With the rise and rise of home share sites like Airbnb, thousands of tourists are choosing to ‘live like locals’, nabbing themselves a bargain in the process. From a $2 per night apartment in Berlin to a luxury villa in Italy, Airbnb offers no end of variety for the discerning tourist. However, with the boom in home sharing comes a host of other concerns.
Recently Alana Scott, 32, was left $7,000 poorer after being cheated by an Airbnb con artist. Scott had been led to believe she had paid for a New York City apartment only to find her money had effectively vanished. And just a few months prior, ex-AFL captain Leigh Colbert was dealt a harsh blow after dropping thousands of dollars on a non-existent booking in Italy.
In addition to internet scams, the growth in home share accommodation poses other travel dilemmas. What would happen, say, if you were robbed or injured at an Airbnb? Would travel insurance cover an Airbnb stay gone wrong?
“The answer- as is often the case with insurance- usually depends on a range of factors. For instance, as long as you (and your travel partners) are not sharing your accommodation with other guests, your Airbnb dwelling would be covered as a standard hotel room.”
That means you would be insured for personal belongings, cancellations and personal liability, just as you would in a hotel room. That being said, it’s always a good idea to do your homework before staying a complete stranger’s home.
Natalie Ball adds:
“We would strongly advise those using share home accommodation to exercise a good deal of caution. Ultimately, if you are staying in a stranger’s home it’s up to you to use common sense.”
Travel insurance will cover your lost or stolen belongings provided they are not left unattended (policies will vary in their total luggage value; you can cover your belongings for a whopping $30,000 with Citibank or $25,000 with Southern Cross). You would be covered if your belongings are stolen from the house or apartment you are renting, however, things get more complicated if you are sharing an Airbnb with other renters. If this is the case your homestay would be considered a ‘public space’, and you would be required to keep your belongings in a locked room.
Natalie Ball adds:
“It’s important to remember that travel insurance won’t cover carelessness. In a hotel room you would be required to lock your things in a safe. Equally, if you stay at an Airbnb it’s up to you to store your things away as best you can and ensure they are not left unattended.”
If an emergency occurs and you have to cancel your Airbnb booking for an unforeseen reason (i.e. illness, injury, etc.) travel insurance would cover you, in addition to any extra travel and accommodation expenses. Cancellation cover can range from $2,500 to an unlimited amount. 1Cover, Budget Direct and Webjet provide unlimited cancellation cover within their comprehensive policies.
Oops! If you’ve accidentally broken an appliance or stained your host’s upholstery, you may be out of pocket for any damage costs. It’s unlikely that your Airbnb host would be able to claim on their home insurance policy for damages they didn’t do. And whilst Airbnb’s Host Guarantee provides protection for up to $1,000,000 AUD, it is not an insurance policy and doesn’t provide cover for accidental damage. Some travel insurers, such as Travel Insurance Direct, may cover you for certain damages but exclusions would apply.
If you injure yourself at an Airbnb due to some negligence on your host’s part it’s best to contact them as soon as possible. In any case, provided your injury was not the consequence of a drunken mishap, your policy would cover you for any medical and hospital expenses you incur.
Unfortunately, the home-sharing boom has been met with a growth in savvy internet scammers. Sophisticated fraudsters have cropped up all over sites like Airbnb and have managed to fleece countless tourists. Last year, roughly 1.5 million people reported that they had lost money through travel website scams and travel association ABTA estimates the figure to be much higher. Travel insurance will not cover the cost of a shady, online transaction so be vigilant for any fraudulent activity.
How can I prevent website fraud?
On Airbnb, legitimate bookings will always take place through the website, so if a host asks you to communicate or pay off-site, abort mission! Additionally, properties that seem grossly under-priced or photos that appear overly Photoshopped should raise alarm bells for prospective buyers.
What if I’m unhappy with my Airbnb experience?
If the glossy interiors and scenic views you were promised turn out to be far from reality your best option is to get in touch with Airbnb. If you report unsatisfactory conditions you may be issued a refund, but it’s always wise to do plenty of research before you go ahead and book. An unsatisfactory Airbnb experience would not be covered by your travel insurance policy.
Although it’s an incredibly exciting landscape, the home-sharing industry is still relatively new, and there’s no accounting for any unexpected incidents.
Regardless of whether you travel regularly or are planning the trip of a life time, travel is unpredictable and you can’t always ensure a smooth sailing trip.
Travel insurance gives you the freedom to focus on your holiday and helps you recover from any potential holiday hurdles.