Airbnb’s rules allow cameras outdoors and in living rooms and common areas, but never in bathrooms or anywhere guests plan to sleep, including rooms with foldout beds. Starting in early 2018, Airbnb added another layer of disclosure: If hosts indicate they have cameras anywhere on their property, guests receive a pop-up informing them where the cameras are located and where they are aimed. To book the property, the guests must click “agree,” indicating that they’re aware of the cameras and consent to being filmed.
I do find it really interesting because Airbnb class listening devices such as Amazon Alexa as cameras too. I did think this would be very difficult to police. The transparency is welcomed, as before you had to search pictures for anything which looked suspicious.
In January, Bigham discovered cameras in his rental that he says were never disclosed. After he reached out to the Trust & Safety team, representatives told him he and his family had in fact consented to the cameras because they were visibly displayed in photos on the listing. After Bigham’s blog post on the ordeal went viral, Airbnb apologized and refunded his money.
But Bigham says customer-service representatives for Airbnb twice sided against him before reversing their original decision, and only after his blog post was widely shared online.
“No one really seems to know what they’re doing,” Bigham said in an email. “And it seems like it’s only going to get worse.”
In a statement, Airbnb said: “We have apologized to Mr. Bigham and fully refunded him for his stay. We require hosts to clearly disclose any security cameras in writing on their listings and we have strict standards governing surveillance devices in listings. This host has been removed from our community.”
As usual the public stink causes Airbnb to actually do something. I wonder how many complaints get shoved under the carpet?
Me and my partner decided on Airbnb for our trip to Barcelona. We found one and booked it. Generally the flat was ok,
However there was a warning on the kitchen door, stating they are listening for noise 24 hours a day and will cancel bookings if there is loud noise. Looking around I think the device is this thing…?
It certainly put a terrible taste in our mouth and made us feel uncomfortable. Although we didn’t complain straight away and by the time we thought about it, the internet connection was down and if its really connected and not a poor joke; it was no longer going to work. Didn’t cause the host(s) to come and find out what was wrong, even with us complaining about the lack of internet (I debugged it as much as I could, but ultimately we had European roaming data and wasn’t in the flat that much)
The @Airbnb monitoring system which I was not pleased about at all. Might have changed my mind about booking if I knew I was going to be monitored 24hrs a day 🙁 Feels slightly creepy/illegal? pic.twitter.com/2DeKv7Hpzp
Since my tweets/toots and this blog post. I had quite a lot of people and journalists get in touch… But I still have seen nothing from Airbnb or the host. So I decided to take one of the journalists up on their offer in a form of social justice. No idea how what I wrote will come across or be edited but as I was seeking out the legal ramifications of what the host had done, I saw this on the Airbnb help site…
Rules for hosts
If you’re a host and you have any type of surveillance device in or around a listing, even if it’s not turned on or hooked up, we require that you indicate its presence in your House Rules. We also require you to disclose if an active recording is taking place. If a host discloses the device after booking, Airbnb will allow the guest to cancel the reservation and receive a refund. Host cancellation penalties may apply.
With that I rewrote to Airbnb and Airbnbhelp to demand a refund on top of everything else I previously complained about.
Sure to update everyone once I hear something….
I was contacted by Airbnb by phone, the woman ran through a few questions and we talked about what happened again. She agreed this was clearly a breach of the Airbnb terms and could see the listening device and the warning in a few of the photos (as like me, knew what to look for). She said they would block/ban that listing which they have done. They also issued a refund to me and my partner, which is great news as our un-comfortableness certainly had a slight affect on the holiday in Barcelona.
Personally I’m glad I found the Airbnb term above, as that drove things along much quicker. Previous to that, it seemed not a lot was being done?
To summarize, we will follow up and investigate the host’s account following your report of a surveillance device in the listing. We take these reports very seriously, once again, thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. Your participation helps keep Airbnb a safe and trusted community.
Barcelona is a city-break destination practically all year round, which means it’s struggling with more than just a surfeit of drunken stag parties and queues outside tapas bars. Landlords have realised they can make more money out of short lets to well-off Airbnb users than from renting to conventional tenants who live and work in the city year round, so when contracts come up for renewal it’s not uncommon to find the rent suddenly shooting up to levels that young Spaniards can’t pay. Once they’re forced out of the neighbourhood, the empty flat promptly disappears into what’s still sometimes euphemistically known as the “sharing economy”, although what happens next sounds like the antithesis of sharing. Those lucky enough to own a desirable property get steadily luckier, by pimping it out to the highest bidders. Meanwhile, those who don’t have such an asset become ever less likely to get one, as property prices are pushed up across the city. Thus does inequality harden, and resentment deepen, while the failure of mainstream parties to solve the problem drives the young and frustrated ever closer to the political fringes.
