Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky speaks during an event in San Francisco. Photo: AP file
business

Airbnb to verify all 7 million properties to improve trust

12 Comments
By DEE-ANN DURBIN

Airbnb says it will spend the next year verifying that all 7 million of its listings are accurate and that the homes and rooms being offered for short-term stays meet basic quality standards.

It's one of several moves the San Francisco-based company is making to improve user trust and make it easier for guests, hosts and others to report problems and obtain refunds when things go awry.

The changes come after a rough week for Airbnb. On Oct 31, a shooting at an unauthorized Halloween party in an Airbnb rental in Orinda, California, left five people dead.

A Vice story, meanwhile, revealed a scam by Airbnb hosts who put guests up at inferior properties after claiming the ones they initially booked weren't available. Guests told Vice they had trouble obtaining refunds from the company and were given bad reviews by the shady hosts.

And on Nov 5, voters in Jersey City, New Jersey, approved restrictions on short-term rental companies in a referendum in one of Airbnb's most important markets.

In an email sent to employees, Airbnb Co-Founder and CEO Brian Chesky said the company will take its most significant steps to improve trust since its founding in 2008.

"People need to feel like they can trust our community and that they can trust Airbnb when something goes wrong," Chesky wrote.

Airbnb plans to:

— Verify all listings on its platform for accuracy of photos, address and other details. They will also be verified for quality standards, including cleanliness, safety and basic amenities. Those that meet Airbnb's quality expectations will be labeled. Airbnb said every listing will be reviewed by Dec 15, 2020.

— Beginning Dec 15, Airbnb said it will rebook guests to a new listing or refund their money if a property doesn't meet its accuracy standards.

— By Dec 31, Airbnb will launch a 24-hour hotline staffed by a rapid response team in the U.S. so neighbors, guests and others can report a problem. The hotline will roll out globally over the course of next year. The company has asked Charles Ramsey, the former chief of police for Philadelphia and Washington, and Ronald Davis, the former chief of police for East Palo Alto, California, to act as advisers and help train the response team.

— Beginning Dec 15, Airbnb will be expanding manual checks of "high-risk" reservations flagged by its system to cut down on unauthorized parties. One-night reservations at large homes will get extra scrutiny, for example. Airbnb stressed that it doesn't consider race, profile pictures, gender or nationality when assessing the risk associated with a reservation.

The company is under some pressure to improve its reputation as it eyes an initial public offering of stock next year.

"Most hosts do a great job, but guests need to feel like Airbnb has their back, and we believe this commitment is a necessary step in giving guests peace of mind," Chesky wrote.

But critics of the company say its efforts don't go far enough. If Airbnb really wants to be a good neighbor, it would verify that listings are complying with local regulations, said Jessica Black, who leads a Texas group called Moms Against STRS, which backs regulation of short-term rentals.

"By not voluntarily removing illegal listings, Airbnb continues to outsource the costs of their business to cash-strapped cities," Black said.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

12 Comments
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On a local level in the popular locals Airbnb has caused a shortage of rented accommodation for locals with landlords changing the use of their properties into short term gains. Others have had their AirBnB problems wrecked with wild parties.

In some cities like Kyoto AirBnB should be banned or limited numbers.

The original concept was people renting out their own homes changed into a mass accommodation agency. While hotels need to meet the local fire codes there are no such requirements for AirBnB.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

While hotels need to meet the local fire codes there are no such requirements for AirBnB.

Strange. I had to get my application approved by the fire department and receive an inspection from said department where they checked my adherence to local fire codes.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say you didn’t know what you were talking about.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

If I didn’t know better, I’d say you didn’t know what you were talking about.

You are one AirBnB owner in one country. There are 191 countries.

According to airbnb.com, on any given night, 2 million people stay in properties rented by the service in some 65,000 cities around the globe. There are more than 4 million active Airbnb listings in 191 countries. 

https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Publications-and-media/NFPA-Journal/2018/July-August-2018/Features/The-Airbnb-Challenge

Short term properties don't have the same regulations required by hotels.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I had arrived at the conclusion that air bnb is now illegal in japan, or in many cities, the new laws make it almost impossible to have any property. Am I wrong? 6 mos can do it, 6 mos cannot, only on weekends, some districts, no?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Of any single company in the world, I can think of no worse than AirBnB. They literally let people hang blowing in the wind in a typhoon (yes, first hand knowledge).

if they really cared about accuracy and fairness, they would not be taking 14 months to check their listings.

14 months to check rooms? They could do it within a month if they wanted to. They won’t. Why!

This is a PR campaign— simply lip service, as AirBnB spend millions on lobbying every year exactly for the purpose of skirting laws and not being considered a hotel where minimum standards exist.

This initiative will wither and die in 30 days. Some companies are too corrupt and evil to exist.

Do yourselves a favor everyone, and stay at a Hilton or a Sheraton, not at a “technology platform” company.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Reality has finally caught up.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Air bnb is great in theory, not so reliable and trustworthy in practice. More about exploiting the greed of both property owners and travelers.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

My experiences with Airbnb fortunately have been problem free, That said, the other day I read the Vice article they referenced:

A Vice story, meanwhile, revealed a scam by Airbnb hosts who put guests up at inferior properties after claiming the ones they initially booked weren't available. Guests told Vice they had trouble obtaining refunds from the company and were given bad reviews by the shady hosts

...and I had decided that it’s not worth the hassles if a problem arises. I would have thought Airbnb would have had the protections they are about to institute already in place. That said, it’s good they have recognized that these are issues that cannot be ignored, and that this investment is required to ensure the long-term continuance of the platform. Eventually the damage to reputation would become widespread enough that they couldn’t ever recover.

This is a smart business move. It will impact upon profits but add to stability.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Good long over due, what a person see's in the photo's and what they get when they get their are two different thing, I appreciate there are reviews to be read but the accuracy of some of those reviews can be quite the opposite of reality.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You are one AirBnB owner in one country. There are 191 countries.

True. And the same rules apply to all. You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. All Airbnb properties must be inspected and approved by their local fire station.

The requirements for sprinkler systems etc. is the same and is based on the size of your facility and number of rooms.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

And if you really want to operate between the 180 day limit, it’s super easy. Personally, I haven’t got that much business.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

True. And the same rules apply to all. You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. All Airbnb properties must be inspected and approved by their local fire station. 

I guess that explains all the negative reviews but not always the same property as in the photo or the property no longer available. You can't know what happens with every AirBnB and as for the fire codes they differ from country to country.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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