product is always a good idea.
Thoughts from other hosts?
@Oni And Mats Thanks for sharing! Here are my thoughts:
1. I don't have a problem with Trust and Safety only responding in written form. I imagine they had their verbal communication misunderstood or misconstrued in the past.
2. I never understood that an additional guest fee would be charged against the Security Deposit. The Securty Deposit is for claiming damages, not collecting an extra fee. The Change Reservation or Resolution Center would be the place to charge for extra guests
3. Damage created by guests whether they break the house rules or not would be charged against the security deposit. But merely breaking house rules without damage would not. Surprised they said that. Can you screen shot that detail from their email?
4. Well, damage to sheets and towels are part of the business we're in. I agree that you should ask the guest to pay directly if it's that serious.
Question: Just how are you going to enforce / collect on a non-Airbnb security deposit?
One thing most hosts don't understand is that they need to have vacation rental insurance. Airbnb won't cover everything!
If I'm reading the terms and conditions correctly, you are allowed to collect a non AirBNB payment security deposit from the guest so long as this is specified in your public listing description AND they agree to it. If that's true, I could cancel the security deposit requirement on AirBNB and collect it via PayPal and then refund it via PayPal. Or, more simply, I could require them to make a security deposit payment via the AirBNB resolutions tool for damages, and then refund that back to them when they check out. In that case, I would have much more control over what is a 'covered' event.
I think the mistake that I made was making assumptions about what the security deposit covers. It doesn't cover smoke damage. It doesn't cover stains to a comforter. it doesn't cover unreasonable waste and leaving the unit in poor condition. Anything that requires cleaning (even dry cleaning, steam cleaners, etc) isn't considered physical damage. Anything that requires repair (a broken light, a broken chair would). The security deposit will protect you for an extra night if the guest stays for at least 24 hours beyond their reservation. 4 hours, or 12 hours, you aren't entitled to even make a claim.
#3. The exact wording was "AirBNB cannot charge a guest for non-physical damage." My question was, if a guest books a unit and agrees to the house rules, which provide a fee for additional guests, and a fee if they don't want to wash their dishes before checkout, and admits to (to AirBNB) having more than the booked number of guests, admits to staining towels (with puked up cranberry juice apparently), and admits to leaving the dishes unwashed, and even *** SENDS A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF MONEY VIA THE AIRBNB RESOLUTIONS TOOL *** why would AirBNB reduce the amount offered by the guest by 85%. Apparently the policy is so firm that even if the guest offers and amount towards what AirBNB determines is not a valid claim. It's a couple hundred dollars lost but the information for me as a host was far more valuable. I'm not as secure as I think. We have an additional ryder on our insurance but I think I am going to get vacation rental insurance as a seperate policy now, and collect the deposit seperately from AirBNB. All of their other protections seem to be working as described. #stillafan
I had assumed the points made were how it worked anyway.
I thought I had seen cases where extra cleaning following smoking etc had been reimbursed?
I can see towels and sheets could be an issue, what is damage to effectively a consumable.
@Oni And Mats I would be very interested to see where in the Terms of Service it talks about a host-initiated Security Deposit. Could you give me the section number? What concerns me is how a guest would be protected from an unscrupulous host who don'tdoesn't refund (and, oh, yes, they are out there!) the security deposit. What's the guest's recourse?
I suppose a long term booking, like months, would expect to put down a deposit, but somebody staying for a normal hotel type stay?
I would not.
I think you are right, it is definitely more fraught for abuse than if the security deposit worked as I'd initially thought. I don't think Trust & Safety wants the burden of having to make decisions on smoke, stains, pets, number of guests, etc. And so it's easier to just classify those as unenforcable. In reality, I wish that the secuirty deposit could be used towards any fees/activities/stains/damage etc that a guest caused--only after AirBNB investigates and verified and makes a decision fair to both host and guest. But that's not the policy--they will only make fair decisions based on actual physical damage. If additional washing or dry cleaning is required, that's not physical damage. If a guest specifically violated terms of the House Rules, that's not physical damage. So if you charge a small cleaning fee and charge guests (or even threaten to charge to elicit good behavior) to clean our their fire place, take out their trash, wash their dishes, etc you are better off charging for each guest as if they'll need all of those items cleaned each time. Nothing nefarious about that--this is what hotels do. I made the mistake of thinking I could charge differently for 2 guests vs 16 like a hotel does but the problem is that if you use AIrBNB for manamgement of your listing, your are exposed. They are good for basic screening and referrals. That's what they want to be, and they do a great job. They are not looking to enforce your house rules or guest fees or no smoking policies. You have to do that, and now I know.
As guest I've stayed in 2014 somewhere where a seperate security deposit was required, and where when I called AirBNB the Trip Experience team confirmed that this was allowed so long as it was disclosed. Re-reading the TOC now, I can't see that in writing, so I think the safest way would be to require a resolution payment before check-in seperately. As a host, you would then be able to publish the rules for what this deposit was cover, and AirBNB could enforce abuse, but it wouldn't be able to change what you could/couldn't deduct. Is this ripe for more abuse? Probably, but I think the review system will help stymie that.
Well this post is super scarry. And recent AirBnB policies are brutal.
How are we to do this if guests can lie about number of people who stay on our properties? Should we just kick them out?
Linens not being enforcable is ridicilous. Out of 10 guests we have, 8 destroy towels. We had 166 reservations in this year, and had to buy over 300 towels. At $8 per towel that is over $800 per months that we have no right to collect anymore!? What the hell Airbnb!?
Smoking is not enforcable? What is my recourse? Because next guests WILL smell that. And ones after them. And after them. Sheesh, when you rent a car and smoke in it it is $250 non negotiable charge. Why is this different?
This is not the first time AirBnB did something like this, and it seems that they are going down the same road Uber is taking. Everybody hates that company, especially the drivers, because of all policies that absolutely shaft the operators.
I guess we should focus more on VRBO and similar competitors. They let you manage your own deposit at least.
Very unhappy with changes AirBnB. Very.
Thanks for the clarification. There seems to be some confusion with some hosts. I don't think these are particularly new. It's obvious that it's best for everyone involved to have all communication in writing. Wear and tear is really not the purpose of the security deposit.
What most hosts don't seem to understand that Airbnb will do anything to GET BOOKINGS. That's it...that's all. It is the guests that bring in the money, not the hosts. The reason that Airbnb's policies are continually changing in favour of the guests is because there is a glut of hosts out there...just check the map of your area. There are new hosts popping up all the time. Airbnb does not need to cater to hosts, but they do need to coax travelers away from traditional B&B establishments and hotels. The way to do that is to offer what these establishments, as businesses, cannot offer.
Well I have found ,to my opinion,good solution...I have established a special fond where I take from every booking 3 Euro per day per apartment - the money which I do not feel as a loss but as time goes by,there are already 5000 Euros there - from there I cover all expenses like
- stolen blankets,linen,kitchen staff,damaged lamps,furniture etc.
As far as I can see, it is no longer acceptable to charge a non-Airbnb security deposit:https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/458/can-a-security-deposit-be-collected-outside-of-the-airbnb-we...
However, you could set up refundable additional cleaning fee using the request payment for extra services button.