All the stuff mentioned in others but then, but then the killer to my hippyish ideas for Airbnb.
So much for the earnestly hippyish vibe of the original Airbnb model, which was supposed to be all about creating a cosy-sounding “global community” by linking up adventurous strangers in search of more authentic, home-from-home travel experiences. And so much, too, for the idea of democratising the travel industry by letting the little guy make a buck on the side. In some tourist hotspots Airbnb is now morphing from an amateur operation into a slick professional one, with landlords amassing multiple properties just as they once did with buy-to-let, and using agencies to manage their burgeoning empires.
The romantic, if sometimes risky, fantasy of swapping lives with a local for a few nights and seeing the city through their eyes is being replaced with a more corporate, impersonal experience. Sign here for the keys; check out promptly in time for the next guest to arrive. Too bad that what could have been a young couple’s starter flat is now just another asset to be sweated, and one that probably stands empty half the time.
it’s uncomfortable knowing that your cheap getaway comes at such a hidden cost, guilt seems unlikely to put many travellers off
It would make sense if Airbnb would check this somehow or even more fundamentally, provide a space to input this info and highlight it to potential Airbnb guests. Right now you have to tack it on the end of the description which isn’t ideal.
When looking for somewhere, I asked a few Airbnb hosts for their LUT number and one all but laughed in the message back. If Airbnb really gave a crap about whats happening to these cities and locations its the least they would do.
Borrowers who are granted permission could be charged higher interest or additional fees.
Those who go behind lenders’ backs and list their property on Airbnb regardless would be in breach of their contract and the lender could ask them to repay the mortgage immediately.
The important thing to remember is there is are different types of hosts. For example I only put my spare room on Airbnb not my whole flat. I trust people but there is no way I would give them the keys to my home without me being there at the same time! I remember going to a airbnb meetup in Manchester and being shocked at the difference between those like me who do it for a bit of extra cash and those who treat it like a business.
I’ve met some great people doing Airbnb too, even met my favourite Airbnb guest in Portugal in March for a short while, 2.5 years after I hosted her. I bet those host their spare house have no idea who is there or really care?
Starting now would be difficult as I’ve found out from friends who try it, but its clear cities and countries are coming down on Airbnb for ruining communities as mentioned before, Airbnb wrecks travellers’ holiday plans as battle with cities intensifies. You thought it was just Uber right? Nope the whole silicon valley business model is tearing up communities and existing businesses. Neo-liberalism at its best or worst depending how you look at things.
But at the heart of it do Airbnb give a rats? As I found when I went to Japan (listing no longer exists) and Iceland, no they really dont. The problem is its a neat system, just run by a silicon valley company which is aiming to put everybody else out of business then yank the price cord up once they got us. Imagine if Airbnb was run by a public service company, non-profit or coop?
I do think we need to separate the hosting situations. I’m a host but I’m nothing like those who host their 4th bought house, screaming blue murder that they are not superhost entitled and out to make a killing. If I was as greedy, I certainly would drop the price (I charge £45 per night) and rise the price massive on concerts days (A woman came to the taylor swift concern for £45/night, hotels and other airbnb’s were charging £150+ a night). There is clearly a difference and its important to remember this.
Conversation between friends, Kate and Ian, about the benefits of travelling and the differences in what they want from a holiday.
The Listening Project conversations collectively form a picture of our lives and relationships today. Recordings were made by BBC producers of people sharing an intimate conversation, lasting up to an hour and on a topic of the speakers’ choice.
Kate and Ian have been friends since 2007. They met when Ian moved to Manchester from London. They talk about the benefits of travelling and the differences in what they want from a holiday – Ian likes the big city buzz whereas Kate prefers the quiet of the countryside. They discuss Airbnb, a home rental website that Ian uses to rent out his home. They also talk about the differences and similarities in their personalities.
The whole thing is just wrong but to make things worst is Airbnb’s customer service (they call it customer experience) which seems to want to keep it all under-wraps. This is surely a criminal offence and suspended isn’t nearly enough!
Does “host is suspended” also mean “host has been charged with a criminal offense”?!
