Airbnb appears to be on an unstoppable rise. (A Recode report noted the company is on track for 100 million stays this year.) But safety concerns — for both hosts and renters — continue to be at the center of discussions surrounding the company.
The January 2017 partnership between home security company Vivint and Airbnb suggests a potential future in which the home security industry begins to focus on addressing the unique safety issues posed by home-sharing arrangements.
With the Vivint-Airbnb partnership, both hosts and renters can use features of the Vivint home security app to increase safety during an Airbnb stay. Hosts who aren’t present at the property can ensure guests’ arrival and departure times through a doorbell camera, for example, and guests can use smarthome capabilities to lock doors in their rentals with simple voice commands.
In fact, Vivint isn’t the first security company to delve specifically into safety precautions for Airbnb. In 2015, August Home announced its affiliation with Airbnb’s Host Assist program. And while not officially affiliated with the company, Brickhouse Security has developed a “MORzA BnB” protocol with the safety of hosts and renters in mind.
One common feature in such security systems is electronic door locks, which address tangible concerns of both hosts and renters. With the electronic system, renters can get a passcode through an app to enter a home, as opposed to a physical key. This increases safety on the part of hosts, who don’t have to shell out their key to dozens of guests, who could easily lose or make copies of them. The passcode expires after the arranged departure time, removing the guests’ access to the home. Electronic keys are also helpful for renters, who don’t have to line up their arrival times with hosts to gain access to the property.
Other potential features of the systems include temperature and flood sensors, which can also provide security for those on both ends of the rental arrangement. Ability to monitor temperature and any unexpected water levels lets hosts know when these issues are caused by renter irresponsibility. For guests, they provide safety from environmental-based issues that could arise during the stay.
Addressing Renter Security
However, the benefits of these measures do seem to disproportionately address issues for hosts rather than guests. Some would likely argue that the biggest gap in Airbnb safety continues to be in scenarios where renters cohabitate with hosts. As a traveler, there is a different level of security involved when staying in an established hotel, as opposed to a stranger’s personal home — especially if that stranger is nearby and has access to your room.
Airbnb has made some efforts to increase security in this regard — hosts are required to verify their identity with a government ID, for example, and users can check the legitimacy of hosts through reviews. The company has not, however, made background checks (for hosts or renters) a standard part of the experience.
It’s possible to envision a future in which home security companies step in to fill this gap. If Airbnb allows it, for example, background checks could be taken care of through an affiliated third-party app. Other heretofore unseen innovations may be in the works, as well.
Airbnb has proven that it’s here to stay, but some travelers may still be reluctant to consider using the site due to safety issues. It’s worth noting that even though Airbnb is the most popular option, it has a number of similar competitors, including VRBO and its parent company Homeaway. Curbed also recently published a list of six other Airbnb alternatives. If prospective travelers don’t feel safe with Airbnb — or have other concerns — there are other options for those looking to avoid hotels.
The growth of Airbnb and its competition proves that home security isn’t always just for your own home. Home security companies would be smart to innovate in a way that also considers the needs of hosts and renters.