Vacation rentals: Is what you see really what you get?
Sandra Hermiston and Ross McLaughlin, CTV Vancouver
Published Friday, July 13, 2018 6:00AM PDT
Last Updated Friday, July 13, 2018 6:29PM PDT
Vacation rentals found on Airbnb can provide a great alternative to your usual summer lodgings. But how do you know that what you saw online is what you’re going to get? And even worse, could it be unsafe?
When Karen Zalusky arrived at a home she recently booked through Airbnb, she was shocked to see the condition of the property.
“As soon as we walked in, you could tell something wasn’t right,” she said.
Zalusky says an offensive smell overtook her and her husband and they found the homeowner had kept pets in the place without cleaning up after them.
“The house itself was just totally unlivable,” explained Zalusky.
Airbnb gave her a full refund and removed the listing from its website.
Zalusky also noticed a carbon monoxide detector unplugged from the wall, a situation that could put a rental property’s safety in question.
Consumer Reports recommends that all rentals have working fire-safety products. But a 2018 study found that only 56 percent of Airbnb listings had carbon monoxide detectors, and only 42 percent carried fire extinguishers.
Airbnb maintains a web page dedicated to home safety, which states: “We encourage every Airbnb host to install working smoke and CO detectors in their listing and to check them frequently.”
But they are only suggestions, which is why you have to take a more active approach.
“Vacation rentals are not regulated in the same way as hotels, which means you really want to reach out to your host before you book,” said Dan Wroclawski, Consumer Reports home editor.
Ask these five questions:
1. Does the property have working smoke and CO detectors?
2. Is there a working fire extinguisher on the property?
3. Does the property have an emergency safety card?
4. Is there a first-aid kit in the home?
5. Does the property meet local safety regulations?
“Asking these questions will give you a better understanding of how safe the property is and might bring up some other issues you hadn’t thought of,” Wroclawski said.
Consumer Reports says it’s essential to read the reviews with a critical eye. Look for Airbnb “Superhosts,” those who have hosted at least 10 times in a year and received a 5-star review for at least 80 percent of stays.