I’ve always been pretty good with Airbnb but recently I had a volleyball derby match which went on way past its set time due to a thrilling end after 5 sets. Plus it was the last match of the year. This meant turning up late, although I did warn this might happen.
Then I had to cancel for the first time on guest who was due to be arrive at 0130am. I did say originally I couldn’t do it but decided since I wasn’t going to Sheffield Docfest anymore it would be possible. So I accepted the request to find out a week later, I would be going to Edinburgh for the DIS 2017 conference.
So I had to cancel for the first time in 2+ years… but it didn’t take long for Airbnb’s algorithm to kick in and tell me what a bad person I am and how my account will be suspended!
Anything but perfection is unacceptable according to Airbnb it seems?
Of course it doesn’t really matter too much to me, as I don’t care so much about being a superhost but what I don’t like is being told off by Airbnb for canceling on a guest who to be fair was asking a lot at the start and for the 1st time since I started hosting over 2 years ago.
It’s no different in machine-run “social sharing” systems such as we get from Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. In all those systems we are asked to rate the people who share their cars and homes, and they are asked to rate us. The hidden agenda behind this practice is the same as the one Gatto describes above.
I use Uber now and then especilaly when outside of Manchester for work. I also have used Airbnb and of course host on Airbnb. I’m under no illusion how the rating system influences peoples opnions and behaviour too. Its meant to weed out bad behaviour but always seems to cause unintended consequences. I’m sure the people behind the scence have good intentions but fail to think about the law of unintended consequences.
Recently I have been in a few Uber’s for other people (not sharing the fee) and its been interesting to see how people have rated each other. More interestingly is the social contract/mulipulation which spring into action. It starts with the driver stopping the journey and saying “I’m going to rate you 5 stars.” My friend then turns around and says they will do the same, and does. This is classic Law of Reciprocity as described in Influence.
As I tend to think about these things too much, I also find the loop holes in the system equally interesting.
On my holiday to Iceland, the host(s) moved me to another room and I went along with it because I was fed some line about helping them out. But actually there was something dodgy going on, as I met the Airbnb which was moving into my room I had booked.
@airbnb Question: What to do if someone doesn't post a review because they know mine will be bad & they don't want it to be public?
I was peed off but not quite enough to want seek a refund, I wanted other people to be aware of this and my review explained exactly what happened. Also brought this up with the hosts the day of this happening and private messaged them through Airbnb. My rating was fair I felt because it was unfair to lie to me about their motives, especially when I’d be very open with them. No rating system could really capture this.
The system is your review goes live once the other person also writes a review. Part of the review is rating out of 5 stars which is the bit which bugs me, because boiling down everything to 5 starts seems too simple.
Generally I only rub sholders with this stuff every once in a while. For example my Uber rating is 4.92 out 5 (partly because I don’t use Uber that much and treat the drivers like people not drivers, I talk to all the taxi drivers regardless). I’m also a superhost on Airbnb because I don’t take a lot of people and very careful who I host at my own place.
Due to these ratings I get a skewed view on each of these system. On uber I only get uber drivers which are rated 4.5 upwards (I hadn’t noticed till one of the drivers pointed it out to me a while ago). With Airbnb I have the luxury of being stricter with who I accept, partly because I don’t need to have guests all the time. However as a guest myself, things are different. Here are my 3 guest experiences
(Japan) was so bad I stayed for 30mins and complained to Airbnb, getting my money back after a long back and forth with Airbnb & the host in question.
(Portugal) was perfect
(Iceland) was good till the end when the host lied and “double booked” the room (see the review here).
I have always wanted to see the Northern Lights / Aurora Borealis and finally there is a very good chance this might finally happen. Flights and Airbnb is booked for this yearly quarter and of course I’ll be happy to catch up with Brian too, especially since he nicely sent me the Iceland Aurora DVD.
I'm off to Iceland to hunt for the northen lights and see @briansuda 🙂
I’ll be staying in Reykjavík, so if you think theres something I should be doing besides visiting the golden circle, relaxing in hot spas and of course seeing the northern lights. Do add a comment or tweet me.
Can’t wait! Even got my winter trainers today, perfect timing…!
No matter how glossy and cool the Airbnb advertising is, with all the shiny shots of people staying in Airstreams in Texas backyards or converted air-conditioned food trucks in New Orleans, staying in an Airbnb is weird because people are weird, and their lives are complicated, their routines idiosyncratic and their bookshelves are windows into their souls. Conversations are curious, and awkward silences are things to be negotiated. You cannot be on automatic pilot at an Airbnb because strange things happen in other people’s homes, on their patch, across their kitchen tables.
