It wasn’t until Damien Foster was about to go to bed in the Airbnb homestay he had rented when he discovered something disturbing.
While he was going through his suitcase, his eye was caught by a sleek but nondescript alarm clock positioned on the dresser directly across from the bed. “I work for a logistics firm that specializes in warehousing electronic devices,” he said. “I knew what that alarm clock was. It was a spy camera,”
Foster had initially found the condominium space to be completely satisfactory. It was a spacious, one-bedroom smart-home with a glorious view of downtown Miami, the rental looked precisely like the photos posted on the site. “It seemed fantastic – cozy and with a lot of great amenities. There was a gym in the building and free Wi-Fi. I had no complaints,” Foster said.
But he spooked by his discovery of the camera and he immediately picked up his suitcase and vacated the premises. He then contacted Airbnb’s support team and reported the incident. “I’m positive that the vast majority of renters wouldn’t have noticed,” he said. “I totally understand wanting surveillance in your home when you have strangers stay there, but having a camera trained right on the bed? That’s beyond shady.”
This unnerving incident highlights the Wild West nature of the homestay rental landscape and made short-term rental housing an increasingly attractive alternative for travelers.
Homestay Rental Issues: Guest Safety Called into Question
Short-term rental housing is a growing sector within the hospitality industry for consumers who want a rental option that offers a home-like atmosphere in proximity to major cultural hubs, but who don’t want to risk coping with private hosts who might have highly questionable ulterior motives.
Consumers aren’t unjustified in their reservations about homestay options. Airbnb doesn’t mandate that hosts verify their identity before joining the platform. Moreover, hosts who are removed from the platform for committing egregious acts can open a new account under a different name.
Homestay platform customer support can also be problematic. Approximately 82 percent of customers who reported a significant problem with their homestay rentals also reported experiencing problems with the customer support team. More than half of renters who reported a problem with customer service later stated that this became their primary issue.
And while hidden cameras, such as the one experienced by Damien Foster, were listed as common examples of host malfeasance, another alarming issue is host hostility. One survey found that examples of hosts appearing suddenly during the stay were among the most common complaints. Hosts erroneously reporting damage and demanding cash from guests were also widely reported.
Short-Term Rentals Offer Security and Privacy
Short-term rental housing provides tenants with fully furnished and professionally managed rental units. If there is an issue with the rental unit, it is addressed and immediately corrected. “I really like the idea of staying in a homey environment, but the total lack of consistency between Airbnb rentals makes it a major gamble,” Foster said. “It wouldn’t have occurred to me to seek short-term corporate housing as a vacation rental option. It’s seeming like a far better option.”