Scarebnb: when Airbnb goes bad
EXCLUSIVE: SERIOUS shortcomings in Airbnb's safety standards have been exposed after these women were robbed by an intruder who is thought to have cut a key following a stay there.
Recent US research by University of Florida academics found "a significant, positive spatial relationship between Airbnb and crimes", particularly theft.
Yet while Airbnb recommends hosts have fire extinguishers and lists of emergency contacts, it provides next to no guidance on security.
For instance, it fails to suggest having a door chain or regularly changing access codes.
Nor does Airbnb's insurance cover theft.
Melbourne nurses Jacinta Waters and Marie Jones discovered this the hard way.
On a work trip in August they stayed at a Parramatta unit rented via Airbnb and were woken at about 5.15am when the lights came on in the loungeroom.
"Here was this bloke with my bag and iPad, he was as cool as a cucumber," Ms Waters recalled.
"He just looked over his shoulder and walked out.
"That was my first experience of Airbnb and my last."
Ms Jones said Airbnb's attitude to security wasn't good enough.
"We were bloody lucky we weren't hurt," she said.
"It's made me extremely nervous."
The women said they had decided to speak publicly to warn others.
They did not seek any compensation beyond reimbursement for the loss of jewellery, cash and an iPad totalling $2000.
Gordon Legal's Fiona Rothville warned people to be careful when staying at properties rented via Airbnb.
"It shouldn't take a catastrophic event for Airbnb to make these changes," Ms Rothville said
"We are not saying don't use Airbnb - we all love it.
"We are concerned that isn't widely known that there could be safety and security risks which you would not normally think of as a problem if you are in a hotel," Ms Rothville said.
"They have policies and insurance that will cover theft and loss or damage in certain circumstances, as well as security protocols to make sure people don't have copies of a room card. But with Airbnb, the pin code for accessing keys is often the same as it was for the previous guest.
"Even more terrifyingly, Airbnb hands over the blueprint - the layout of the property, what might be there, where the lights are and where people are sleeping."
Ms Rothville said Airbnb needed to improve its security advice to hosts, such as recommending they use keys that can't be copied.
The unit owner did not have insurance and initially, the women's refund request was rejected by Airbnb. It changed its mind when contacted by News Corp Australia.
"Our original handling of this case did not meet the high standards we hold ourselves to," an Airbnb spokesman said.
But it has refused to upgrade its safety and security advice to hosts.
WHAT TO CHECK FOR
* Ask whether all access codes will have been changed
* Find out if there is a door chain to hinder an intruder
* Does the owner have home and contents insurance?
* Do the negative reviews reveal security problems?