As I have written about previously, I have had my ups and downs with Airbnb. Mainly ups but also some weird experiences too, including 2 experiences with cheese in my fridge.
A few friends have decided it might be for them but I also received a email about vrumi from Claire. Vrumi is different from places like Zipcube because its tackling the long tale of usually forgotten spaces; spaces like my own living room!
Could my flat be the perfect place workspace during the day?
London is full of rooms that lie empty during the day because their usual inhabitants are out at work, away at university, or have left home altogether. There are all sorts of spare rooms – box rooms, underused dining rooms and sitting rooms – gathering dust. And there are rooms that were designed for a specific purpose – a home gym or music room, for example – which don’t get the use they might.
What if all this empty space, in a city in which property is at a frankly eye-watering premium, could be put to work? And why stop at London?
I like the idea and think its a good one but not quite for me personally. Don’t get me wrong I know quite a few people who have been inspired by sitting in my flat looking out the windows. A few of my Airbnb guests have sat and marvelled at the view, while others have felt inspired enough to get a ton of work done. Heck when the Tesco delivery people come, they always say something about what an amazing view.
There was quite a few people doing the same and they would list their places on spare room and elsewhere. I was going to do the same but never around to it. I didn’t really want someone for months at an end because I wanted the flexibility if a friend wanted to stay over. I had previously had a flat mate (Tim) and he was great (saving my life and all) but I said to him that I was going to live mainly alone. It was something I just needed to do
I had heard of airbnb but thought of it like couchsurfing which another friend (Dave) had used a lot. It was somewhere between needing to put my spareroom somewhere to show people on the Facebook group and half looking for a flat mate, partly from the guilt of not using the spareroom much. That make me actually look into it and ultimately put up the listing.
My listing was very honest, maybe too honest. The photos are a little crappy and I didn’t stage anything (no ironing of the sheets, photo retouching, etc). I also didn’t use a wide angle lens like airbnb’s photographers do. Nope the room is small but has a proper double bed, some draws and a mini wardrobe. I decided the biggest selling points of the flat was the separate bathroom (I tend to use my on-suite for everything), the amazing views, its location and my flexibility. This is why I made the first photo a sunset from the living room. I keep thinking I need do better about the photos but frankly i’m happy with the little extra money and I’m not doing it to get rich (unlike some people)
On that front, I actually add restrictions to put certain people off.
You can not book my room on the day. I had enough of last-minute requests and frankly the kind of people putting in the request seemed a little sketchy. The weirdest one is a man who wrote a message like I had already accepted his request, he wanted to know where to go to meet me!
I always get into a conversation with the person. If I get a bad feeling I make an excuse and reject their request. I need to know they are coming to Manchester for a purpose not doss at mine, eat my food (there is a story there) and drink all my cocktail spirits.
I wouldn’t do instant book, for the reason above I don’t use instant book, I need to get a feel of who the person is. I’m also ruthless with checking their previous bookings, social media profiles and offline ID. My bare minimum acceptable is a verified phone number, email, at least one social media profile. I need a good photo of the person and one or two positive reviews. If no reviews I’d need to know they have done the offline ID check. It’s off-putting but it’s my home and I want to know exactly who they are. Also I checked with my insurance and this is important if Airbnb’s insurance doesn’t cut it and I need to use my own.
All guests need to go through verification. I turned this on because it made sense for me.
I charge over the recommended price. Airbnb has data on all the places similar to yours and how well they are doing. The algorithm then calculates a recommended price which will attract people and earn a good return. The problem for me is I don’t want a lot of people, I don’t need the room always in use. It’s optimised to get more people and thats not for me. It also requires you really change it quite a bit or rely on them changing the price. I swear a few times I seen the price go as low as 19 pounds a night, this is not workable for me.
I have a list of things which I’m allergic to which I have listed on my profile. The big one is no cooking baked beans in the flat. I can deal with almost anything else but I can’t have that in my flat. To be fair most hosts don’t let people cook, but I think thats pretty tight (imho) and unfair if you are there for over a week.
Some numbers. To date I have had a lot of enquiries for my spareroom (73, I took the time to respond to). Some months it’s every week some months I get nothing. I have had 15 people in the years I have been doing it. The average stay is about 3-4 nights and I mainly get males (unsurprisingly), but had a good number of females. If you count actual bookings, its not far off half. But its only because Caroline rebooked many times. My next guest is female. Exact earnings I do know because Airbnb does tell you but I’d rather not say, but it’s worth saying I did look up the maximum you could earn before paying excess tax and I am quite a way off. Paypal did think I was doing some money laundering and cut me off for a while, which was painful.
Most of my guests are from the UK but I’ve had a couple from the states and western europe. Once again if I was doing things by time, Portugal would be the biggest percentage by far with the UK second and America third. I don’t tend to get many people just wanting to party, mainly becasue of the restrictions I have put in place I believe.
Incidents? Nothing major my front door has been left open, somebody complained I didn’t have enough takeaway menus (I have none to be fair) and I have found something very surprising in the fridge one day.
I have heard of some real bad stories and to be fair my own experience in Japan does remind me how bad things can get. Also how tricky getting help out of Airbnb can be. I would do everything I can to fix things myself before embarking on getting help out of them. Although to be fair they have quickly modified peoples reviews when they break the guidelines (not deliberately or maliciously)
Positive experiences, I have many!
Catherine was the first woman who stayed at mine and she was wonderful, shes also the one who finally convinced me I should finally go to the ballet I was thinking about. Darren was so pleased about the place and was kind enough to let me cousin and friend stay in the living room while he was there. I don’t even know where to start with Caroline…
She certainly stayed the longest at just over 3 months but was a pleasure to be around. We had some great conversations and had a routine of watching the Affair together. She certainly became more like a flat mate than a airbnb guest which was fine, except I needed to redecorate my flat, which also involved storing stuff in the spare room. It was a shame to see her go, but things were not working out for her career wise too.
All of these people wrote me glowing reviews and gave me a lovely present to say thank you. Caroline even wrote me a number of lovely post it notes during the months, one still exists on my noticeboard. Will have to encourage more guests to do this after seeing Rehan’s book.
Having Vivid Lounge downstairs is incredible and always gets super high praises from guests, no wonder it was voted one of the best thai restaurant in Manchester recently. Most of my guests drop in there for drinks or food at some point. I’m actually writing this while sipping a coffee in Vivid, trying to get use to British Summer Time
I would encourage everyone who has a spare bed in their house to list their space on Airbnb (if that’s legal in your country). It’s a great way to boost the economy of a city/country because there are thousands of other tourists who like to visit different cities but are not able to do it because the hotels are too expensive.
As for me, I am deeply honoured to have been a host for the hundreds of guests who stayed at my apartment and gave me a chance to contribute to their first amazing experience of Amsterdam.
I would echo most of Rehan’s thoughts.
But I have to say you have to sensible about everything. I know friends who have taken on Airbnb and been unflexible or not willing to trust the person with keys, etc. Trust is a two way street and my faith in humanity is strong, but I’m not blinded by making huge amounts of money. This is the classic money clouding judgement/decision making process. Yes you could make quite a bit of money but you will end up taking more risky people and do you want the hassle of replacing stuff after someone decides to have a party in your flat with a bunch of friends or even people they met that night?
apply. When what exceptions are possible, is still unclear.
Some friends on Facebook (my fb is public, so its readable/findable) added some comments to my kind of retweet from talking with Oliver.
Jennifer wrote: There are so few affordable flats available for people who actually live here. The Airbnb market has affected the available rentals so much here that it’s driven prices up, and it’s a nightmare.
Helen wrote: There are similar restrictions in Barcelona. You need a licence to rent rooms or apartments but the local government is not issuing new licences. Same rationale…lack of affordable housing, makes for unpleasant living when your neighbouring apartments are all on short lets, changing the culture of neighbourhoods. That said, there’s no shortage of rentals in Barcelona on AirBnB and elsewhere. Fines are being issued but not widespread yet.
As someone who does Airbnb at my own flat, I think there should be a difference between a spare room and a whole place. I do have everything legally needed including smoke alarms, exit signs and fire extinguisher but it feels like there should be slight difference. I understand the concerns and the damage of short term lets on a community. Some apartment blocks have banned Airbnb in Manchester for example. But if you are there too, its no real different than having a short term lodger? I guess there is an argument about how you prove you are there, but thats a different arguement.
Its a shame its come to this but alas thats what happens when you let market forces run out of control?
Little chance of a cheap Airbnb for Berlin now, I thought but theres still quite a lot on Airbnb still… We shall see what happens in May.